Rock music is the general name for many directions of modern music that have existed since the 1950s. It is also considered as the original lifestyle of some of the rock music fans, which developed into a subculture. The term is not entirely straightforward because the belongings of certain rock music styles are declined. It has a large number of directions: from dance, rock and roll to metal. The content of the lyrics varies from easy and natural to the dark, deep and philosophical songs.
The Origins of Rock Music
The origins of rock music lie in the blues, which is also considered as the forefather of such musical genres as rhythm and blues, rock and roll and rockabilly. The first sub-genre of rock music emerged in a close connection with folk and pop music of the time, for instance, folk, country, or music hall. During its existence, there have been attempts to combine rock music with almost all possible kinds of music – from classical, jazz, Latin and Indian music. In the 60-70s, there were practically all the major sub-genres of rock music. In addition to the genres mentioned above, there were already metal, punk rock, soul, funk, rock and avant-garde. In the 80s, such genres as post-punk, new wave, alternative rock, hardcore and brutal metal evolved, with the latter’s subgenres like death metal, black metal, and grind core. The main centers of rock music were located in the United States and Western Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. Consequently, most of the lyrics are written in English.
Most rock bands has a vocalist. In comparison with the beginning of its development, when rock music laid mostly in the blues tune, today some of the rock sub-directions have little in common in musical terms. Rock is not just a style of music. It is a philosophy, lifestyle and subculture. Rock music has a huge exciting energy. It can give a person freedom from the constant social principles and stereotypes of reality. On the other hand, one who captured rock culture may finally fence off from the outside world, reinforcing the position of taking alcohol and drugs, contributing to the destruction of personality. Often this phenomenon puts the blame on rock musicians.
The beginning of rock music is considered to be the appearance of =rock and roll, which connected the features of blues, rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie, jazz and country. The development of early rock and roll is associated mainly with American artists, but it is almost impossible to determine what song or plate was at the roots of this genre. The first option is a single “Fat Man” by Fats Domino, released in 1950. According to other versions, the first rock and roll record is “Rocket 88”, recorded by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats in 1951.
Fats Domino, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry are among those, who laid the foundation of rock and roll as a full-fledged genre. Chuck Berry began studying music seriously in 1953, and already in 1955 he recorded the first single. He set down rock style to the text, images and playing the guitar. Another influential African-American rock and roll musicians, whose name should be mentioned, is Little Richard, who influenced the further formation of garage rock and punk. His style of singing and playing the piano was much more aggressive and assertive compared to his competitors.
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In the beginning, rock and roll music was considered as a specific characteristic of the African-American audience only. However, there also appeared the first white artists performing rock and roll. The breakthrough of rock and roll into the mainstream was the song by Bill Haley, titled “Rock Around The Clock”. However, it was another white artist in the name of Elvis Presley, who managed to win the title of “King of Rock and Roll”. Elvis Presley became the first person that recorded rock and roll on the same level as his black colleagues. Another famous white rock and roll performer, with his harrowing manner of performance and playing the piano, was Jerry Lee Lewis, who went by the nickname of “Killer”. Later some softer forms of “white” rock and roll began to appear. It is primarily concerned with the names of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.
At that time England could not compete with America in the field of rock music. However, the first rock records appeared in the UK already in the 50s. The American rock and roll developed in a close contact with the root genres such as blues and country. At the same time, English rock and roll had the greatest influence of skiffle, including Lonnie Donegan as one of the most famous artists. The first performers of rock and roll that could compete with American artists in the British charts were Cliff Richard and The Shadows. The first British rock and roll hit was “Move It” by Cliff Richard. Among the bands that appeared at that time, there was the first band of John Lennon, called The Quarrymen. Based on the synthesis of rock and roll and country music, there was a special subgenre of rock music – rockabilly. The most famous representatives of this genre in the 50s were Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins and the famous country singer Johnny Cash.
American rock and roll of the 50s gave a great push to the development of rock music and became the inspiration for the bands that appeared in the early 60s, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals and The Troggs. The term “British invasion” is called the advent of the popular British musical culture to the United States. The beginning of this phenomenon is contemplated to be the “landing” of The Beatles on the American coast in February 1964. Until then, their music has been very popular in early 1964. Five singles of the band hit the first five spots of the U.S. charts.
