Rock music features vocals, electric guitars, a powerful backbeat, and the occasional saxophone. A key element is Rock n Roll, and the terms are used interchangeably. “Rock n Roll” is a nautical expression and refers to the motions of a ship. It entered black spiritual music in 1916; “Rocking” was used by African Americans to describe the bliss they experienced at religious events and their accompanying music. Simultaneously, black secular musicians used the term for dancing or sex.
Wynonie Harris’ ‘Good Rocking Tonight’ started the “rock” fad in 1947, though people became aware of it only in 1954, owing to tracks like ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll’ and ‘Rock Around The Clock’. In the mid-50’s, when Rock n Roll scaled popularity charts, record companies began promoting singers. RCA backed Elvis Presley – the first superstar rock musician, Decca backed Bill Haley and Buddy Holly, while Capitol promoted Gene Vincent. Thus, R&B artists faded into oblivion.
In 1955, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was the biggest hit in rock history. Bill Haley & His Comets toured Europe and Britain was quick to adopt rock. Cliff Richard scored the first “”British Rock”” hit with ‘Move It’. Subsequently, The Beatles rose in popularity and launched a US tour with a rapturous response, dubbed ‘Beatlemania’. In their wake other British bands headed to the US, notably Rolling Stones. This spawned crude imitators in the US, dubbed as “”Garage Rock””. In late 1950s, there was an antagonism towards electric instruments and revival of traditional music, leading to the birth of “”Folk Rock””.
Rock as a socially-unifying force was seen in rock festivals of the late ’60s, the most famous of which was Woodstock – a three-day arts and music festival. It represented the culture of the 1960s and the “Hippie Era”. Many famous musicians appeared during the rock festival, which was captured in the movie, ‘Woodstock’.