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History of Rock & Roll Introduction

In A Nutshell

The songs and the sounds we call "rock and roll" evolved from many different sources, in many different regions, and at many different moments in twentieth- century history. The music was shaped—and continues to be molded and transformed—by countless regular people, some doing what they love, others seeking refuge from what they hate, some hoping to change the world, and still others resisting what they fear.


Why Should I Care?

How many times per week would you say you hear someone refer to "rock and roll" in some form or another? Probably more often than you realize. Let's think about this. Maybe you've been watching "LA Ink" and heard tattooist extraordinaire, Miss Kat Von D express her enthusiastic approval for, well, just about anything by proclaiming, "Rock on, dude!" Maybe your mom says, "that's rockin'" at the most inappropriate moments, like ours do. You may have followed MTV's advice and "turned up the volume on your rock style" by painting your finger and/or toe nails black. Oh, and, did you know that one of the fastest selling ring tones (as of the summer of 2007), is a song called "Party Like a Rock Star" by the Shop Boyz, a hip-hop group that says they've sparked a new "movement" in music called "hood rock"? (T-t-t-totally, dude).

So the next question is, do you like rock and roll? You may be thinking, "Well... it's alright, but I'm really into rap," or, "It's all about country music for me," or "White kids banging their heads isn't really my thing," or, "All that black makeup and big hair scares me," or, "Isn't that, like, really ancient?" We won't call you a "hater," but maybe a tiny bit misinformed? The thing is, you may not realize how much "rock and roll" you actually listen to and like... Seriously. (But we'll come back to that.)

Or maybe you're saying, "Yes, I love rock and roll—I eat, sleep, breathe it. In fact, I AM rock and roll!" Okay, Kat Von D, that's fine, but what do you mean when you say "I love rock and roll"? (And, by the way, contrary to what you might think, Britney Spears was not the first to sing that. But we encourage you to compare her version to the original by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Comedy. Wait, though, do you know who Joan Jett is? We'll come back to that, too.) But, yeah, what do you really mean when you say that? You, dear rock and roll fan, may not realize how much "rock and roll" you actually don't listen to, music you never really considered "rock."

What exactly is "rock and roll" then, you ask. And how does any of this fit into my day-to-day life? How on earth is Elvis related to Good Charlotte? Punk-rock and Jay Z? No way is there a connection. (Oh, but there is.) Jimi Hendrix and Justin Timberlake? Now you're just reaching. (Well, a little, but the links are still there, we swear.) Which artists and songs fit into this category, and why? Is it just a genre of music, or is it also an attitude? A way of dressing? A way of speaking? Is it something from the past, or something very contemporary? And where exactly did the term "rock and roll" come from?

You might be surprised by the answers to these questions... and, really, the whole story of how rock and roll came to be. (So start reading, already.)

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