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date: 26 March 2023

Rock and Rollfree

Rock and Rollfree

  • Eric WeisbardEric WeisbardDepartment of History, University of Alabama


Rock and roll, a popular music craze of the mid-1950s, turned a loud, fast, and sexy set of sounds rooted in urban, black, working class, and southern America into the pop preference as well of suburban, white, young, and northern America. By the late 1960s, those fans and British counterparts made their own version, more politicized and experimental and just called rock—the summoning sound of the counterculture. Rock’s aura soon faded: it became as much entertainment staple as dissident form, with subcategories disparate as singer-songwriter, heavy metal, alternative, and “classic rock.” Where rock and roll was integrated and heterogeneous, rock was largely white and homogeneous, policing its borders. Notoriously, rock fans detonated disco records in 1979. By the 1990s, rock and roll style was hip-hop, with its youth appeal and rebelliousness; post‒baby boomer bands gave rock some last vanguard status; and suburbanites found classic rock in New Country. This century’s notions of rock and roll have blended thoroughly, from genre “mash-ups” to superstar performers almost categories unto themselves and new sounds such as EDM beats. Still, crossover moments evoke rock and roll; assertions of authenticity evoke rock. Because rock and roll, and rock, epitomize cultural ideals and group identities, their definitions have been constantly debated. Initial argument focused on challenging genteel, professional notions of musicianship and behavior. Later discourse took up cultural incorporation and social empowerment, with issues of gender and commercialism as prominent as race and artistry. Rock and roll promised one kind of revolution to the post-1945 United States; rock another. The resulting hope and confusion has never been fully sorted, with mixed consequences for American music and cultural history.


  • 20th Century: Post-1945
  • Cultural History
  • Urban History
  • African American History

Every year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland announces nominees for induction and the debate begins again. What is rock and roll? Is it the same thing as rock? Why does the nominating committee repeatedly propose the disco band Chic, only to see them rejected by an electorate more inclined to vote for, as in 2015, hard rockers Deep Purple? How can the hip-hop group N.W.A have been voted in if hip-hop is outside rock and roll altogether?

Answers turn on how rock and roll has defined itself—or failed to. Even the spelling is in question: many prefer rock ‘n’ roll to emphasize, positively or negatively, its unlettered qualities. A prominent disc jockey, arriving in New York City in 1954 after success in Cleveland, called his radio show Alan Freed’s Rock and Roll Party. The biggest hit since “White Christmas,” providing the opening soundtrack to Blackboard Jungle in 1955, was Bill Haley’s “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.” And by 1956, there was a “king” of rock and roll: Elvis Presley, the biggest new pop star of the decade. Rock and roll’s identity was intensely mediated: a DJ’s slang, a movie tie-in, an overnight sensation.

Skip ahead fifteen years, to about 1970 and the publication of The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, by Charlie Gillett, the first historian of the form but also a young amateur who wrote early drafts for fanzines. Gillett’s generation claimed discursive control over the music they had grown up on. As simply rock, this era spawned its own FM radio, a hippie vision where rock and roll had relied on Top 40. There were rock festivals and arena concerts, headlined in full sets by white male acts like the Rolling Stones, where the more diverse 1950s groups played package tours of short sets. And at rock magazines such as Rolling Stone, writers shared a background with musicians, replacing earlier press incredulity.

Make one more jump to the mid-1980s, when artists were first inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and “classic rock” stations introduced. The best days of rock seemed behind it. The Rolling Stones became their own revivalists. Rolling Stone promised advertisers yuppie readers. Punk rebellion had failed. Spandexed hair metal bands screamed fecklessness to all but their millions of devotees. MTV made new pop icons like Madonna, with synth-driven hits and arguably more visual than musical cleverness—was that rock at all? Rap was emerging: the new leaders, Run-D.M.C., called themselves “Kings of Rock.”

There would be further chapters in the story but the pattern was set. Rock and roll existed as an ideal—a note to hit, the invocation of an inclusive, pop-leaning American wildness. In its fragmentation, rock remained more identifiable, but compromised and in decline. Yet no forms of popular music, if you could put Humpty together again, were bigger in appeal or in influence on performers.

Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: The 1950s

It took almost a decade for rock and roll’s musical arrival to translate. The sound was fixed by 1947 Los Angeles, as Roy Brown, renaming the jump blues of Louis Jordan, wrote and performed “Good Rocking Tonight.” Brown’s small combo fused blues chords, jazz riffs, dance beats, and pop song structure into a party on wax that made the race records charts. Wynonie Harris’s cover version topped those charts in 1948, as WDIA in Memphis became the first black-oriented radio station. In 1949, Billboard renamed race records rhythm and blues (R&B), the format that most birthed rock and roll. Elvis Presley, a teenage southern white and WDIA listener nonetheless, covered Harris’s cover for Memphis independent Sun Records in 1954. When he sang “let’s rock,” rock and roll became an identity beyond music. Most Americans didn’t register that, or Presley, until 1956.1

To bring that about, a few things happened in tandem as technology changed music, recording, and distribution. Instruments electrified, particularly guitar, with sounds that had been background now in lead roles. Magnetic recording made it easier to edit studio work and highlight, even exaggerate, effects, from guitar solos to the taunting twitches in Presley’s vocals. Records increasingly came in two sizes, with 78 RPMs replaced by longer playing albums on 33 and the rock and roll and indie label choice, singles, on 45. Playing singles were radio stations that relied on disc jockeys spinning records, with network feeds increasingly lost to television. 2

These developments brought prominence to styles and audiences long considered marginal. The music of black and white southerners, divided into separate categories by record companies, overlapped stylistically. In the postwar era, R&B found a counterpart in the electrified country of honkytonk and western swing. “Rocket 88,” a 1951 R&B chart-topper on Sun by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (including Ike Turner and a “fuzz guitar” solo caused by a busted amp), was covered in a similar fashion by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen for country fans, as Haley began the merger popularized with “Rock Around the Clock.” R&B and hillbilly boogie shared more than songs. Each amplified the lives of working class people with loose bills and loosened rules, moving north and to urban or suburban streets in a Great Migration for white as much as black southerners. Each recorded for independents like Sun, proliferating in the postwar boom.3

If rock and roll rose on technological advances and the emboldened position of black and white working classes, its assimilation fed on changes in middle-class suburban America, where prosperity joined with Cold War fears in an era of domestic “containment”—younger marriages, a baby boom, and the nuclear family as resistance to communism.4 Suburban sterility is often summed up in rock history through the most dreaded pop hit of all: Patti Page’s 1953 “Doggie in the Window.” Singing primly—though the contemporary tracking let her harmonize with herself—about a puppy, heard yipping in rhythm, Page was all rock and rollers opposed.

Listeners chose a different canine, Presley’s “Hound Dog,” whose roots and routes modeled rock and roll diversity. Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were young Jews enthralled by black pop. The original R&B hit was produced by Johnny Otis, born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotesa to Greek immigrants, who “passed” in Los Angeles for black. Alabama-born singer Big Mama Thornton dressed as a man, presenting a transgressive sexuality. Houston record label, Peacock, was a black-owned independent. Presley’s later version built on a comic parody; Freddie Bell and the Bellboys did white takes on R&B in Las Vegas lounges. But the joke was at first on Presley, a former truck driver, when rock and roll hating New York TV host Steve Allen had him don black tie to sing “Hound Dog” to an actual basset. Furious, Presley recorded “Hound Dog” the next day, turning Thornton’s gender blur into class outrage: “you said you were high class, but that was just a lie.” The result topped pop, R&B, and country charts alike.5

The gender, class, and regional contrasts between “Doggie in the Window” and “Hound Dog” were less discussed than race and propriety in the “leerics” and “big beat” preoccupations of 1950s pop commentary. But they mattered, just as it did that older star Frank Sinatra, an Italian American steeped in jazz, Broadway standards, and leftist Popular Front culture, hated both songs as infantile, responding with adult pop albums and a dissolute Rat Pack persona. Swinging cosmopolitanism blended immigrant and Harlem New York hustle, jazz band brass, movie and radio star intimacy. But formations of American music moved away from this Tin Pan Alley and show business nexus. The rocking newcomers were younger, overtly southern and black in ways that registered as raw, less professional.6

