Select a musical style, form, mode of expression, or a unifying theme. Identify the defining elements of that style and note how the music has changed since 1977. If you choose to explore a theme, note how the cultural references to that theme have or haven't changed over the decades. List the top 10 songs chronologically, and briefly explain commercial, cultural, or technological reasons (or any and all of the above) for the changes (or lack of them) in style, form or theme over the decades.
Some styles of music, such as grunge, or goth metal didn't emerge until after 1975. If that is the case with the musical style you chose, you should include some of the antecedents of the style in order to track and explain its development.
The Diverse Influences of American Rock Music
The United States of America, land of the free home of the brave, has been a pioneer in terms of producing music that has taken the world by storm in the last six decades. From American folk to the African-American rendition of blues and Jazz they have traversed various realms of sound and emotion to connect with crowds from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds (Reising, 2017). “Rock ‘n’ Roll” originally coined as a profanity has now evolved into a culturally accepted form of expression of self. The origins of the idea of rock ‘n’ roll can be traced to the blues escapades of the legendary Robert Johnson who started the Mississippi blues scene singlehandedly though over the years American folk and jazz have found their elements in bits and pieces of classic rock. In order to understand the ideal that rock seeks to profess one must look at the historical relevance that the movements associated with rock have (Leonard, 2017). Each movement created and preached its own ideals and each originated from an idea of rebellion. As rebellious as the message of rock maybe over the years it has managed to incorporate various pangs of commercialism in its rungs and the same can be attributed to its eventual downfall at the hands of more crowd-appealing genres of music such as pop or hip-hop. With the expression taking a backseat in later years, mass appeasement became the main medium of communication for musicians. Rock however has survived the downfall and is still a prevalent genre that has a considerable following and a plethora of dedicated artists who are still making music that caters to this fan base (Perry, 2013). The following paragraphs will list ten songs from this genre and seek to establish the elements that have changed over the years and the elements that still remain past its immense metamorphosis over the years.
- Stairway to heaven
This song has been synonymous with legendary classic rock from the time of its very inception. Written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page from the globally proclaimed “super-group” Led Zeppelin it captures various elements of jazz and blues in its overall arrangement with a hint of folk rock in various parts of the song (Fürst, 2014). Publicly released in the year 1971 it immediately became a staple for every social event that featured rock to the extent where it became the best known rock song of all time. It thus entered the Rock ‘n’ Roll legends from the very first performance that featured and Plant and Page would be forever known as aficionados of the Rock movement and their versatility would be revered by the generations to come as ushering in a new age. The age of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
- Smoke on the Water
Staples of Classic Rock: Led Zeppelin and Smoke on the Water
Ritchie Blackmore, a virtuoso, whose Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame induction happened in late 2016 can be considered as one of the pioneers of the Rock ‘n’ Roll. The late induction to the Rock ‘n’ Roll almost renders his work with a posthumous pride (as the band he’s worked with were not in existence when the induction happened). Ritchie Blackmore has however been the pioneer and founding member of various groups that have achieved both commercial success and critical acclaim such as Deep Purple and Rainbow (Jones, 2017). Smoke on the water is a song comprised mainly of guitar riffs which are a standards element in most rock songs. Guitar riffs however find their origin in the blues and the same is a stagnant element that finds its place in all expressions of rock.
- Bohemian Rhapsody
Released in the market in 1975 this rock classic can still be found being played at various events and places that feature rock. Freddie Mercury and Brian May brilliantly blend their classical and blues influences into an eternal ballad that would echo through the halls of rock for time immemorial (Atieieva, 2014). Queen, the band behind this stroke of genius, is still in existence today however with the demise of Freddie Mercury it has lost momentum in the rock movement. Some of the most mesmerizing numbers in rock history have been produces by the group with Bohemian Rhapsody being the best known. The song borrows various elements from western classical which is evident in the long running piano parts incorporated into the song. This song captures the phase of rock that was technically brilliant adding independent progressive elements into the classic rock sound.
