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Explanation how the lyrics of the song "School Days" by Chuck Berry epitomize the attitudes of high school students in the 1950s. Key words: recent history, rock and roll, singer, songwriter, teenagers, teachers, classroom, juke joint, Ron Kurtus, School for Champions. Copyright © Restrictions

Lyrics of Song School Days Represent Teen Attitudes (1950s)

by Ron Kurtus (26 September 2003)

The lyrics of 1957 hit record "School Days" by singer/songwriter Chuck Berry epitomized the attitudes of high school students of that time. Many would listen to the rock tune and say, "That's just how my day was." Surprisingly, the lyrics hold up very good to describe today's school experience.

Questions you may have about this are:

This lesson will answer those questions.



History from songs

By examining the songs of an era, the history student can learn much about what the populace did and in what they were interested. Unfortunately, most of history taught in schools concerns political events, wars and such. But they don't look at what happened with everyday people, especially those in their teens.

The person writing a song will typically express his or her feelings and personal experiences. A good writer has a keen eye to what is happening in society during the time, especially concerning those in the record-buying age group.

With the advent of rock and roll music, the songs were often written by the singers themselves. They were typically in their early 20s, so what they wrote about was their particular perspective. Surprisingly, Chuck Berry was 31 years old when he wrote School Days. But he certainly had his finger to the pulse of the youth. Or, perhaps his lyrics were universal and were also a reflection of his own experience in high school.

School Days lyrics

(Copyright Chuck Berry 1957)

Up in the morning and out to school
The teacher is teaching the Golden Rule
American History and Practical Math
You're studying hard and hoping to pass
Working your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind won't leave you alone

Ring, ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunchroom's ready to sell
You're lucky if you can find a seat
You're fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom, open your books
Gee, the teacher don't know how mean she looks

Soon as three o'clock rolls around
You finally lay your burden down
Close up your books, get out of your seat
Down the halls and into the street
Up to the corner and around the bend
Right to the juke joint, you go in

Drop the coin right into the slot
You've got to hear something that's really hot
With the one you love, you're making romance
All day long you been wanting to dance,
Feeling the music from head to toe
Round and round and round we go

Hail, hail rock and roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feeling is there, body and soul.

Compare with today

The school experience in 1957 is quite similar to that today, with some minor exceptions.

The Golden Rule is no longer taught in most public schools because it is "religious" and may offend some students. But the subjects are the same, and there still is that pest who sits behind you. Some schools have done away with the cafeteria, but for those with one, it still is a hassle to find a seat.

A big difference is that teens no longer go to "juke joints" after school. Those were typically ice cream parlors, where the kids would have soft drinks, talk and listen to music from the juke box or coin-operated record player. In some places that catered to the students, they had an area for dancing.

Summary

Studying the lyrics of songs of an era is a good way to find out what its people were concerned about. In more recent times, it reflects the attitudes of those in their teens. School Days draws a good picture of a typical day in high school in the 1950s. Many of the things of concern to a high school student then still apply today.


Listen to the words


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Official site of Chuck Berry

History Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Chuck Berry


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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