Decades of Music

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Sounds and styles of rock and roll music developed over time and across the globe, but heart transcends generations

By Renny Logan
<rlogan@hilite.org>

1940s SWING MUSIC: “It Don’t Mean a Thing”
In August of 1935, Benny Goodman gave a performance at the Palomar Ballroom that pulled swing music out of the woodwork and into the mainstream. The public, hungry for an outlet during the Great Depression, devoured the fledgling genre. More and more, the forefathers of the genre gained recognition. Names like Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington dominated the scene. The genre remained popular until the late 1940s, surviving through the age of the vocalists.

1950s BIRTH OR ROCK AND ROLL: “Shake, Rattle and Roll”
Rock ‘n’ Roll and its hillbilly younger brother Rockabilly soon replaced swing. The swing kings gave way to rock rebels like Fats Domino, Bill Haley and the Comets and, of course, Elvis Presley. Big Bands of the swing genre became 5-piece bands, more of what we see today in modern music.

1960s BRITISH INVASION: “You Say You Want a Revolution”
The 1960s was a time of great change for this nation. The Vietnam War, feminism, environmentalism, the Cold War and the fight for racial equality represent a few of the major issues of the time. During this upheaval, music flourished and went numerous directions. Above all, the waves of musicians from Britain dominated the music scene. The most well known, the Beatles, continue as an enormous influence on the music of that time as well as that of today.

1970s PUNK SCENE: “I Belong to the Blank Generation”
While mainstream America danced beneath disco balls, the punk scene was gaining recognition in the underground. Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ 1977 debut, titled “Blank Generation,” included the title-track that perfectly described the genre. Common attributes of the punk scene includes the “DIY” (Do It Yourself) ethic, as well as an anti-establishment attitude found in almost any lyrics of artists like Patti Smith or groups like the Subhumans.

1980s GLAM METAL: “These Go to 11”
When I think of metal, I think of its roots, Black Sabbath and NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal). But for many, the 1980s American glam metal scene comes to mind. Band members sported big hair, makeup and, worst of all, spandex. Van Halen, Mötley Crüe and Rat are some of the most noteworthy.

1990s SEATTLE SOUND: “We Die Young”
The demise of the glam metal scene came crawling out of Seattle and became known as grunge. With messy, unkempt appearances and angst-ridden lyrics, bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana and Candlebox were very much the antipode of 1980s glam metal divas.

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