Rock ‘n’ roll has made a huge affect not only on music, but on our culture and lifestyle. When we think rock ‘n’ roll, we think Elvis, The Beatles, or 80s hair bands. Rock ‘n’ roll, however, started long before then. It began with old African American work and prison songs, which were passed down through generations since the slavery era. These songs evolved into southern gospel music as well as the blues. Gospel, blues, and jazz continued to grow and gain popularity within the African American culture, and they slowly spilled over into “white pop music.”
It wasn’t until the 1950s that rock ‘n’ roll was termed a genre, starting with early rockabilly, which is most represented by the infamous Elvis Presley. He brought rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream and started a teenage craze which still affects music to this day. Elvis himself said that he was heavily influenced by gospel and blues, and his famous song “Hound Dog” was a cover of the blues singer Big Mama Thorton. This rockabilly era also included artists like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, both African American blues singers that helped shape the genre of rock ‘n’ roll.
This blues and rock ‘n’ roll craze spread from America to The UK, and many artists from the British rock genre — including Britain’s own John Lennon of The Beatles and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin — idolized American artists like Elvis. In the1950s, Britain went through its own rock ‘n’ roll craze, which included the genre skiffle — played by both Jimmy Page and John Lennon.
This led to the British Invasion — British rock entering America — in the 1960s, starting of course with The Beatles and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Following The Beatles, the British Invasion continued with bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Yardbirds.
Music in America also saw the rise of folk music, including artists like Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and Simon and Garfunkel. This is the time of hippies and the anti-war movement, and folk artists really brought protest songs into the mainstream. Folk started being mixed with rock to create “folk rock,” which includes songs like “House of The Rising Sun” by Animals. With the age of the hippies also came “Psychedelic Rock,” represented by bands like The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. The Blues also continued to influence artists like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. These artists and others like them went on to perform at the legendary music festival Woodstock (1969).
This led straight into the hard rock of the 1970s, including bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. A branch of hard rock which had an element of country is southern rock, which included bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles. Rock also progressed by producing bands like Kansas, Styx, and The Electric Light Orchestra and by creating a “pop rock” genre with bands like Queen, David Bowie, and Fleetwood Mac; this would slowly evolve into new wave music from the bands Devo and The Cars, ultimately leading us into the 1980s.
Now, coming into the 1980s, a lot of the same bands were still present, but they had changed. For instance, David Bowie and Queen both evolved and helped develop glam/pop metal, which also includeded bands like Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, and Def Leppard. As you can witness in the videos, half of glam rock is the look and attitude in which you present yourself. Bands that also continued to develop and dominate the 80s were Journey, Rush, and Foreigner; all were making records during the 70s, but they definitely became leaders during the 80s.
This is also when women in rock made an appearance; one of these women was Joan Jett — who was also in The Runaways during the 1970s and was heavily influenced by Suzi Quatro. But the 80s is when women like Pat Benetar, Debbie Harry of Blondie, and the bands Heart and Til Tuesday really made a place for women in rock.
This leads us into the late 80s and 90s, when glam was wearing down and grunge/alternative rock began entering the music scene, which included bands like Nirvana, The Pixies, Nine Inch Nails, and R.E.M — all of which started in the 80s and carried on to play music in the 90s.
The bands of the 90s that followed them consisted of Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beastie Boys, Goo Goo Dolls, and Foo Fighters. Representing women in rock during the 90s were No Doubt, Hole, 4 Non Blondes, The Cranberries, and Alanis Morisette. Punk evolved during the 90s as well, adding a pop element that was displayed by bands like Weezer, Green Day, and Blink 182 — all bands that we still know today.
Now remember, this is only the music that falls under the vast umbrella that is the rock genre. Throughout the years, R&B, jazz, pop, folk, and rap were all developing in their own way. So take some time to explore all different types of music from all different decades. You may just discover your new favorite type of music.