The Rock n' Roll Revolution: From Elvis to the Beatles and Beyond

By Jack Ripley | December 27, 2023

A True Guitar Hero: Jimi Hendrix

Rock n' roll began to flourish in the 1950s. However, many artists before then laid the foundation for the genre as we know it today. The inception of rock n' roll can be traced to rhythm and blues, gospel, and jazz music from decades prior, and in the '50s musicians began to uniquely meld sounds from other genres to create altogether new ear candy. In its infancy, rock n' roll was characterized by its high-energy, rebellious spirit paired with hard-hitting instrumentation and boundary-pushing lyrics.

From this seed grew different subsects of the rock n' roll genre, which eventually became an umbrella term for music containing a 12-bar structure as well as a guitar, bass, and drums. From its diverse uprising, rock n' roll has embraced the likes of artists who run the gamut from soulful gospel singers to pop sensations and theatrical glam rock to heavy metal headbangers. Threaded in and around each of these sub-genres of rock are artists who had a hand in revolutionizing rock n' roll. Check out some of the many musicians who lent their talents to the formation of this timeless music genre.

 

test article image
Source: Pinterest

Born James Marshall Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix is an iconic American musician best known for his virtuosity on the electric guitar. Hendrix first topped British pop charts in the mid-60s with the release of “Hey Joe.” Notably, this single featured the electrifying guitar riffs that Hendrix became known for, and he was an instant sensation. Not long after this big success, Hendrix and his band Experience hit the American market.

As a performer, Hendrix made history by famously burning his guitar in an act of self-proclaimed sacrifice at the Monterey Music Festival. An interesting fact about Hendrix is that he played his guitar upside down because he was left-handed and couldn’t find an appropriate guitar. Lauded as the greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix is best known for hits such as “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady,” and “All Along the Watchtower.” Sadly, Hendrix’s success was short-lived; he only released three albums in his lifetime and tragically died of an overdose in 1970.

Meet the Godmother of Rock: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

test article image
Getty Images

This mighty musician gained traction in the '30s when she paired an electric guitar with her gospel lyrics and melodies. The unexpected sound of electrifying guitar riffs behind bible-thumping sentiments suddenly made the Lord a little more cool. Aptly nicknamed the Godmother of Rock, Tharpe created a new soundtrack for morality when social immorality began to experience an uptick that never truly leveled out.

Tharpe's wholesome, spiritual lyrics spoke to the unsavory social climate of the '30s with songs like “Strange Things Happening Everyday.” In this bop, Tharpe reminds listeners, in a very un-rock n’ roll sentiment, that God is responsible for all the wondrous and inexplicable things in our lives. Despite its wholesome message, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s sound is characterized by gritty vocals and exhilarating guitar riffs. Interestingly, even though her message cosigned the church’s message, she wasn’t always well-received by the church, which scoffed at her unconventional gospel sound.