The term “rock and roll” came into usage during the 1950s to describe a form of rhythmic music, often designed for dancing, that had its roots largely in blues, with some influences from gospel and country music. The term is sometimes used to describe only the early form of this music, as distinct from the “rock” music of the 1960s and onwards, but it may also apply to the broader stream of rock music. Black artists such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Bo Diddley began to appeal to white audiences in the 1950s, and white performers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly continued the trend. A less rhythm-driven form of rock and roll called “doo wop,” with its intricate multi-part harmonies, became successful at the same time.
By the late 1950s and early 1960s, rock and roll went into a decline, in the face of other forms of popular music. The “British Invasion” of the mid 1960s, led by the Beatles, however, acted to solidify the “rock group” as we know it today: guitars, electric bass, drums, possibly keyboards and vocals. The mid 1960s through the 1970s also saw the rise of genres such as folk rock, country rock, blues rock, acid rock, and southern rock. The genres of heavy metal, punk, new wave, grunge, and modern rock became popular. While British rock musicians initially imitated American musical forms like rock and roll and blues, they came to add their own brand of creative musicianship that over the decades led to significant cross-fertilization between rock musicians of the two English-speaking countries.
Rock music has been periodically declared “dead” in the United States, but it keeps proving the commentators wrong. In any American community, garages and basements ring with the tones of young people desperately trying to express themselves using this evocative musical genre. The video game Guitar Hero is immensely popular for a reason.
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