Since its inception in the late 1940s, the history of rock music has been dynamic and unexpected, as the genre has constantly redefined and recreated itself. As a result, it is not surprising that applying a basic description to a musical format that is always changing might be problematic.
Rock music, on the other hand, can typically be defined as hard-edged music performed with electric guitars, bass, and drums, and usually accompanied by vocals. While people may disagree on the specifics, rock music can generally be described as follows: Though it may appear to be self-explanatory, a closer look at the growth of rock reveals how numerous genres and influences have influenced its development over time.
The Origins of Rock (1940s-1960s)
Historically, rock can be traced back to the late 1940s, when popular forms of the time, including country music and blues, merged to form a new sound, helped by electric guitars and a continuous drummer, that would become known as rock. Early rock musicians of the 1950s, such as Chuck Berry, relied extensively on traditional blues structures while showcasing their ability as natural-born entertainers through their performances. The violent onslaught of rock music, in contrast to the sanitised pop music of the day, represented a sexual liberation that was shocking during that conservative era.
When Berry’s followers — most notably the Rolling Stones — began to expand the scope of rock and roll in the early 1960s, they were no longer just singles artists, but were also musicians who could put together entire albums of songs. The Stones courted controversy by embracing sensuality and teenage rebellion in their music, but they also lifted rock to new cultural heights as a result.
The Evolution of Rock (1970s)
As rock music grew in popularity and became the dominant form of popular music, new bands built on the strengths of their predecessors while also exploring new musical ground. After becoming one of the most popular bands of the 1970s and helping to establish a new genre known as hard rock or heavy metal, Led Zeppelin transformed rock into a darker, heavier sound.
Around the same time, Pink Floyd began incorporating psychedelic themes and complex arrangements into their music, resulting in concept albums that were connected together by a common theme and meant to be consumed in one sitting. Progressive rock albums such as Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” have been credited with igniting the movement.
To counter what they perceived as pretentious “hippie” bands such as Pink Floyd, groups such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash stripped rock down to its essentials: loud guitars, a harsh attitude, and outraged vocals in the late 1970s. Punk was officially born.