After the so-called “Beatlemania” flooded America and the rest of the world, the invasion was followed by the other British bands, mostly by the main competitors of The Beatles - The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, and The Yardbirds. Musical life in Britain became rapidly activated on the wave of popularity of the mentioned bands: there were new music clubs launching daily, alongside with the new bands. The most popular among these were the big beat bands, such as Manfred Mann, Searchers, Hollies, Herman’s Hermits and mod-rock bands like The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Troggs that had shared a common manager.
The golden age of rock music was the second half of the 1960s. It was the period of “human warming”, which was marked with the creation of many bands, hippie movement in America and the youth revolution in Europe. The members of The Beatles, who first worn neat hairstyles and costumes, let the long hair, mustache and beard and began wearing freaky costumes and the hippie-style clothing. The music of rock bands went beyond previous limits and became a free development in the different directions.
The psychedelics had a strong influence on the changes in music, especially LSD and mescaline, as well as marijuana, actively consumed by many rock musicians. A new direction of rock music – psychedelic rock, appeared in California during the mid-60s. It took blues-rock and North American folk-rock as its basis, bringing out a vivid expression of distinctive and recognizable sound, extended solos with leading tools and more. Psychedelic was not only about the expression of drug experiences, but it also began to achieve the musical effect. Hippies, who made psychedelic an integral part of themselves, cheerfully welcomed the advent of psychedelic culture. By the end of the 1960s, America already had their rock legends such as The Doors, Jimmy Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, whose music sometimes sounded fascinating and hypnotic. The apogee of the American psychedelic rock music in general became a legendary Woodstock festival in 1969 – “Three Days of Peace and Music”.
By the end of the 1960s a fusion of British bit and psychedelic created a new direction of rock music called hard rock. The founders of the style are considered to be three British bands: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, but some features of hard rock music can be traced in the works of the earlier formed teams, such as The Who, The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. In addition to the mentioned bands, AC/DC, Grand Funk Railroad, Nazareth and Uriah Heep were very popular as well. The main key element for hard rock remains an electric guitar. Hard rock inherited long electric guitar solos from psychedelic, which received a lot of freedom in the melody and harmony. A peculiar feature of the style is the increased importance of the rhythm section. At the same time, riffs started to be widely used, which became the hallmark of hard rock and later heavy metal. All this, together with the increased volume and drive led to a feeling of “heaviness” in the overall sound. Melodically simple and easy for perception, plus mixed with other styles, hard rock became the starting point of such directions as glam rock, heavy metal, grunge and hardcore. The main goal of glam rock was a simple perception of music, colorful scenic image, as well as spectacular and garish shows, accompanying music performance. Despite it all, glam rock was musically diverse, combining features from different areas of rock and pop music. In the 1970s, with the emergence of glam rock, David Bowie - one of the most influential rock musicians, became known. The other famous glam rock bands and artists are T. Rex, Gary Glitter, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Queen, Slade, Sweet and Kiss.
In the late 1970s, punk rock became popular. Punk bands were often careless and primitive from a musical point of view, with fully compensated sarcastic and critical texts and anarchic energy. The most famous bands are Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ramones and Dead Kennedys to name a few. In the United States, Iggy and the Stooges used to play the prototype of punk in the late 1960s. Punk rock was presented as an alternative to commercial pop music and opposition to public order and principles. The hallmark of punk rock was Sex Pistols, who became famous as the most scandalous and provocative band. Post punk sub-direction appeared on the basis of punk rock, mainly represented by the likes of Joy Division and early The Cure.
At the beginning of the 1980s, bands that mixed punk rock and heavy metal, gothic rock with big beats began to form around the world. In the given period, bands such as U2, A-Ha, The Cure, INXS, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pixies became known. Relevance purchased and Gothic rock, which are outstanding representatives of Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Bauhaus. Electronic music and synth-pop, which have been popularized in parallel, had dealt with the new wave and rock music on their early stage. The bands and artists like Kraftwerk, Human League, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics and Jean-Michel Jarre are among them. At the same time metal became popular in the various forms, bringing up acts like Metallica, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others.
Rock music is very interesting not only with its various performances and styles, but also with its philosophy of a lifestyle. The first rocker was God. He created a lightning and thunder. Later, it was Beethoven and Mozart. Now there is a heavy rain consisting of classical music and rock and roll.