The Roots of Rock and Roll

Every fan of rock and roll needs a history lesson in order to appreciate why rock music is what it is today. While its origins probably date back decades and decades ago, the 50’s is a very good place to start our understanding of this kind of music.

Rock and roll was said to be first used by a DJ named Alan Freed, taken from the song “My Baby Rocks me with a Steady Roll.” Rock and roll is a form of popular music originating in the United States in the 1950’s. Its style started as rhythm and blues, but is identifiable by the use of electric guitars, interesting lyrics (put in simple phrase structures), and a strong rhythm. It also incorporates various musical styles such as country music and gospel.

Among the pioneers of rock music are these artists: Bill Haley and His Comets, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly.

Bill Haley and His Comets came out with the song “Rock Around the Clock” in 1954, and was an instant hit to the kids across America and England who finally found a fast-paced song to dance to (or “rock out” to). This they did non-stop until 1955. The song became the best-selling record of the year, and is now considered the seminal rock and roll song.

In 1955, Elvis Presley recorded and released his breakout hits, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.” These songs, of course will go down in history as classic rock music (although more bluesy than other songs in this genre during that time), and Elvis, will ascend as the King of Rock and Roll.

Then, there is also Jerry Lee Lewis, with his hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, released in 1957. He invented a style which infused his trademark single chord, piano solo. Buddy Holly, with his smash hit, “Peggy Sue” took over the airwaves with a song about a girl-the quintessential girl of the fifties, with her innocent smile and cute pigtails. Peggy Sue, however, never ages. The song is among the most memorable hits of the era.

The fifties was truly a great era for rock music. While it did not contain any social and political themes, or electrifying guitar solos, which identified rock music that came out years later, its energy and originality win us over. We now call them “oldies”, music that ushered in a more contemporary, and more gritty (less bluesy) kind of music. Still, the fifties was definitely fabulous.