How Rock and Roll Became Popular


From love to lollypops, every human emotion and want has been the subject of rock and roll music. Its wide popularity is due to its roots in American musical traditions. Rhythm and blues, gospel, and country music, including cowboy swing, and much more have had their influences. Originally, with string guitars and drums new bands and personalities used simple lyrics and strong beats to belt out a new generation’s feelings and desires.

In the 20s record recording, radio and films popularized many genres not known to so-called mainstream society. While the term rock and roll was not coined until the 50s, it has its roots in early America. African American folk music was rarely heard outside of Black society. Gospel music was limited to church gatherings and was divided by ethnic and class lines. Country and cowboy swing music rarely entered urban areas. These genres grew in popularity in urban areas during the 20s and 30s, but it was limited to dance halls and bar scenes.

A technological miracle in its time, the ability to record and preserve music and lyrics meant that suddenly anyone could listen to most anything. Radio and film became mass media and the stage was set for rock and roll. In the 50’s an American undercurrent in the music world was striving for a more genuine and popular form of musical expression. With the new mass media there was much to draw from. Early rock and roll artists used saxophones and pianos as lead instruments. By the mid-50s classic rock and roll bands were using guitars and drum sets as lead instruments.

The basic beat pattern of blues rhythm and backbeat emphasis was set. In the 60s “rock music” took over the pop music charts. Folk, surf, hard, psychedelic and soul rock showed a wide diversity in contemporary themes. Prime time television showcased some of the less controversial bands and singers. In the 70s rock became mainstream and big business. It was the era of large venue band tours that saw the birth of heavy metal and progressive rock. Music television (MTV) revolutionized rock forever in the 80s.

The cable television channel streamed both rock video and sound into millions of homes. Then in the 90s, the pattern broke away from all marketing and creative traditions. The Internet has made all music accessible to fans, but it has, also, for artists created a seamless venue to share their talents.

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