info about music genres: Rock Music
Rock and roll, also called rock, is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony), electric guitars and a strong back beat; other instruments, such as the saxophone, are common in some styles.
As a cultural phenomenon, rock's social impact on the world is likely unparalleled by any other kind of music. It has been credited with ending wars and spreading peace and tolerance, as well as corrupting the innocent and spreading moral rot. Rock has become popular across the globe, far from its birthplace in the United States, and evolved into a multitude of highly-varying styles.
The term rock and roll is broad, and its boundaries loosely-defined.
It is sometimes used to describe a number of genres only distantly related,
including soul, heavy metal and
even hip hop. Rock and roll emerged
as a defined musical style in America in the 1950s, though elements of rock and roll can be seen in rhythm and blues
records as far back as the 1920s. Early
rock and roll combined elements of blues,
boogie woogie, jazz and rhythm and blues, and is also influenced by
traditional folk music, gospel music (Gospel music may refer either to the religious music that
first came out of African-American churches in the 1930's or,
more loosely, to both black gospel music and to the religious music composed and
sung by white Christian artists), black and
white, and country and
western (Country music, once known as Country and Western music, is a
popular musical form developed in the
United States, with roots in traditional folk music, and the blues). Going back even further, rock and roll can trace a foundational
lineage to the old Five Points district of mid-19th century New York City, the scene of
the first fusion of heavily rhythmic African shuffles and sand dances with
melody driven European genres, particularly the Irish jig (the jig is a folk dance
type as well as the accompanying "dance tune type", popular in Ireland and Scotland, and particularly associated with the former.)
Rocking was a term first used by gospel singers in the American South to mean something akin to spiritual rapture. By the 1940s, however, the term was used as a double entendre, ostensibly referring to dancing, but with the hidden subtextual meaning of sex; an example of this is Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight". "Good Rocking Tonight" and similar songs were relegated to "race music" (the music industry code name for rhythm and blues) outlets and were barely known by mainstream white audiences. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed would begin playing this type of music for his white audience, and it is Freed who is credited with coining the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the rollicking R&B music that he brought to the airwaves.
There is much debate as to what should be considered the first
rock and roll record. Candidates include the 1951 "Rocket
88" by Jackie Brenston & His Delta
Cats, or later and more mainstream hits like Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" or Bill
Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock". Some historians go further back, pointing to musicians like Fats Domino, who were recording in the 40s in styles largely indistinguishable from rock and roll; these include Louis Jordan's "Is You Is or
Is You Ain't My Baby?", Jack
Guthrie's "The Oakie Bookie" (1947) and
Benny Carter and Paul Vandervoort
II's "Rock Me to Sleep" (1950).
Early North American rock and roll (1953-1963)
Whatever the beginning, it is clear that rock appeared at a time when racial tensions in the United States were coming to the surface. African Americans were protesting segregation of schools and public facilities. The "separate but equal" doctrine was overturned in 1954. It can hardly be a coincidence, then, that a musical form combining elements of white and black music should arise, and that this music should provoke strong reactions, of all types, in all Americans. The rock 'n' roll music of the 1950s would change popular music forever.
On March 21, 1952 in Cleveland, Alan Freed produced the first rock and
roll concert. The audience and the performers were mixed in race and the evening
ended after one song in a near-riot as thousands of fans tried to get into the
By the end of the decade, rock had spread throughout the world. In Australia,
for example, Johnny
O'Keefe became perhaps the first modern rock star of the country, and began
the field of Australian
It was two years later that the first major white rock star began recording.
In 1954, Elvis Presley began recording with Sam Philips, starting with the hit
"That's All Right, Mama". Elvis played a rock and country & western fusion
called rockabilly, and he became possibly the first celebrity musician and teen idol to perform in the
It was the following year's "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill
Haley & His Comets that really set the rock boom in motion, though. The
song was one of the biggest hits in history, and frenzied teens flocked to see
Haley and the Comets perform it, even causing riots in some places; "Rock Around
the Clock" was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll
Diversification of American rock
With the runaway popular success of rock, the style began to influence other
genres. Vocalized R&B became doo
wop (Doo-wop is a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music popular in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s in America; the term was coined after the fact, by
a DJ in the 1970s. The style was at first characterized by upbeat harmony vocals that used
nonsense syllables from which the name of the style is derived. The name was
later extended to group harmony ballads. Examples of doo-wop can be found in the
music of The Clovers, The Ravens, and The
Larks), for example, while uptempo, secularized gospel music
became soul, and audiences flocked to see Appalachian-style
folk bands playing a rock-influenced pop version of their style. Young adults
and teenagers across the country were playing in amateur rock bands, laying the
roots for local scenes, garage
rock and alternative rock. More immediately, places
like Southern California produced their own varieties of rock, such as surf.
