British rock singers -- was dialect change?

Dan Goodman dsgood at VISI.COM
Sat Nov 2 05:32:31 UTC 2002

> Date:    Fri, 1 Nov 2002 01:47:11 -0500
> From:    Frank Abate <abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET>
> Subject: FW: dialect change?
> What is said below re changes in one's speech sounds while singing
> occurs in rock singing, noticeably when Brit rock singers "lose" much
> of their "accent" when singing, largely, I believe, because the
> intonational aspect of the sound of their dialect is diminished.
> I noticed this with the early songs of the Beatles, the Stones, the
> Who, the Kinks, and the Animals (1964-5).  Part of this may be
> attributed to their trying NOT to sound British (sometimes even trying
> to sound like Elvis)-- as the US market was so important -- but part,
> too, is because singing seems to flatten or obscure many dialectal
> characteristics re the sound of vowels and intonation.  Later, when
> their fame was established, they were more willing to sing purely as
> Brits, but even then much of the "English accent" is diminished.

See:  Trudgill Peter. 1983. 'Acts of Conflicting Identity. The
Sociolingistics of British Pop-Song Pronunciation'. Peter Trudgill,
On Dialect. Social and Geographical Perspectives. Oxford: Blackwell.

Very rough summary -- in the 1960's, British rock singers tried
(consciously or unconsciously) to sound American -- the same kind of
American as US rock singers.  They didn't exactly get it right.

Later, some rockers tried (again, consciously or unconsciously) to
sound working-class English.  This mixed oddly with attempts to sound
American and with the singers' native dialects.

Along the same lines, in recordings of country music from the 1920s
through the 1940s, the singers used Southern accents.  (One recording
from the 1920s was of someone who sounded as if he'd been born in
London, singing a British music hall song.  I suspect whoever made
the recording didn't notice the dialect difference.)  At some point,
country music started being sung in a stylized version of South
Midlands/Upper South.  Why the change?

More information about the Ads-l mailing list