During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the sound of America was evolving. The swing and Jazz music of the 1930’s had become rhythm and blues, otherwise known as “race music” in the 1940’s and the groundwork was being laid for a new genre called Rock ‘n’ Roll.
This hybrid genre was being created in the urban cities of The United States, pulling cultural influences from different races and societies. St. Louis, Memphis, New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland all had distinct sounds that would soon combine to create not only a variety of music but a way of life.
Fueled by social issues, politics, and a sense of rebellion, Rock ‘n’ Roll appealed not only to those who populated the music scene but to youths across the country, all with different social backgrounds and ethnicities. From the 1940’s through present day, rock music and rock culture have evolved into a diverse field of acceptance.
The rhetoric or Rock and Roll is a genre of music that originated in The United States in the 1940s and has evolved since then. Many people (including myself) believe that rock and roll is the basis for all of today’s music and that all modern music originates from rock. Rock is composed of many different sounds including jazz, rhythm and blues, country, gospel, and Motown. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the term “rock and roll” was coined. Since then, the genre of rock has been split and transformed into hundreds of subgenres, and “rock n’ roll” has become not only a type of music but a way of life.
Rock and Roll is one genre of music that is incredibly diverse in many different aspects. The sound it started with is very different than the sound we hear now, and it has evolved into countless subgenres that all fall under the category. These subgenres include indie, metal, psychedelic, alternative, grunge, punk, and much more. It also attracts a diverse group of people who are united under a single genre of music. People who are attracted to these subgenres of rock are not limited to those who reside in the music scene, and include anyone from children, to students, to producers, to executives.
The definition of the word diversity is changing. Traditionally diversity is defined as “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). While the old definition of diversity concerns the difference of race and culture, the new definition of diversity encompasses not only race and culture, but also ethnicity, social background, religious beliefs, political views, thought process, character content and more. The new definition of diversity is much more inclusive than the old definition and is definitely a step in the right direction of creating a more accepting community. While those who enjoy rock music may all have similar if not the same taste in tunes, they all come from different backgrounds and walks of life.
The earliest form of rock and roll can be traced back to 1942s when Capitol Records was founded in Hollywood and became the first major recording label that was not located in NYC. Capitol went on to back rock legends such as Brian Wilson, The Eagles, and Paul McCartney. Savoy was also founded in 1942 in Newark, New Jersey by Herman Lubinsky to promote “black music”. This music included jazz, rhythm and blues and gospel music. Another significant step towards the creation of rock and roll can be found in 1943 when Les Paul invented “multi-tracking”, a modern recording technique where each layer of a song is recorded on a different track, and then run together on a single record. This led to musicians being able to record more complex songs. The next big year for rock music was 1948. During this year, saxophone player Wild Bill Moore from Detroit released a song titled “We’re Gonna Rock We’re Gonna Roll”, and Leo Fender released the first ever electric guitar which would later be famously named the Telecaster.
The 1950s were also a big year for the creation of rock. In 1951 Cleveland DJ Alan Freed started a radio program called “Moondog Rock’n’Roll Party”, and Ike Turner’s album Rocket 88 became the first ever rock record to be recorded and released. Later, in 1952, Bill Haley formed the first rock band, The Comets. From there the scene was truly born and rock was becoming a revolution. Films such as Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle created a new role for teens, and both radio stations and record labels were promoting rock (music derived from “race music”) to all teenagers. Chuck Berry, a rock pioneer, and a black artist was the first musician to cut a rock record with guitar as the main instrument in 1955. 1958 became the golden age of instrumental rock, and the popularity of rock allowed independent labels to flourish, acknowledging smaller labels and artists. From there, Barry Gordy founded Motown in Detroit and it was apparent that rock and roll were in it for the long haul. The end of the decade marked 600 million records being sold in the USA, as well as the untimely death of rock musician Buddy Holly.
