History of Music
During the early 1950s, the popularity of rhythm and blues music spread. It became very popular among young
white people. They listened to this music on radio stations that broadcast across the country late at night. Some
teenagers began buying rhythm and blues records as a form of rebellion.
This music was very different from the music that was popular with most of their parents. The music was
exciting, and it had a very strong rhythm and beat. Some of the songs had words which suggested sexual
themes. In other cases, the singers made sexually suggestive gestures or movements while they were singing.
Some adults strongly objected to rhythm and blues music. They did not think young people should listen to it.
Songs by black performers like Fats Domino and Little Richard soon became popular with teenagers. These
singers recorded their records in the southern city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Some early rock and roll music was created in the southern United States city of Memphis, Tennessee. In
Memphis, a white record producer called Sam Phillips produced records by local black musicians. One day, an
eighteen-year-old truck driver came to his studio to record a song for his mother. The young man was Elvis
Presley. Phillips produced Presley's first real record in 1954, a song called "That's All Right."
Bill Haley and his Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954. It was not popular at first. Then it was
used in a movie about rebellious teenagers, called "The Blackboard Jungle". The movie caused a lot of debate
on the origin of rock and roll. It also made the song a huge hit. "Rock Around the Clock" became a song of
teenage rebellion. The song was recorded in April, Elvis' "That's All Right" was recorded in July.
Many other rock and roll singers became popular in the 1950s. They included Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis,
Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.
Motown: Black popular music
In the 1960s, black music and musicians became recognized as an important part of the music industry in
America. This was because a company in Detroit, Michigan, called Motown Records that produced some of the
most popular songs in American music. Berry Gordy started Motown Records. He was the first person to
present "black" music in a way that both black people and white people would like. One of Motown's most
successful groups was the Supremes, led by Diana Ross. One of their hits was "Come See About Me".
A different kind of rock and roll music called surf music was being made in Southern California. Five young men
from Los Angeles formed a group called the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson wrote, performed, and produced the
group's records. The Beach Boys' songs had complex music and simple words. The words were about the local
teenage culture. The group sang about riding surfboards on the ocean waves. One of their most popular songs
was "Surfin' USA,” which used the same musical track as Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen."
In the 1960s, rock and roll music began to change. The words became as important as the music. Bob Dylan
began writing folk rock songs that many young people considered to be poetry. Dylan was influenced by folk
singers and songwriters like Woody Guthrie. Dylan's early songs were about serious social issues. He wrote
about war and racial injustice. Some of his songs were used as protest songs for the anti-war and civil rights
movements in America. Later, Dylan wrote more personal songs. One of his most popular songs was “Mister
Tambourine Man," which many people thought was a song about drug use.
In 1964, a new rock and roll group from England called the The Beatles visited the United States. The Beatles
were very popular. They completely shaped the sixties pop era along with the Rolling Stones. They were icons,
and still to this day could be considered icons.
Reggae developed from R&B, and Ska music in the 1960s. The shift from rocksteady to reggae was illustrated
by the organ shuffle pioneered by Jamaican musicians like Jackie Mittooand Winston Wright.
The Wailers, a band started by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963, is perhaps the most
recognized band that made the transition through all three stages of early Jamaican popular music: ska,
rocksteady and reggae. Other significant reggae pioneers include Prince Buster,Desmond Dekker and Ken
In 1973, the film The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff was released and introduced Jamaican music to
cinema audiences outside of Jamaica. Though the film achieved cult status its limited appeal meant that it had a
smaller impact than Eric Clapton's 1974 cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" which made it onto the
playlists of mainstream rock and pop radio stations worldwide.
Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of rhythm and
blues (R&B), jazz, mento, calypso, and African music. One of the most easily recognizable elements is offbeat
rhythms; staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure, often referred to
as the skank.
This rhythmic pattern accents the second and fourth beats in each bar and combines with the drum's emphasis
on beat three to create a unique sense of phrasing. The reggae offbeat can be counted so that it falls between
each count as an "and" (example: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and etc.) . This is in contrast to the way most other
popular genres focus on beat one, the "downbeat".
Rock and Psychedelic Rock
By the 1970s, rock and roll was often just called "rock". In the 1970s, rock music bands such as Led Zeppelin,
Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones played huge, loud concerts in outdoor stadiums. Rock music from the 1970s
was usually louder and harder than the rock and roll from the 1950s.
In the early 1970s, many rock bands played psychedelic rock, a type of rock music which had words that
described the use of legal drugs. Psychedelic rock described the experiences of taking illegal drugs such as
marijuana and LSD and often encouraged people to take illegal drugs. Psychedelic rock bands included Jimi
Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, Pink Floyd
(before the album Meddle), The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Doors.
Another type of rock music from the 1970s was progressive rock. Progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd
and The Moody Blues played music that was more complex. Some progressive rock bands used strange
instruments, or created music that sounded weird. Other progressive rock bands include: Electric Light
Orchestra, Pavlov's Dog, King Crimson, Caravan, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant, The Nice, Yes, Gong,
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Soft Machine, Steve Hillage, Barclay James Harvest, Magma, Camel, Can, Rush and
In the late 1970s, groups such as Donna Summer, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Barry White, Gloria Gaynor,
and CHIC, developed a pop music style called disco. Disco was dance music with a strong beat. A popular
disco band was The Bee Gees, who wrote the music for the movie Saturday Night Fever.
