When flicking through your iTunes library, Spotify playlists or even your vinyl collection it’s easy to take for granted the intricacies of a genre of music. Often, you’ll just stick on whatever tune matches your current mood, not thinking for a moment how incredible it is that we can just do that. Each of those genres took inspiration from many other genres and cultural sounds before them in order to become the sounds you so quickly identify with today. Even the jingle you heard on that candy advert as a child that still stays with you today for whatever reason took inspiration from something. Well, rock ‘n’ roll is no different, so let’s take a look at how it became the genre we’ve come to recognise it as today.
It’s generally accepted that rock ‘n’ roll music took it’s first steps in creation in the South of the USA around about the late 1940s/early 1950s, though its roots dig a little deeper still. Like much of the music that came of the South in the early half of the 20th century rock ‘n’ roll comes from a mixture of cultural sounds. The United States of America has always been a mixing pot of people as citizens from ports all over the world came here to this new world, some came to make a new life for themselves, some were fleeing the past and many were simply forced to come here and forced into slavery. Whatever the reason may have been it caused waves in the music scene that would change the world forever.
The prominent inspiration for the genre came from styles generated by the African American community. After the abolition of slavery caused great change in the American landscape, many former slaves and their descendants relocated to the big cities in hopes of finding work and a new life. It meant that African Americans where now sharing a closer space with the many white cultures already residing here. Life of course was still not easy for them and though many things weren’t shared, music was one thing that was. After these different cultures heard each other’s music they began to emulate them in their own style. Genres like jazz and the blues were then born.
Jazz and rhythm and blues became very popular with white audiences and it wasn’t long before the music started bringing in crowds of people from all over the city. Bands were large, consisting of many players and often a singer though that changed when World War II rolled around, a lack of audience members, players and limitations of fuel meant that bands had to reduce in size, but something incredible would come from this. A lack of players meant that the ones that remained had to get creative, using what instruments they had to fill in other parts, this is where we would see our first glimpses of rock ‘n’ roll music.