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

By Jack Ripley | February 14, 2024

The Dark Side of Neil Young

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
Getty Images

Twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Neil Young is a folksy rock musician from Canada. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Young got his start in the early 60s as a member of a series of bands, the best known of which was Crosby, Stills, & Nash. Young broke out as a solo artist in 1969.

Young's distinctive voice and songwriting skills have made him an icon in the world of rock and folk music. His solo discography includes timeless classics like "Heart of Gold," "Old Man," and "Rockin' in the Free World." Neil Young's career has spanned over five decades, during which he has explored various musical styles, from acoustic ballads to electric rock, always staying true to his artistic vision. His commitment to social and environmental issues has also been a hallmark of his work, making him a respected figure in both music and activism.

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.