Rock & Roll Will Never Die
It was once the anthem of a generation, a voice that carried the message of a united people that demanded social reform, promoted independent thought, and upheld the love for and recognition of equality for one’s neighbor. Originating in the mid-1950s, Rock & Roll found its roots in the legendary work of blues, country music, gospel, and jazz artists. Bursting onto the scene in 1960s America, Rock & Roll grew to demand not only national consciousness, but also global recognition, inspiring movements of social change and igniting a spark to resist the systems within the government and society that were seemingly set in stone. Singer Patti Smith recalls in her 2010 memoir, Just Kids, “We would call forth in our minds the image of Paul Revere, riding through the American night, petitioning the people to wake up, to take up arms. We too would take up arms, the arms of our generation, the electric guitar and the microphone.”
As the genre continued to flourish and evolve, it grew to encompass more than merely powerful electric riffs and mesmerizing beats to which an army of social reformists could march. By the late 70s, the evolution of Rock & Roll began to develop into an entirely new territory, causing many to question if what was advancing in popular music could still be categorized under the same genre. As the 1980s dawned, music saw the birth of synthesized pop and early hip-hop, whose influences slowly advanced to rule the top of today’s charts.
The question is, with the rise and takeover of genres like pop and hip-hop, has the message and influence of Rock & Roll died? Has music become more passive and contrived, as mass production and easy access rule the industry? Forbes music columnist and songwriter Danny Ross states, “Gone are the days of changing the world with three chords and the truth. Now you’ll need three chords, the truth, and an engineer’s ability to make your song sound like the radio.”
"Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
The feeling is there, body and soul"
- Chuck Berry, "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll"
Although the influence and popularity of Rock & Roll has seen a decline in the last 20 years, it can be argued not only that is it alive and well, but that its legacy is one that needs to see a revival now more than ever. In a time of such uncertainty and global unrest, Rock & Roll, with its message of acceptance, equality, freedom, and love for the fellow man, needs to reclaim its place in culture. This rebirth can already be seen in the rise of bands such as Kaleo, Greta Van Fleet, and The Struts, speaking to the need of regaining a sense of the struggles, joys, and questions that unite us all regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation in a time of such divided stances and opinion.
Author Nora Roberts highlights the necessary presence of Rock & Roll: “It's a voice that often screams out questions, because the answers are always changing. The young play it because they're searching for some way to express their anger or joy, their confusion and their dreams. Once in a while, and only once in a while, someone comes along who truly understands, who has the gift to transfer all those needs and emotions into music.” As long as this voice resonates with even a small group of individuals who see the need for its presence and its legacy, Rock & Roll will never die.