Rock n roll emerged in the early 1950’s and has had a far-reaching effect on the world since. Always a product of its time, rock n roll has reflected society and addressed personal and social turmoil.
Drawing primarily from the various African American music genres of gospel, jazz, boogie-woogie and rhythm n blues, the genre took shape after the first affordable solid-body electric guitar was introduced in the 1940’s. This was the time when blues music was already gaining momentum in America. It eventually expanded its scope by addressing white country music sensibilities.
Rock n roll is broadly based on the twelve-bar blues, the first and third beats in each bar being heavily accented.
With the vast variety of playing styles and players to draw on, rock n roll continues to evolve, stretch and transform. A perpetual rebellion against the status quo.
1930’s-40 Adolph Rickenbacker introduces the world to the electric lap steel guitar, also called the ‘frying pan’. In subsequent years, Les Paul improves the design with certain success.
1940’s-50 Race records, or music produced primarily by and for African-Americans, takes centerstage in America, inspiring musicians to incorporate elements of blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues music in their sound. Fat Domino’s ‘The Fat Man’ is released as what some call the first rock and roll record. Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey, coins the term ‘rock and roll’.
1950’s-60 The genre gets racy lyrically. The Dominoes’ track ‘Sixty Minute Man’ is banned for its sexual innuendos. Films, Rebel Without A Cause and Blackboard Jungle, speed the rise of rock and roll music. By mid-50’s, Elvis, Little Richard, who put the funk in rock music, and Chuck Berry are certified rock legends.
1960’s-70 The Beatles embark on their journey to stardom, while The Rolling Stones debut in America. Shortly thereafter, rock and roll gets its first female icon – the raw and uninhibited Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix, poster boy of psychedelic rock, burns his guitar at a festival. John and Yoko feature naked on a cover. Jim Morrison flashes the crowd. Rock music and its proponents are by now a force to reckon with.
1970’s-80 Aerosmith, the bad boys of hard rock and blues-rock, break into the scene. Janis, Jimi and Jim bid goodbye to the world. The experimental rocker David Bowie rocks America with his countrywide tour. KISS gives shape to glam rock, while Bruce Springsteen brings freshness to folk rock in ’73. Southern rockers, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and country rockers Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ become certified anthems. Prince, The Pretenders and U2 – the beast of alternative rock, debut in ’78.
1980’s-90 With the launch of MTV, rock and roll enters the living room of millions. Audacious pop rocker, Jon Bongiovi, begins his career with the track ‘Runaway’ with no backing from a record label. Funk rock gets a new face – Red Hot Chili Peppers. Soon, parents get busy lobbying against rock music, forcing RIAA to create the ‘explicit’ label. Hard rock heroes, Guns N’ Roses, deliver their hit album Appetite for Destruction. The highly influential rap rocking Beastie Boys debut with Licensed to Ill.
1990’s to the present Rock duo White Stripes signals a new resurgence in low-fi indie rock.