Do you ever wonder where the term “Rock and Roll” came from? Well to even my surprise, it was used by mariners as early as the 17th century to describe the combined “rocking” (fore and aft) and “rolling” (side to side) motion of a ship on the ocean. I know this isn’t what you wanted to read about in rock n roll, just wait…. I will get there. So the term referred to movement forwards, backwards and from side to side.
In the 19th century the term took on a sexual connotation from a song by “Johnny Bowker”, called Sea Shanty containing the lines “Oh do, my Johnny Bowker/ come rock and roll me over.
So now we know where the term originated, let’s take a look at the early American music forms.
American Music Forms
Rock represents the point where black and white music blended to together. The early pioneers of rock and roll were influenced by blues, rhythm-and-blues and country. Blues were a major influence of Elvis Presley, and country music had a great impact on Chuck Berry.
Rock origins can be traced back to the late 1940s when the popular style of the day, country music and blues, morphed into a new sound aided by electric guitars and a steady drumbeat. Rock artists of the 1950s such as Chuck Berry leaned heavily towards classic blues while demonstrating a flair as a natural-born entertainer. In contrast, from the safe pop music era, rocks aggressive attack suggested a sexual form of freedom that was shocking during that conservative age.
If you think about it, a lot of songs have some kind of sexual innuendo in the lyrics. I’m not saying that they are graphic or exposing, but they do have some kind of love or lovemaking meaning within them.
Development Of Rock & Roll
Back when rhythm and blues was big, a Cleveland DJ Alan Freed was credited with giving rock and roll its name, which comes from a well-known slang term for sexual intercourse in the rhythm and blues circle. In the 1950s, when rock and roll became the dominant music style, the teenagers loved it, but the older generations hoped it was just a passing fad. In 1951 Alan Freed started a radio show called” Moondog Rock ‘n’ roll party, playing black music. As the music took hold, the number of white performers experimenting with R&B increased. Country, swing and big band music were all influences in the rock & roll sound they produced.
The Rhythm Of Rock And Roll
One of the characteristics of rock and roll that appealed to teenagers in the 50s was an irresistible beat or rhythm. Rock and In the 1950s, when rock and roll became the dominant music style, the teenagers loved it, but the older generations hoped it was just a passing fad. Fortunately for us baby boomers, it was not a fad and we still love rock and roll today.
The Rhythm Of Rock And Roll was dance music that followed in the traditions of rhythm and blues and the earlier tradition of swing music. The strong emphasis on the beat or rhythmic nature of the music, caused a strong condemnation among the white Americans, who thought of it as “jungle music.”
Black rock and roll performers in the 1950s included Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Chuck Berry claimed he accidentally invented rock & Roll while trying to write a country song. Little Richard claimed to be its “architect and the real king. Two white singers emerging at the time were Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. Surprise to both Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Elvis Presley became the worldwide “king of rock & roll.”
Elvis Presley was the first to sing what is now considered rock ‘n’ roll. Other notable artists like Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Ray Charles, and Bo Diddley were also making their mark in the middle years of th1950’s. Elvis was the first to become a true pop star, appearing on popular TV programs like Ed Sullivan and in hit films like “Jailhouse Rock.” He had more records in the Billboard Top 40, than any other singer and more #1 albums than any other solo artists.
Johnny Cash started his recording career beginning at Sun Records, the same studio where Elvis Presley cut his first songs. Johnny Cash’s songs though, were not all rock and roll. His songs ranges from country, gospel to Rock and Roll. Today most people consider Johnny Cash to be a country singer.
The Beatles They have sold more records than any other singer or band and had more number one singles in the U.S. than anyone else, and had the most #1 albums in the U.S. by a group. The song “Yesterday,” remains the most recorded song of all time as of July 2017. All four Beatles enjoyed successful solo careers after the band broke up in 1970.
Bob Dylan In the 1960s we had popular artist like Bob Dylan, other singers from the 1960s have enjoyed more commercial success than Bob Dylan. He still sold more than 100 million records, had twelve Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award. David Bowie to Paul McCartney to Bruce Springsteen have cited Dylan’s influence in their work. Sixty performers like Jimi Hendrix ( “All Along the Watchtower”) and the Byrds (“Mr Tambourine Man”) enjoyed big hits with songs Dylan wrote
In the 1970s there was Led Zeppelin, though his music was considered heavy metal, but between 1969 and 1971 are considered to be classic rock. In 2008, Guitar World magazine named “Stairway to Heaven” from Led Zeppelin album IV, as the best guitar solo of all time.
In the 70s we had Michael Jackson, Elton John, born Refinald Dwight, and Pink Floyd. These artists are still considered rock and rollers because of their influence from the early rock and roll era.
To be fair to the Rock and Roll singers of the fifty and sixties, music would not be where it is today, if it wasn’t for all those who influenced and contributed to the true rock and roll of their era.
This is a definite coming together. We had black and white artists coming from rhythm and blues, country, jazz, all come together to bring us our rock and roll of today. This was a unity of artists and styles of music that brought us to the music that we love. Thank you for that.