After the birth of rock and roll, the 1960s began an important era of creation. Artists were experimenting with sound and taking chances. In the early 1960s, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix arrived on the scene, and Motown was booming. The Beach Boys created surf music, and Beatlemania began! In 1964, the real experimentation commenced. Holy Modal Rounders shaped acid-folk, while James Brown transformed soul into funk. The Kinks’ riff in their song You Really Got Me was the invention of hard-rock. From there, Bob Dylan created psychedelic rock, blues-rock was born from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton, and The Byrds invented folk-rock. It was also in the 60s that rock became a sign of rebellion. Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones was banned throughout the USA and the UK, and garage bands were becoming popular. Joni Mitchell created an image of an intellectual female singer-songwriter, and rock could be found everywhere. In 1967, Ralph Gleason founded “Rolling Stone” and artists were playing with and fusing different sub-genres of rock. The Doors mixed rock, blues psych, Indian raga, and free form poetry while Pink Floyd invented space-rock. It was towards the end of the decade that The Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild coined the term heavy metal, “Hair” opened on Broadway as the first musical with rock music, and The Who’s “Tommy” became the most famous Rock Opera. The 1960s was also the birth of the biggest rock and roll concert in history, Woodstock.
The 1970s brought 10 more years of experimentation and the birth of not only hard-rock but of punk-rock. Black Sabbath stormed the scene and became the prototype for black metal, and Alice Cooper created shock-rock, while David Bowie transformed himself into Ziggy Stardust and invented glam-rock. The Joy of Cooking became the debut as the first band of all feminists and extended rock to include all men and women. In 1973 The Ramones played their first show at CBGB’s and became the first punk band, launching the punk-rock movement. The rock scene became even more diverse with the introduction of Queen, who was led by Freddie Mercury, a gay musician with an incredible vision.
Hair-metal, psychedelic rock, and pop formulated the sound of the 1980s. The decade was dedicated to innovation and expansion. In 1981 MTV made its debut on cable TV and the next year Sony + Phillips introduced the Compact Disc. Metal was all the rage in the 80s, and different subgenres were created. Venom introduced black metal, and Metallica initiated speed-metal, while Red Hot Chili Peppers crafted funk-metal. In 1985, the magazine “Alternative Press” was founded to cover the independent rock scene.
The 1990s was an interesting time for rock music. Pop was becoming more widespread, while rock was on it’s way to the back burner. It wasn’t quite underground though. The grunge scene in Seattle blew up when Nirvana was formed, and Lollapalooza was founded to display artists in the alternative rock genre. Green Day hit the scene and released the best-sold punk-rock album of all time, Dookie. In 1992 the music world was digitalized when the MP3 was created as an electronic way to store music, and in 1998 the portable MP3 player was invented. When the Rock and Roll hall of fame was opened in 1995, Cleveland became a mecca of rock memorabilia and history.
Today’s rock music is a more underground scene than it was in the past. Rock has evolved into pop, hip-hop, and rap and those are mainly played on radio stations. There are rock scenes that are booming though! Small rock bands who were inspired by the music leaders of the past are breaking into the popular music scene, and alternative charts are rising. There is also a nostalgic side of rock that has taken over. All of the legends of the past are back on the road or making new music, trying to revive the magic of rock and roll.
Personally, rock is my favorite genre of music. I’ve found bands that make me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself, and I am constantly inspired by music. I wasn’t always interested in rock music. I’ve always loved music in general, but I grew up with Disney princess movies, Hillary Duff, and Aly and AJ. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered Sleeping With Sirens, a post-hardcore band that was bad-ass and talented. The way they manipulated their instruments and melodies appealed to me, and I began my search for more bands like them. I sing, and I write songs, so lyrics have always been important to me. I’ve found that rock bands write lyrics that are meaningful and thought provoking and I really respect that. Through my love of rock music I was inspired to create this blog, and I realized my dream of writing for “Rolling Stone” after I graduate.
I find myself drawn to all subgenres of rock, from metal to psychedelic, to folk and I think that is an important aspect of rock and roll. All of its subgenres are inclusive to any and every fan, and when you find a band or a sound that you love, it becomes a home to you, no matter your race, gender, sexuality, social status, or religion. Every person on this earth has the ability to come together through music, and that’s a really beautiful thing. Through rock I have met so many different people, and learned about their lives and stories, and this has been happening to fans of the genre since the 1940s. Since rock was derived from “race music”, the group of people it appealed to was broad, and all that mattered to them was the music. From there, with the creation of so many unique subgenres, rock attracted even more fans with diverse backgrounds who were able to connect through music.