Whether you are an avid fan, or of the belief that it is the root of all evil, Rock & Roll music is here to stay.
Contrary to the belief that Rock & Roll music was the invention by a group called Bill Haley and the Comets, the genre is a combination of several musical styles, some dating back to ancient times.
Blues, country and gospel are at the root of this dominant force style music, and these genres mainly derive their beginnings from black slave music.
The delivery of the music has evolved as technological advances morphed over the past 50 years, but the heavy beat and simple melodies still exist in the music today.
If there would be one person attributed to the introduction of Rock and Roll music, it would have to be Alan Freed, a disc jockey from Cleveland, Ohio. In 1951 the popular DJ who was airing rhythm, blues, and country music for a multi-racial audience coined the phrase to describe the type of music he was broadcasting. The phrase caught on and hence the term Rock and Roll was born.
But the music itself was not the brainchild on any one person, group or genre; it existed in American music in its earliest forms in the 1940’s. In 1939 a release by Big Joe Turner called Rock ‘Em Pete is said to sound much like the Rock and Roll music that became so popular in the mid 1950’s.
Other earlier released records that have been cited as the first Rock and Roll releases include hits such as Move it on Over by Hank Williams (1947), Rock the Joint by Jimmy Preston (1947) and The Fat Man by Fats Domino (1949). However, Rocket ’88 by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats is believed to be the first fully formed rock and roll recording with the elements that characterize the genre as its own entity.
By 1954, Rock and Roll music was beginning to be recognized as a music format and its fans were dominantly under the age of 20. There was fear from the masses that this music was inciting rebellious behavior by teens. Propaganda warning as to the dangers of such music began to flood the country.
The most widely recognized release that assumes the first shot out of the cannon is the famedRock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954. The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley followed with the release of his first hit record in 1956, Heartbreak Hotel. From there came greats like Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry.
Evolution of Rock Music
Rock and Roll, to the dismay of many a frightened parent, was here to stay. The kids became the focus of record company executives. The music not only introduced a new genre, it created a new culture. Freedom and self-expression became the chant of a new generation and the new music was the vehicle for their experimentation.
The 1960’s saw offshoots of the genre spring up. Folk-rock enjoyed notable popularity during this time and of course the Beatles came on the scene with the British Invasion. Psychedelic and acid rock would be the beginnings of the heavy metal style rock of the next decade. The 70’s saw the full bloom of heavy metal and by the end of the decade America was deep into disco dance music, that according to some true rock enthusiast, had no tie to rock and roll whatsoever. The 1980’s saw the decline of disco and the birth of punk music. The punk movement still today claims some die-hard fans yet had a short-lived popularity with the masses. Punk ushered in another short-lived offshoot called ‘grunge’ in the 1990’s.
Rock was now being micro-defined more and more. There would be categories and sub-categories such as: soft rock, hard rock, alternative-rock, pop rock and classic-rock, that would surface over the next twenty years. The fact remains however, they are considered to be under the rock and roll umbrella because they possess many elements of the original rock and roll style of the 1950’s.
The main ingredients that define the Rock and Roll style music are the instruments combined with the simple melodies. Drums, guitar, and piano are the dominant instruments found in rock music. Adding some horns and some other stringed instruments are many times incorporated but are secondary applications. Technology is believed by some to have demeaned the true essence of rock music. With so much of today’s music being computerized, the raw talent of a singer and/or musician is said to no longer exist.
Over the last ten years a revival of the pop style of rock music with vocals and a microphone have taken place. The insurgence of talent shows such as American Idol has once again demanded talent from aspiring rock/pop artists. Contestants are required to stand on their talent alone with only their voice and a microphone. They can’t rely on the manipulations of technology to give them what only God can bestow. Rock music is alive and well and its roots are being revisited by a generation who has grown up on studio-altered music.
For those of us that cut our teeth on the stuff and long for the days when true Rock and Roll was king, our sentiments might be best summarized in the lyrics to the popular Bob Seger song, Old Time Rock and Roll:
Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll