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Revolutionary Development of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Although many historians claimed that rock and roll had emerged by the mid-1950s, its musical origin traced back to the early 1920s. Predecessors specialized in various musical genres later greatly influenced the rock and roll performers in the middle of the 20th century. Rock and roll is an outstanding musical style that evolved and progressed in the USA during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Later on, it quickly spread throughout the world. Primarily, rock ‘n’ roll consisted of three popular and widespread musical genres: pop, country and western, rhythm and blues, gospel music, and mainstream pop music. Soon, after its immediate emergence, rock and roll began to cross over, affecting and mixing various black musical genres. Owing to the combination of three main forms of music along with the rise of experimental youth culture and television broadcasting, rock ‘n’ roll became one of the foremost and influential forms of music in the modern U.S. history.

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In 1951, a famous disc jockey Alan Freed from Cleveland, the state of Ohio, started to play rhythm and blues music for the multiracial audience. Freed was the first man who used the phrase “rock and roll” to describe the music. Rock and roll emerged in the period of considerable technological progress, soon after the development of the phonograph record, microphone, amplifier and electric guitar. The record companies also felt changes because of the rise of radio stations that played rock and promotion of such independent labels as Chess, Sun and Atlantic, which served the main rock ‘n’ roll audience. There was a supposition that a wealthy white youth was listening to the music that resulted in the revolutionary development of rock ‘n’ roll as a distinct genre that dominated popular music in the late 1950s (Bogdanov, Woodstra, & Erlewine, 2002).

Musicians often used saxophone and piano as the lead instruments in the earliest styles of rock and roll in the 1940-1950s. However, in the late fifties, acoustic and electric guitars supplemented or replaced them (Moore, 2002). In the mid-50s, white youth became fascinated by the rock and roll additionally fueled by jukeboxes and radio. Soon, these teenagers would become popular and famous performers and artists. In general, rock and roll music was not restricted to any gender, origin, sex, or race by either audience or musicians. Moreover, inclusiveness of rock ‘n’ roll remains one of the greatest strengths of this glorious musical style.

Early rock ‘n’ roll experienced a grand explosion in the U.S. popular music and life of any teenager. The rebellious youth movements along with a national audience of the fifties helped to improve rock and roll style. Early rock and rollers created a daring and ingenious new sound by combining rhythm and blues with country and western styles. Television brought rock and roll into the homes of each American citizen, whether parents agreed or disagreed (Reynolds & Press, 1996). However, the quick explosion of rock ‘n’ roll eventually impeded its growth. Rock was moving into the pop charts and later appeared in the watered down bands with new fads such as the craze dance.

The period of the1950s enjoyed a new development in the music life with rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll that became extremely popular among the audience. Except rock and roll with rhythm and blues, the distant fifties brought the birth of the gospel and country music fusing together in rockabilly, doo-wop and soul. Early hits appeared in the R&B charts for the first time and then moved to the pop charts in the latter half of the fifties. Pioneering rock music artists such as The Everly Brothers, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, and other eminent musicians took the rock and roll unique sound worldwide.

After music had become widely accessible, rock and roll became reachable to the young American generation. While pop music dominated at the national level, rhythm and blues, country and western music found its fan base on a small stage. The outstanding invention of the solid-body electric guitar by the pioneer Les Paul brought a new exceptional sound. It attracted audience and helped to promote rock and roll. The rebellious teenagers of the distant fifties started to listen to the crossover music hits performed by the black musicians like the flamboyant “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard and “Maybellene” by Chuck Berry in 1955. Meanwhile, Pat Boone whitened several greatest Richard’s hits in order to expose white Americans to the music of black performers. In reality, the process of whitefication of early rockers helped rock ‘n’ roll get off the ground and reach a new level. Moreover, it helped to spread the unique musical style as a craze of American youth across the nation.

By then, rock ‘n’ roll hit the mainstream of the U.S. culture (Friedlander, 1996). This was preceded by emerging of Elvis Presley as one of the most influential and marvelous rock and rollers of all time. By combining rhythm and blues with country and western, Presley gained a large audience of white and black teenagers alike. The biggest and famous American television showed the outstanding performances by Presley because youth loved Elvis. The legendary rock and roller paved the way for such entertainers as Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, whose country and western impact was evident in his original manipulation of vocals and simplistic guitar playing. In fact, daring style of rock and roll never died; it blossomed and grew into a music form in the 1950s. Musicians got freedom they never had before. All the songwriters expressed themselves in rock music. The British invasion of the sixties added new music sounds and new names. The Beatles ruled, and Elvis Presley was still the king of rock and roll.

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Rock and roll took over the pop charts for the first time in the 1960s. Then, various new rock genres emerged, including heavy metal, surf music, psychedelic, hard rock, folk music, and the British Invasion (Bromell & Bromell, 2002). Legendary bands such as The Who, The Temptations, The Beatles, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and solo musicians Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Dick Dale were unbelievably successful.

The unique tone and rebel image of American rock and roll and blues performers as the pioneers of rock became popular and influential among American youth. In the 1960s, rock music dominated the popular music charts and, in general, came of age. In the early part of the decade, Elvis Presley continued to score great hits. However, the music continued to diversify with the folk rebirth. It is important to note that songwriting of the sixties moved beyond the popular love songs and started to include political statements and social consciousness. In the latter half of the 1960s, psychedelic rock greatly reflected the growing culture of hippie and its movement that emphasized the ideals of respect, love, peace, and unity. In fact, television of the sixties became a crucial force in rock music since networks tried to attract a young audience.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were the time of hope and jubilation, the period of great changes and revolution of rock and roll. For the majority, fifties and sixties were the most romantic, rebellious, daring, and unbelievable time. Nowadays, rock and roll, as a music style, continues to progress, experiment, and adapt, allowing it remain prospective and relevant to the succeeding generation. In addition, rock and roll was founded almost a half-century ago, and I believe that no one will ever forget the glorious 1950-1960s. Rock era undoubtedly reflected the revolutionary development of various rock and roll bands that left a great legacy for the modern generation of musicians and ordinary people.