Ever since Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry began crooning tunes with a different sound, the history of rock music has been marching forward. Different than anything that had come before it, rock mixed racy lyrics with loud, but soulful music to create something so distinct it earned its own moniker.
As the history of this musical form continues to be written, remember the basic genre is classified by the use of the guitar. Whether it’s hard rock, country rock, classic rock, punk rock or beyond, rock and roll involves guitars and lots of them. Acoustic or electric doesn’t necessarily matter, but a lead role in the music does (with a few exceptions).
Rock and roll history is often said to have gotten its first page in the 1950s when “Rocket 88” was released. Little Richard, Elvis, Ray Charles and Chuck Berry all wrote their own pages during this decade. With songs such as “Rock Around The Clock,” “Love Me Tender,” “School Day” and more hitting the charts, the road was paved for such artists as Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis to make their debuts on the scene.
The dancing rock of the 50s gave way to the more “radical” rock of the ’60s. Here a generation of youth found their voice in war protest songs and peace rally music. Elvis remained a mainstay during this decade, but other big names also made the scene. The likes of Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and The Monkees were popular during the ’60s. The Beatles revolutionized rock music when they made their American invasion in 1964.
The 1970s saw a continuation of the themes of the ’60s with the addition of disco and other influences. Van Halen became a big name during this decade and legends Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all met their ends during the 1970s. Greats from the ’50s and ’60s continued to rock during this decade as well.
The 1980s are perhaps best known for their heavy metal hair bands. Contrary to popular belief, this music was and remains more than just “noise.” Many musicians of this era were classically trained and know their stuff. Big moments during this decade include the death of John Lennon, the end of the band Wings, the creation of “We Are The World,” and Michael Jackson’s massive hit record “Thriller.” The more soulful sounds of Billy Joel were also a mainstay during this decade. Bands such as Journey, Def Leppard and the Scorpions made it big during this era in rock.
The 1990s saw the creation of boy bands and some serious recognition for rockers when the Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland. Musicians to hit the charts with a bang during this decade included Madonna, Kurt Cobain, Boyz II Men, Alanis Morissette and more. Heavy metal continued, but other sounds made their ways onto the airwaves as well.
With hard rock, classic, punk, pop and more still major players in the music scene, this genre is showing no signs of going away. It’s plain to see rock and roll “will never die.”