Rock through the ages

Peyton Finnegan , Courier Staff

The history of rock music has been unpredictable because the genre has constantly redefined and reinvented itself since its emergence in the late 1940s.

Pioneering rock artists of the 1950s such as Chuck Berry leaned heavily on classic blues structures, as well as demonstrating his talent for entertaining people. By the early 1960s the Rolling Stones expanded rock’s scope by transitioning from single artists into a group of musicians capable of producing cohesive albums of songs. Embracing sex and youthful rebellion in their music, the Stones welcomed controversy as well as taking rock to a new cultural height. As rock music became the dominant form of popular music, newer bands built on their predecessors’ strengths while adding their own personality to their music. Take Led Zeppelin for instance, they gave rock a darker, heavier tone, becoming one of the 1970s most popular bands, they kick-started a new genre known as hard rock. Around the same time, Pink Floyd added psychedelic elements and complex arrangements. Albums such as “Dark Side of the Moon” were credited with spawning the progressive rock movement.

In the late 1970s, in response to what they perceived as pretentious “hippie” bands such as Pink Floyd, groups including the Sex Pistols and the Clash simplified rock to its core ingredients: loud guitars, rude attitude, and enraged singing. Punk rock was born. As the 80’s began, mainstream rock was losing commercial steam, because it’s sound was growing stale. That is when subgenres of rock became increasingly popular. Subgenres such as new wave, alternative rock and modern rock. With the ascension of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” in 1991, alternative rock became the dominant popular music. However, exacerbated by the suicide of Nirvana’s frontman, Kurt Cobain, alternative music started to lose its luster by the middle of the decade. This set the stage for mainstream rock’s reemergence.

As rock music entered the 21st century, the most successful acts had the same spirit as their ’60s predecessors, even if they sounded quite different. Linkin Park fuses hip-hop and metal, while 3 Doors Down emulates hard-rock traditions of the past while providing a contemporary spin. Undoubtedly, rock music will keep evolving, drawing from its rich history while continuing to keep its ear open for the next reinvention.