- Sympathy for the devil
It can be sufficiently asserted that a band has been incredibly successful when the most successful magazine in the industry is named after the band. The magazine in question is Rolling Stone magazine which has been since time immemorial a long standing pillar of Rock ‘n’ Roll journalism and the same was named after the legendary band the Rolling Stones (Cooper et al., 2015). This song captures the spirit of the band in entirety, they were outrageously unapologetic about their sound and the same was revered by the Rock ‘n’ Roll community and was embraced by thousands of fans. The song has all the elements expected from a rock song of the time, packed with guitar riffs and off-beat percussion instruments that create an ambient vibe along the fabric of an extremely bluesy output. The song portrays the golden age of Rock ‘n’ Roll and is based on the spirit of the same. Contemporaries of Led Zeppelin the band managed to win over many fans through their unconventional song structures that went beyond the set standards for rock songs at the time.
- Tom Sawyer
Incorporating Western Classical: Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
The American Rock ‘n’ Roll circuit was heavily influenced by musicians from the UK as is evident from the incorporation of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones in this list. Rush on the other hand was a Canadian rock band that left a major mark on the American Rock scene. This band was the genres first steps into what is now known as progressive rock. The unique feature of the band was their blend of unheard of time signatures that changed the landscape of rock for generations to come. This changed the usual 4/4 approach to rock that had been used by all bands of the genre (Lough, Pharr & Owen, 2014). This song brings in heavy keyboard effects and the riffs are mainly bass guitar dominated. This marked a shift from the usual blues elements of rock that have forever been the staple formulae for rock songs. The song is buzzing with new age elements of processed sound that was previously minimally used in the genre.
- Comfortably numb
A list on classic rock and Rock ‘n’ Roll would not be complete without the incorporation of at least one song by the rock legends Pink Floyd. Comfortably numb arguably best captures their unique blend of rock elements with psychedelic expressions of self. With hauntingly beautiful lyrics and an ambient bass riff that truly embodies quintessential psychedelic rock at its best (Larsen et al., 2013). The song shows a drastic shift of rock from its louder heavier roots to a more enchantingly ambient sound as a whole. Notably from the advent of Floyd rock would finally be able to branch out into various genres each with its own unique rendition of rebellion.
- Sweet child o’mine
Glam rock also colloquially called hair metal had the spotlight during the 1980s. Founded in 1985 Guns ‘n’ Roses quickly became the forerunners of the glam movement. With their melodically heavy sound and the enigmatic personalities of Axle Rose (front man) and Slash (lead guitars) they were seen as a new change in the concept of hair metal (Adashevskiy, Iermakov & Firsova, 2013). This era saw a major shift from the initial blues and jazz influences of rock to a more “Rock” based approach to it.
- Rock you like a hurricane
The scorpions were a German rock band that made its mark on the American rock scene through ballads and relatively softer elements to produce a more ambient sounds overall. This song however maintains the traditional riff based approach to rock that is usually followed while adding various softer more melodic interludes into the framework of the same (Marcus, 2014). This song thus shifts from the usual blues influences that are embodied in rock and captures a more traditional classical approach to rock in the arrangement.
- Free Bird
Outrageously Unapologetic: The Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar
Southern Rock had been one of the leading pioneers in the American rock movement. This is their most well known composition and the same encompasses all the elements that were prevalent in the genre at the time (Cooper, Hoffmann & Haney, 2014). The song begins with a slow paced introduction section which demarcates all the various blues influences that would eventually be incorporated into the song much like the works of Mr. B.B. King and Gary Moore who defined blues in that era (Friedlander, 2018).
- Safari Song
Being one of the youngest entries to this list this band (Greta Van Fleet) has been known for bringing back the sound that rock had apparently lost in its gargantuan momentum. The band has used elements that were considered forgotten in the genre and thus has revived the sound of the 60s in the global scenario today (Rogers, 2016). However due to technological advancement in music equipment and instruments the band has a heavy use of processed sound which was not present in the earlier bands. It is still however a monumental pillar for the genre today and is revered as the same.
To conclude, the American Rock movement has seen immensely talented artists who have added their own elements in the traditional form of blues and jazz. The genre has also seen a shift from massive crowd appeal to only being popular among older crowds. It has however survived this journey and is still one of the most successful genres of music that is in existence today and will continue to strive towards melodic excellence and lyrical brilliance. Thus the above playlist successfully establishes the ways in which the genre has evolved and expanded over the years and it documents the changes in influences which the genre saw in the years to come.
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