Many Americans would agree that there’s nothing more American than apple pie, NASCAR, and Rock and Roll. Music culture in the United States is very strong. One of the most listened to genres of music in the US is Rock and Roll (usually just called “Rock”). Not only does Rock music find its origins in the US, but it has had a major influence in American society and youth culture. Here is a history of the creation and growth of Rock music in the United States, and how it has effected American culture, society, and other musical genres.
The Origins of Rock & Roll
The origins of Rock music can go back into the days of slavery in Old America. The songs sung by slaves had influences from Africa and the caribbean, and could either have a slow or fast tempo depending on the song and occasion. The slaves’ musical style eventually blended into the Southern Gospel genre (songs sung in church during a service; usually a Baptist Christian church service); this is where the term “Rock and Roll” was first used. People would describe the way people would move to the music during the sermon as “rocking and rolling”. When the slaves were freed in the 1860’s, many left the American South, and emigrated to different parts of the US (this movement is known in history as The Great Migration), they took their style of music with them.
Living closer to white communities than ever before, black music started gaining new influences and grew into new genres. Jazz and Blues were born around the late 19th century and early 20th century from the black community. Jazz music became very popular in the 1920’s (nicknamed “The Roaring 20’s” or “The Jazz Age”), and even had a large following amongst the whites. Not only did the white community enjoy listening to large jazz bands in nightclubs, but there were even whites who became jazz musicians and bandleaders themselves.
Jazz music became very popular in the 1920’s (nicknamed “The Roaring 20’s” or “The Jazz Age”), and even had a large following amongst the whites. Not only did the white community enjoy listening to large jazz bands in nightclubs, but there were even whites who became jazz musicians and bandleaders themselves.
Jazz and Blues eventually evolved into Bluegrass and Country music. During the Second World War, resources in America were reserved and rationed for the war effort. Large bands had a hard time getting from place to place, so bands got smaller and eventually would only consist of drums, a guitar, a bass, a piano, a saxophone or a trumpet, and a singer to make traveling on the road easier and more efficient.
As bands became smaller and new genres were created and blended, Americans were rushed into a new type of musical era. This era would usher in new genres: Doo Wop and Rockabilly.
The genre of early Rock and Roll that most people are familiar with is Rockabilly. Originating in the South in the 1950’s, Rockabilly was a cross between country music, rhythm and blues, and swing jazz. Some famous artists in the Rockabilly genre include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The Rockabilly genre was the first Rock and Roll genre to create controversy in society involving the youth culture of the day. Parents didn’t want their children listening to music that was so unlike the music that they grew up with. Rock and Roll was considered the black man’s music because its origins started in the black community, and some parents who supported segregation of the races didn’t approve of Rock music. Even Elvis Presley was thought by many to be a black man when people didn’t know what he looked like; all because of his style of music. Lyrics to Rockabilly songs would usually target a teenage audience, and promote having fun and being youthful. Teenage rebels who listened to Rock would even try to create a “rebellious” clothing style; usually consisting of the leather jackets and jeans people see in the movies. Rock music would help bring black and white youths together in communities through the enjoyment of the same music and youth culture. Not only was a style of music originating from black communities becoming very popular, but black musicians were rising on the music charts too.
Rockabilly would eventually lead to the Surfer genre, Garage Band genre, and have a strong influence on the British Invasion of the 1960’s.
Rock and Roll music has a long history in the United States. Starting in the 19th century, Rock’s roots came from slaves, and by the 1950’s Rock was helping create change in American society. Through the mutual love of music, Americans in the past came together when society said that they couldn’t. Rock has led to the growth of music as a whole, and is an American tradition today.
NASCAR: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. American race car competitions.
Effected: A change that results when something is done or happens : an event, condition, or state of affairs that is produced by a cause.
Sermon: A speech about a moral or religious subject that is usually given by a religious leader.
Bandleader: A person who leads a band of musicians; especially : the leader of a band that plays jazz or dance music.
Evolved: To change or develop slowly often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state.
Rationed: A particular amount of something (such as gasoline or food) that the government allows you to have when there is not enough of it.
Racial Segregation: The practice or policy of keeping people of different races, religions, etc., separate from each other.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren Leveque is a student at Northern Virginia Community College studying political science . She loves going to new places and has traveled to 9 different countries so far. She speaks English, French, and some Korean. Some of her hobbies is watching foreign films and visiting new places in Kyiv.