The rockabilly sound reached the West Coast and mutated into a wild, mostly
instrumental sound called surf
music. This style, exemplified by Dick Dale and The Surfaris, featured faster tempos, innovative
percussion, and processed electric guitar sounds which would be highly
influential upon future rock guitarists. Other West Coast bands, notably The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, would
capitalize on the surf craze, slowing the tempos back down and adding harmony
vocals to create the "California Sound".
American rock and roll had an impact across the globe, perhaps most intensely
in the United Kingdom,
where record collecting and trend-watching were in full bloom among the youth
culture prior to the rock era, and where color barriers were less of an issue.
Countless British youths listened to R&B and rock pioneers and began forming
their own bands to play with an intensity and drive seldom found in white
American acts. Britain quickly became a new center of rock and roll, leading to
Invasion from 1958 to 1969.
In 1958 three British teenagers formed a rock and roll group, Cliff Richard and the
Drifters (later renamed Cliff Richard and the Shadows). The group
recorded a hit, "Move It",
marking not only what is held to be the very first true British rock 'n' roll
single, but also the beginning of a different sound — British rock. Richard and his band introduced many
important changes, such as using a "lead guitarist" (virtuoso Hank Marvin) and an electric bass. Richard inspired
many British teens to begin buying records and follow the music scene, thus
laying the groundwork for Beatlemania.
By the early 1960s, bands from England
were dominating the rock and roll scene world-wide. First re-recording standard
American tunes, these bands then infused their original rock and roll
compositions with an industrial-class sensibility. Foremost among these was The Beatles, who became the
single most influential act in the history of rock and roll. The Beatles brought
together an appealing mix of image, songwriting, and personality and, after
initial success in the UK, were launched a large-scale US tour to ecstatic
reaction, a phenomenon quickly dubbed Beatlemania.
Although they were not the first British band to come to America, The Beatles
spearheaded the Invasion, triumphing in the US on their first visit in 1964 (including historic appearances on the
Show). In the wake of Beatlemania other British bands headed to the
U.S., notably the
Rolling Stones, who disdained the Beatles' clean-cut image and presented a
darker, more aggressive image, The Animals and The Yardbirds. Throughout the early and mid-60s
Americans seemed to have an insatiable appetite for British rock. Other British
bands, including The Who and The Kinks, had some success during
this period but saved their peak of popularity for the second wave of British
invasion in the late 1960s.
1960s Garage rock
The British Invasion spawned a wave of imitators in the U.S. and across the
globe. Many of these bands were cruder than the bands they tried to emulate.
Playing mainly to local audiences and recording cheaply, very few of these bands
broke through to a higher level of success. This movement, later known as Garage Rock, gained a new
audience when record labels started re-issuing compilations of the original
singles; the best known of these is a series called Nuggets. Some of the better known band of this
genre include The Sonics, & the
Mysterians, and The
Bob Dylan and Folk-rock (starting 1963)
As the British Invasion led by The Beatles picked up steam, a homegrown
American trend was making itself felt, led by Bob Dylan. By 1963 the 22 year old Dylan had assimilated a variety of
regional American styles and was set to create a new genre, usually dubbed
"folk-rock". From 1961 to mid-1963 Dylan had
kept his distance from rock and roll even though his first adolescent musical
forays owed more to early rockers like Buddy Holly and Little Richard than to any of the more obscure
folk and blues artists he would later revere as paradigms (in particular, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Robert Johnson). Dylan
and others on the new folk circuit tended to view The Beatles as bubblegum (that is, tritely
commercial), but admitted to a grudging respect for their melodic originality
and energetic, danceable delivery. In 1963 Dylan's release of the album The Times They Are A-Changin
was a watershed event, bringing "relevant" and highly poetic lyrics to the edge
of rock and roll. The Beatles listened to this album incessantly and moved away
from the exclusively romantic/interpersonal themes of their songs to date.