Another rock music style from the 1970s was punk rock. Punk rock was crude, loud, simple music. Many punk
rock songs were rude or used bad words. Punk rock musicians often dressed in ripped or torn clothes, leather
jackets, and black leather boots. Punk rock musicians sometimes had strange hairstyles, such as hair "spiked"
with hair gel or shaved off. Well-known punk rock bands from Britain were the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Wellknown punk musicians in the United States were the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie and Black Flag.
In the late 1970s, another type of rock called New wave music became popular. Bands such as INXS and
Midnight Oil from Australia became popular. In the United States, New Wave bands such as Talking Heads and
Devo played. In the 1980s, New Wave music bands such as Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, Psychedelic
Furs, and the Eurythmics were popular. These bands used the synthesizer keyboard a lot in their songs.
Hip hop is a type of music that started in the 1970s in Jamaican-American, African-American, and LatinoAmerican communities in big cities of the United States. Hip hop uses a style of singing called rapping. Rapping
is a style of singing in which a singer chants or says words with a rhythm and rhymes. The lyrics of hip hop
songs are often about the life of urban people in the big cities. Some hip hop song lyrics (words) are about
gangs, violence, and illegal drugs. Hip hop music also uses musical styles from pop music such as disco and
reggae. The rap and hip hop music industry has become one of the most successful music genres.
Hip hop as a culture involves the music as well as a style of dressing called "urban" clothes (baggy pants,
Timberland leather work boots, and oversize shirts); a dancing style called breakdancing or "B-Boying"; and
graffiti, a street art in which people paint pictures or words on walls. In the 2000s, hip hop music and hip hop
culture are very popular in the United States and Canada. Hip hop musicians usually use nicknames. Many of
the popular hip hop musicians from the 2000s use nicknames, such as Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil'
Wayne, and 50-Cent.
Rapping is a form of singing. It's a mix between singing and talking. The words are spoken with rhythm and in
the text there are rhymes. The beat in the background is a simple loop that is sometimes made by the rapper
themself or sometimes copied from a sample CD. The simple loop carries out through the entire song usually,
except for the chorus. It developed in the ethnic minority urban (city) areas, as an American form of Jamaican
"toasting" (chanting and rhyming with a microphone).
Run DMC and The Sugarhill Gang were very popular in the 1980s. When rappers began to use violent
language and gestures, it became a very popular music genre for gangsters. This kind of music was called
"gangsta rap". Gangsta rap often has lyrics which are about guns, drug dealing and life as a thug on the street.
This genre of music was very popular from the 1980s on and is still produced today.
The well-known people who made rap music include: Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Notorious B.I.G,
Eminem, and Sean "P-Diddy" Combs.
Currently, some of the most famous rappers worldwide are 50-Cent, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop Dogg, and
Timbaland. Rap is produced in almost every nation of the world.
In the 1980s, a new type of rock and roll was invented, called glam metal. Glam metal rock bands mixed pop
music with heavy metal music. Glam metal bands such as Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P. and Ratt became popular.
Glam metal rock bands had long hair and the men wore make up and leather pants and boots. Many glam metal
songs were about sex, illegal drug use, and drinking alcohol. In the late 1980s, groups such as Guns N' Roses
were very successful.
Another rock music trend from the 1980s was alternative music. Bands such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The
Smiths, Pixies, Hüsker Dü, The Cure, and others were popular with teens and young adults. The most
immediate type of alternative music was "grunge," a combination of punk, rock and metal. Proponents of grunge
included Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam with themes of despondency and alienation.
Grunge music or Seattle sound (as it is called sometimes) is a style of rock music that has elements of punk
rock and heavy metal. It started in the early 1980s in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, especially in the
states of Washington and Oregon. It became more popular in the early 1990s. Grunge songs often had lyrics
with nihilism, depression, unhappiness, or apathy as themes. The widespread use of heroin as a recreational
drug found its way into the lyrics and careers of numerous grunge rockers, notably Kurt Cobain and Layne
Staley of "Alice in Chains".
The songs often had light (or clean) guitar sounds in the verses, and the high energy boost of distorted (or dirty)
guitars in the choruses. The line-up for these bands was the typical rock band of guitars, bass, drums and vocal.
Although grunge as a movement became less popular by the last 1990s, its influence is still heard in many
Late 1970s and 1980s pop-punk
There are several types of pop-punk. An early type of pop-punk was developed right after Punk rock became
popular in the late 1970s. Most of this kind of music is very much like Punk rock, but it features things from other
kinds of music like pop music and older rock music, and country music, so different people can enjoy it. Some
people call the Ramones a pop-punk band. The Ramones were a band from the United States.
In the 1990s, pop-punk became very popular in North America. Bands such as Green Day and Blink-182 sold
millions of recordings and did many tours.
In the 2000s and 2010s, which is the decade we are in now, many bands have joined, or contributed to the pop
punk genre. They include Fall Out Boy, Relient K, FM Static, Hawk Nelson, and Amber Pacific.