Unit 1 Notes - Introduction What is this thing called rock...

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Introduction “What is this thing called rock and roll? Some of it’s sex, some of it’s drugs, some of it’s hope, some of it’s tragedy, some of it’s family, and some of it’s just driving a car down the freeway and trying to pretend there is a tomorrow when there isn’t. Originally, it was music that came from people who were in trouble, and it spoke deeply and hugely and heroically from deep down in their soul. That’s what we inherit here today.” — Pete Townsend from his remarks at the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Instead, it was the result of the remarkable pattern of musical cross-influences and corresponding cycles of change had characterized the development of popular music in America since its inception in the 19th century. In the 1950s, offshoots and variants of the blues — boogie-woogie, the vocal style of blues shouters, and the jump blues — formed the basis for early R&B and created part of the foundation for rock and roll. Similarly, country styles like Western swing, honky- tonk, and the hillbilly boogie played a significant role in building another part of rock and roll’s underpinnings. Even gospel music played a part in laying the foundation for rock and roll as artists like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke made secular versions of African American church music. The reality was that rock and roll had evolved from a wide variety of influences and was deeply indebted to and rooted in music that had come before. Part of reason that rock and roll appeared to be so revolutionary and different was that the pattern of influence that shaped it was by-and-large restricted to genres outside of the popular mainstream. In the early 1950s, blues, gospel, and country music were marginal genres in comparison to the popular mainstream, which was still dominated by show tunes and Tin Pan Alley songs. Although most of the influences on rock and roll had found their way into the popular mainstream at one time or another, they had done so as fads, “passing fancies,” and temporary anomalies that failed to find a permanent place alongside the songs of Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Western swing bands like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys had scored mainstream hits, but country music continued to be more of a novelty than a significant and regular part of what most Americans thought of as mainstream music. Country recordings were still categorized as “hillbilly music” and that classification was something of a pejorative that implied unsophisticated tunes by backwoods bands and rural “hicks” whose music was held in disdain by the majority audience. More problematic were the recordings made by African Americans. “Race Records” were relegated to the far side of the racial divide that continued to separate black from white in America before rock and roll. Louis Jordan had pop hits like “G.I. Jive” and “Ration Blues” in the 1940s, but failed make the jump blues a regular part of the cultural
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This note was uploaded on 02/24/2009 for the course INART 116 taught by Professor Jeffvanfossan during the Spring '08 term at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

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Unit 1 Notes - Introduction What is this thing called rock...

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