The history of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Every decade produces amazing songs; here’s some top picks from era.



Many decades come with many great songs.

ERICK AGUILAR, Evergreen reporter

Let me start by saying, I am actually a sports writer, I have never written a life or opinion article for the Evergreen until this one. 

Why am I writing this? Good question, during a meeting when we were outlining possible special edition topics, the headline “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” popped up. I simply had to have it. 

Rock music is primal because of its main muses sex and drugs, especially among its artists. But you don’t have to indulge in such things to enjoy the music.

Rock is a genre. Rock ‘n’ roll is a lifestyle,  it is more than the music, it is the culture that fits with it. Rock ‘n’ roll is the lifestyle that rock fans and artists had and entails the way they are seen in society. 

Our discussion is that of time not so much as a genre. Don’t get me wrong, some decades are heavily associated with certain genres, but to say that genres only live in their prominent decade is amateur. 

The father of rock ‘n’ roll is often credited to Chuck Berry with his catchy guitar riffs and upbeat tempo, Berry is also known for his blues and folk sound that aged well in the rock scene. The late 50s and 60s saw the “founding fathers” of rock, names like Elvis, The Beatles, Little Richard, etc. Rock was still very up-and-coming at this point, so the concept of “deep tracks” did not exist yet, while certain names were bigger than others, the volume of artists in the music scene did not have as deep a roster of decades to come. 

This Rock ‘n’ Roll culture was very much frowned upon by the older generations of the time, but generally speaking, the image rock fans had during this time period is pretty clean. Well, that might just be compared to their offspring down the line. Rock fans were simply young people who liked to swing dance, drink, and have fun. 

“Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry 

“You Really Got A Hold On Me” – The Beatles 

“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash 

You’ll note that I grouped the decades of the 50s and 60s together. In my opinion, they are so similar it simply makes sense to do so. But talking about music is like talking about food, everyone has their own opinions and the guy next to you is always “wrong.”

The 70s saw a new sound brought along by Creedence Clearwater Revival, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many others. If you talk to a rock enthusiast, most will agree that this decade produced the best songs and inspired rockers for generations. The sound was more funky, psychedelic and raw than its predecessors. With that being said the folk and blues sound still made its appearances in this decade as well, it had simply evolved with different vocal trends and guitar riffs.  

This is when the image of rock ‘n’ roll really started to take shape, long-haired musicians living substance-filled lives. The rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle gained its association with substance usage in this area. Rock fans of this era had the image of a “hippie” and were not very socially accepted. 

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” – Traffic 

“Sweat Leaf” – Black Sabbath 

“Ziggy Stardust” – David Bowie

When someone says “rock music” the amateur would probably conjure up images of 80s rock, Paul Stanley’s (Kiss lead singer) stage makeup and AC/DC’s guitar riffs. Due to its popularization, I like to say that the 80s is the “golden age” of rock by that I mean, this is when rock ‘n’ roll not only as a musical genre but also as a lifestyle became heavily mainstream and socially accepted. Classic rock is pretty much the main sub-category associated with the 80s popularized by bands like Boston, Guns N Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, etc. Classic rock is more in-your-face and straightforward, not as much of a trip as 70s rock, in its own way it is more simple. 

Classic rock due to its popularity is probably the easiest subgenre to understand. 

“Eruption” – Van Halen 

“Still Loving You” – Scorpions 

“Master of Puppets” – Metallica

Rock music in this era is very “angry” or “moody” sounding. The 90s are the birthplace of “screamo.” And it pays homage back to a raw, grungy sound comparable in ways to the 70s. At the same time, many of the 90s’ bigger rock anthems were more alternative in composition, the rock music in this genre was starting to get way more diverse than decades past, because at this point artists had nearly 4 decades worth of sound to look back on and refer to. Green Day, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Five Finger Death Punch were only some of the popular bands at the time.

A case could be made that the 90s saw the same cultural acceptance as 70s rock. By that I mean, not as socially accepted, parents were very much concerned with the music taste of their children. Rock fans might’ve been seen as weird and creepy, with caged-up violence, at the same time, this is the very stereotypical view which is often over-exaggerated. 

“Hard to See” – Five Finger Death Punch  

“Black Hole Sun” – Soundgarden 

“Lithium” – Nirvana 

I would start talking of the 2000s by saying that the general sound is very similar to its 90s counterpart, of course, key differences would include the popularization of Punk Rock. Pretty fast paced beats with a “whinny” sound to vocals. Similar to the decade before it, The names Blink-182, Linkin Park, Gorillaz and Jimmy Eats World might ring a bell.

Its image was not very different from the decade before it and the music is easily grouped together. 

“Pieces” – Sum41

“First Date” – blink-182

“Lycanthrope” – +44

The rock ‘n’ roll culture of this decade is accepted only slightly more by its 90s older brother, but not much. 

There is so much more to rock ‘n’ roll than I can portray in this article, in many cases it is just a matter of jumping in and listening for yourself.