The development of contemporary American music is clearly reflected in the integration of black composers, performers, and their songs into mainstream popular record charts. Between 1953 and 1978 a fascinating role reversal occurred. During that quarter century black artists shifted from creators to revivalists. The same role reversal did not apply to white artists, who tended to evolve along a more consistent audience-acceptance continuum. How can this 25-year cycle of social change best be illustrated? What particular elements of black music dramatically entered the pop spectrum during the fifties, and later gained dominance by the end of the sixties? Why did black artists become more and more conservative during the late seventies? A careful examination of audio repetition – cover recordings and song revivals – offers a great deal of revealing information about changes in social, economic and artistic life in America after 1953.