Thursday, April 7, 2011

Misconception about the term "Rock and Roll"

Occasionally, I will run across people who say "That's not rock & roll-that's pop!" or something along those lines.  You probably have too.  Those people have no idea what "rock & roll" is.  As you can tell from the story I did about Alan Freed, rock & roll was born out of rhythm and blues music, and as Freed says, it is made up of many parts including country and R&B.  Go back and listen to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bill Haley and Pat Boone--that is what is properly defined as "rock and roll".  What has transpired since is the genre spreading out into different areas, such as country rock, disco, rap, hard rock and heavy metal, to name just a few elements.

It's all rock and roll music; rock music is a very all-encompassing term, and to confuse it with pop is getting your definitions mixed up.  "Pop", as referred to in that instance, is short for "Popular", which means that it is the dominant style of music.  If rock and roll is the dominant type of music, then it can be both "pop" and "rock and roll".  And again, "Pop" doesn't have a specific sound, either in the past, now or the future.  Musical tastes change constantly, and what is popular today may not be in the future.  In the Rock & Roll Era (1955-present), pop and rock have become synonymous, since rock music has dominated the scene for longer than any type of music since classical music. 

But to say that a popular song is not rock & roll shows limited understanding of both music and popular history.  A song by, say Madonna or the Beach Boys sounds much more like rock and roll as it is defined by its beginnings than a song by, say Metallica or AC/DC.  The music has evolved to a point where most of it sounds very little like true "rock and roll" and therein lies the confusion in people's minds that have the misconception about what rock and roll is.  Those latter groups fall under the heavy metal portion of rock music, but obviously sound much different than the early rock records.

So next time you hear someone say that a rock and roll song is a "Pop" song, set that person straight.

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