The Evolution of Rock Music

By Stephanie Bajzik

Rock music is a popular genre of music that emerged in the United States during the 1950’s. Nowadays, with television music channels such as VH1, Fuse and MTV, rock music has certainly changed a great deal since its emergence.

The 1950’s- The Emergence of Rock and Roll

During the emergence of rock music in the 1950’s, swing music was still a popular music genre. However, rock music soon hit the scene with a sound that much resembled blues but with an electric guitar. The major players during this decade of rock include Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Ritchie Valens and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The 1960’s- Going Beyond the Rock Music Boundaries

The world was introduced to the British Invasion during the 1960’s. This is when the Beatles hit the music scene and was the most popular band of the British Invasion. Other psychedelic and hippy bands hit the music scene during this decade as well including The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. These bands all had one thing in common and that was their drug induced lyrics. Several other forms of rock also emerged during this time include folk rock and progressive rock. Folk rock songs were known as acoustic rock songs that have a blues undertone. Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan were popular folk rock music artists. Progressive rock was made famous by Pink Floyd and their songs incorporated other bass, guitar and drums.

The 1970’s- Rock Music Becomes Big Business

Rock music and music in general, began to settle down after the end of the Vietnam War. Punk rock became increasingly popular during this time with the emergence of bands such as The Ramones, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Punk rock music combined rock and roll with teenage rage as well as anarchism.

The 1980’s- TV and Technology Influences

When most people think of the 80’s as far as music, hair bands often come to mind. Hair bands played heavy metal music and dressed in tight pants and long hair. Heavy metal music is known for its insane guitar solos and music ballads and included bands such as Skid Row, Motley Crue, Van Halen and Cinderella. Other forms of rock made popular in the 80’s included new wave and alternative. New wave artists included Blondie, Talking Heads and Divo. Alternative rock was popular among college students and included bands The Cure, Sonic Youth and REM.

The 1990’s- The Influences of the Internet

The early part of the 1990’s saw grunge rock emerge. Alternative music also became increasingly popular as well. Grunge music was established in Seattle and is known as music that has strong guitar riffs with distortion and feedback. Popular bands included Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam.

The 2000’s- Rock and Roll Redefined

One of the most popular forms of rock music that still exist today is alternative rock. Popular alternative rock bands of the 2000’s include Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Heavy metal also became popular during this time with subcategories like death metal and black metal.



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