The History Of Rock N Roll
From its roots and throughout history, Rock n’ Roll has infiltrated our society for better or for worse. It has grown to be one of the greatest advancements in music history. It has permeated the lives of all races, age groups, and religions. It has been associated with bringing the joy of entertainment, as well as, bringing tragedy and decadence to the generations. The origins of Rock n’ Roll, its influence on society and its human casualties has been a significant force in shaping history.
The Origins of Rock n’ Roll
The origins of Rock n’ Roll started in Africa. African music was comprised of drumming, singing and dancing. When the Africans were brought to America to work as slaves the drumming was used to coordinate the slaves in the plantation. The function of the music had changed considerably but none the less, African music was still carried on by the African Americans. During and after World War I, the black slaves began moving to northern cities, especially Chicago, to escape from the boll-weevil – a parasitic worm that invaded the Mississippi Delta cornfields where the slaves worked – and from racial discrimination. Along with a goal to start over, the southerners brought their cultural music with them and introduced it to the North. Black churches incorporated this music into Gospel’s hymns. It gave a new sound to the church which was rich in emotion and the congregation expressed their spirituality vividly with Gospel music. Black musicians who were a part of these congregations picked up some of the techniques and styles of the Gospel’s hymns. They soon began incorporating aspects of Gospel style music into their music that they produced solely for entertainment. The songs produced by the style and instruments the bands used became known as the blues. The blues started as slower, country-like songs. Instruments in the city were becoming more advanced rapidly. Electric guitars and other electric instruments began to be used in many bands. These new instruments gave the blues a novel peppy sound. Musicians began to experiment with different sounds which resulted in “swing rhythms”. Along with the new sound
came a more exciting feeling behind the music. Behavior such as jumping off stage into a crowd or scaling the curtains on the walls during a show was being done more often. This type of behavior would later be known as of a typical rock star. Eventually, the blues formed the basis of Rock n’ Roll and musicians made the transformation of playing the more slow country blues to the jumpy, urban sound and manners of Rock n’ Roll. Rock n’ Roll received its name from the black euphemism that referred to sexual matters. Bluesman Big Bill Broonzy once said, “The blues won’t die because spirituals won’t die. Blues – a steal from the spirituals. And rock – a steal from the blues. Blues singers start out singing spirituals”. Once Rock n’ Roll had become established, its market depended upon the number of black who came to the Northern and Western cities during and after World War II. This was because blacks in the 1940s were not allowed to see performances or be heard on the radio. Therefore, any black person who wished to listen to their favorite black artist would have to buy 78-rpm discs with the artist’s songs on it. Later, by the 1950s, white teens began buying these records also. This eventually became a trend for all ages and races. By 1953, televisions had become so popular that most music networks were available on TV. With the focus off the radio, where the networks were most commonly listen to, the stations allowed black Rock n’ Roll records to be heard on the radio for the first time. This allowed the public to recognize and start listening to Rock n’ Roll more frequently and to become the begging of Rock n’ Roll history.
How Rock n’ Roll Has Affected Society
Rock n’ Roll has affected our society throughout history in many ways. One way it has affected society is through technology. It started with music television. With the Rock n’ Roll industry striving, the people demanded more ways to listen to their music. When they suggested having an audiovisual for their music, the industry did not refuse. In 1982 MTV was established. MTV was a television channel that ran music videos and information promoting bands all day. The promoting through TV worked very well. In fact, in the 1980’s, 98.2 percent of all American households had a
television set. People of all ages, but especially teens, were swept away by music television. Today, one can say the same for most teens. Numerous teens adore MTV for its music videos and the music industry is still thriving off of it. Most doctors will say that the TV should be accused as a main factor of overweight children. They believe that channels such as MTV and the newer channel VH1, another music video channel, have teens “hooked” and most would rather watch TV than get the exercise they need. Music technology did not just stop at television sets, though. In 1976 the first compact video record players were produced. By the late 1980s, video cassettes had become very
popular. In 1986 200 million prerecorded and 280 million blank video cassettes were bought so that the public could record their favorite artists on TV. Around that same time, other industries began using the music video industries ideas which led to new inventions. One invention was the first video games. The video gaming industry took the music video idea and applied it to their games. In 1981 more than 25 billion quarters were dropped into video game machines in America’s arcades alone. Pop music was also becoming very popular during the 1980s. It began stealing the Rock n’ Roll’s spotlight and caused the industry to have a decline in listeners and interest. By the mid 1980s the industry needed something to revive the interest in Rock n’ Roll. Their solution was to produce CDs – compatible discs that had a higher quality, digital, longer lasting format. They were a hit and it sent the Rock n’ Roll industry soaring. In 1986 alone, 390 million CDs were sold internationally. In addition to motivating technological advancements, Rock n’ Roll has shaped the peoples attitudes in society. Many lyrics suggest violent acts, sexual activities, offensive language and rebellious behavior. These things have been found to have rubbed off on the people in our society today. Studies show that the music one listens to can lead to one acting out on what the have heard. Overall, Rock n’ Roll reflects greatly on its listeners.
The Casualties of Rock n’ Roll
When most think of the excess associated with Rock n’ Roll they visualize concerts, parties, sex, drugs, alcohol, great music and insane actions. To most, only few
of the listed are appealing, but for some and the members of many Rock n’ Roll bands the listed are all tempting and exciting. Unfortunately, Rock n’ Roll has been associated with reckless behavior, drug overdoses and suicide. Drugs and alcohol have caused the most casualties in the Rock n’ Roll industry. Too many musicians have been carried away by the typical Rock n’ Roll lifestyle. One after another, they followed each others footsteps which led them down the path to death. Rockers such as John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, Steve Clark from Def Leppard and Bon Scott from AC/DC all died because of complications associated to their alcoholism. Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon from The Who and Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols all died because from drug overdose. Another cause of death in the music industry is suicide. Rockers often find their lives spiraling out of control and they find they have no purpose in living anymore. This has caused numerous musicians to take their lives. But, it’s not just the musicians that have committed suicide but also their fans. The lyrics of some songs produced by Rock n’ Roll artists seem to encourage people to take their own lives. The songs have this effect on listeners for different reasons. One reason is that some lyrics tell the listener that suicide is an “easy way out”. Another reason is that the lyrics only focus on the darker and negative aspects of life causing the listener to feel upset and disturbed by the world. This can usually lead to death later down the road. Although some Rock n’ Roll music may seem to encourage thoughts that may glorify suicide, it is widely believed by most therapists that this is only typical of person with physiological problems to begin with.
In closing, the origins of Rock n’ Roll, its influence on society and its human casualties have become a part of American History, like it or not. It has been a media that has risen from the evils of slavery, transformed into spiritual lightness and has the power to evoke both joy and misery. As Rock n’ Roll continues to evolve we will continue to evolve, as well, influenced by its powerful presence.
1) Lane, Peter. What Rock Is All About. “The music moves on” (pg. 44-75)
2) “The Rock n’ Roll Death List.” Bible Believers. 1 May 2007
3) Szatmary, David P. Rockin’ in Time. “Origins of Rock n’ Roll” (pg. 1-31)