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Rock Music

By avmorefun Mar 12, 2011 719 Words
A Genealogy of Rock Music

Today, the term Rock Music brings about images of wild hotel parties, pyrotechnics, drugs, plane crashes and iconic frontmen. However, in order to form a real understanding of how rock music came to be the legendary style that it is today, we must understand its origins. Rock music is rooted deep in America’s most trivial times- in the songs of African American slaves- from the Mississippi Delta right up to the Mason-Dixon line, it is a simple musical styling that is popularly described as “three chords, and the truth”- the way it should be.

In order to grasp an understanding of where Rock Music came from, we must first understand what it is. Today, the term “Rock” is used as a blanket term, to include alternative styles of reggae, metal, alternative, rock ‘n’ roll, and hundreds of other crazy genres and sub-genres. Most agree that rock music, in its purest form, is a simple, unsyncopated type of music grounded in a 4/4 time signature, with the most prominent lead instruments being vocals and electric guitar, and the rhythm being driven by a bass guitar (or stand-up bass) and simple, driving drumming. In addition, there is often piano, or Hammond organ added to give the music a fuller, more bluesy and rooted sound. There are obviously hundreds of variations on this style, as bands like The Dave Matthews Band have incorporated violin and saxophone into a jazz and world-beat driven rock style, or bands like The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Orchestra-Rock styling employing 33 musicians in one band.

Of all the hundreds of styles, differing from band to band, we must be able to decipher rock music’s true roots. It is questionable where rock’s first appearance was made, but it is the general consensus that it began to appear in the early 1950’s. Now- famous Disc Jockey Alan Freed of Columbus, Ohio, coined the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” in 1951, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Many argue who had the first, true “Rock ‘n’ Roll” record, whether it was Fats Domino in 1949, or Bill Haley and his Comets in 1951 with the popular hit “Rock Around the Clock”. Of all the artists among whom it is argued started this wildly popular genre, few of its founders have had the impact that the legendary Elvis Presley did with his release of his single “That’s Alright” in 1954. It can be said that it was the first song that contained all the elements of rock, both musically, and lyrically; including it’s simplistic but universal message of heartbreak with a resolution of independence at the end of the song. It is simple, but it is the essence of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis went on to become the best-selling solo artist in music history, selling a certified 182.6 million records in the U.S. alone, and an estimated 600 million- 1 billion sold worldwide. These astonishing numbers are absolutely astounding for one man to do, but they don’t top the list of rock ‘n’ roll artists.

In the next paragraph, I will segue into the always popular and record-setting Beatles and Rolling stones, with the start of the British Invasion into Rock Music. I plan to continue with the injection of Folk music from Bob Dylan into popular music, and move through the late 60’s and 70’s with the invention of “Heavy Metal” by Led Zeppelin and similar artists. Then, branching off of heavy metal, I plan to outline the trending changes in music through the 70’s psychedelic music into the hair metal and disco-rock of the 80’s, with the emergence of Grunge from Seattle in the 1990’s. I don’t have an extremely in-depth plan for how I’d like to do this, as this paper really is just a straight history paper of a subject I love. Do I need more sources and concrete evidence, or can I continue with what could possibly be considered “common knowledge”. I plan on continuing right up to the prominence of singer-songwriter rock of today, including alternative forms, and I would like to try to include a little more about the rock ‘n’ roll culture.

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