In 1964 and 1965 Dylan threw off all pretense to roots purity and
embraced the rock beat and electrified instruments, culminating in the release
of the song "Like a Rolling Stone" which, at over six
minutes playing time, changed the landscape of hit radio and ushered in a period
of intense lyrical and structural experimentation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dylan would continue to surprise fans and critics with tour-de-force albums in
many styles, but, from 1964 on, he has worked mostly within the rock and roll
framework. His influence on all rock sub-genres is incalculable, probably
equaled only by The Beatles'. Among Dylan's most important disciples was Neil Young, whose lyrical
inventiveness, wedded to an often wailing electric guitar attack, would presage
The music took on a greater social awareness; it was not just about dancing
and smooching anymore, but took on themes of social justice. The counterculture
that was emerging (partly as a reaction to the Vietnam War) adopted rock and roll as its defining
feature, and the music began to be heavily influenced by the various drugs that the youth culture was
experimenting with. In America, psychedelic rock influenced and was influenced
by the drug scene and the larger psychedelic lifestyle. It featured long, often
improvised jams and wild electronic sounds. Jimi Hendrix,
Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly, and the
Grateful Dead were
leading practitioners of psychedelia.
A more esoteric form of British
psychedelia and the Canterbury Sound is exemplified by the Soft Machine, who accompanied
Hendrix on his first U.S. tour. Pink Floyd found their roots in British psychedelia,
moving on to becoming more of a progressive rock, and arena rock band later in
The culmination of rock and roll as a socially-unifying force was seen in the
rock festivals of the
late '60s, the most famous of which was Woodstock which began as a three-day arts
and music festival and turned into a "happening", as hundreds of thousands of
youthful fans converged on the site.
The music itself broadened past the guitar-bass-drum format; while some bands had used saxophones and keyboards before, now acts like The Beach Boys and The Beatles (and others following their lead) experimented with new instruments including wind sections, string sections, and full orchestration. Many bands moved well beyond three-minute tunes into new and diverse forms; increasingly sophisticated chord structures, previously limited to jazz and orchestrated pop music, were heard.
Dabbling heavily in classical, jazz, electronic, and experimental music
resulted in what would be called progressive rock (or, in its German wing, krautrock). Progressive rock could be
lush and beautiful or atonal and dissonant, highly complex or minimalistic,
sometimes all within the same song. At times it was hardly recognizable as rock
at all. Some notable practitioners include King Crimson, Genesis, Gentle Giant, The Nice, Yes, Gong, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Magma, Can, and Faust.
Birth of heavy metal
A second wave of British bands and artists gained great popularity during this period; these bands typically were more directly steeped in American blues music than their more pop-oriented predecessors but their performances took a highly amplified, often spectacular form. These were the bands that were led by the guitar; Cream and Led Zeppelin were early examples of this blues-rock form and were followed
by heavier rock bands including Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. This style of rock would come to be
known as heavy metal
The Beatles and the Rolling Stones had set the table for massive live performances in stadiums and arenas. The growing popularity of metal and progressive rock led to more bands selling out large venues. The corporate world saw the chance for huge profits and began marketing a series of what came to be called arena rock bands.
Bands whose roots were in other genres, like Queen, Pink Floyd and Genesis, paved the way by putting on extravagant live shows drawing a large number of fans. Following in this wake, Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Journey,
and many other bands began playing similar music, often less progressive and metal-like. This movement became a precursor to the power pop of future decades, and set the mold for live performances by popular artists.
Even rock music would get soft, or at least in between soft and hard. Out of
the short-lived "bubble gum pop" era came such groups as The Partridge
Family, The Cowsills,
The Osmonds, and The Archies (the latter "group"
actually being one person, Ron Dante, who would go on to help manage the career
of Barry Manilow).
With the demise of The Beatles as a group, other bands and artists would take this emerging soft rock format and add a touch of orchestration to partially form some of the first "power ballads". Solo artists such as Manilow, Elton John, Billy Joel, Olivia Newton-John, and Eric
Carmen, and groups such as Bread, The Carpenters, and England
Dan & John Ford Coley would make popular the format we know today as Soft rock.
Other well-known artists from the 1960s such as Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand were continuing to chart.