To offer examples from the Rock Hall roster: Little Richard’s falsetto-tinged, piano-banged, former gay bar anthem, “Tutti Frutti,” defined rock and roll wildness, though Jerry Lee Lewis was a hillbilly (now “rockabilly”) rival. The shrewd lyrics and guitar licks of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” created the rock and roll singer-songwriter, as did Buddy Holly’s younger, whiter, and nerdier anthems. Fats Domino gave a face to New Orleans rhythms, the roll in rock and roll. Ray Charles and Johnny Cash were genius synthesizers of Americana, Etta James the greatest female rocker of the period. The Drifters and Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers were early boy bands, doo wop fashioning rock and roll of nonsense syllables and romantic hyperbole.7

Structurally, though, rock and roll was unsound. Its home was Top 40 radio, happy with hits of any kind: Pat Boone covering Little Richard, Fabian as teen pinup promoted on Dick Clark’s afternoon TV show American Bandstand. Artists had little control over mercurial careers: Presley was drafted, steered by his manager; Little Richard left pop for religion; Berry found himself imprisoned on racist sex charges; Lewis became ostracized for marrying a young second cousin; Holly died in a plane crash on a flimsy package tour. In an era of burgeoning civil rights, rock and roll embodied new racial freedoms more than it could articulate them explicitly. Many fans moved on as they hit college. Perhaps, some thought, it had all just been a fad.8

You Say You Want a Revolution: Rock in the 1960s

In 1964 the Beatles arrived in America, taking over Top 40 in a British Invasion. Much had happened earlier in the decade: a folk craze, girl groups and Beach Boys, Motown Records, the Twist. But Beatlemania was a rock and roll revival. “Nothing really affected me until Elvis,” John Lennon said, and the Fab Four used an Ed Sullivan TV appearance to become iconic much as Presley had. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was not the message: that transmitted when the music surged in pace and girls in Sullivan’s audience screamed and took over the camera.9

Unlike before, this 1960s incarnation of rock and roll matured. Taking a critique of mass culture from the musical pilgrims assembled at the Newport Folk Festival, it became a rock counterculture gathered less earnestly at Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. The Beatles no longer performed live; they made increasingly complex albums. Songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” with its Indian instruments and backwards tape effects, used the multitrack recording studio—and unlimited budget—to produce a blockbuster product with an artsy feel, alluding to psychedelic drug experience without much concealment.10

Formal experimentation, social experimentation, and big business carved rock from rock and roll. The Rolling Stones, named for a Muddy Waters song, formed in London of shared kinship for blues, pursuing non-pop lineages. “Satisfaction” in 1965 poked fun at advertising even as it conquered commercial-laden U.S. Top 40. “Street Fighting Man” answered Motown’s “Dancing in the Streets,” accompanying protests at the 1968 Democratic convention. In 1969, the Stones topped the charts with “Honky Tonk Women,” which nodded to country and blues in its title and sound, then sex and drugs in a lyric allowed airplay: “she blew my nose and then she blew my mind.” That year, the group toured America, propagating a rock culture built around communal yet commercial gathering.11

The most consequential rocker of the decade barely played rock and roll. Bob Dylan, whose early “Song to Woody,” for folksinger Woody Guthrie, made the cross-generational claim the Stones did with Waters, was known for poetic anthems, both collective (“Blowin’ in the Wind”) and personal (“Mr. Tambourine Man”). But when the Beatles rekindled rock and roll he found “Tambourine Man” charting in a “folk-rock” version by the Byrds and readied his own electric reinvention, “Like a Rolling Stone.” A number 2 hit despite exceeding six minutes, the anthem’s influence was deregulatory: pop structures were optional, lyrics could be obscure, an unpolished voice had broad appeal. Dylan’s persona redefined the singer-songwriter to represent the most college-educated cohort in American history.12

Rock differed from rock and roll because it meant albums alongside singles, counterculture over youth culture. By the 1967 triumphs of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin at the Monterey Pop Festival, rare examples of alternatives to white men in lead roles, major record labels understood that rock’s sales and status dwarfed other music. Finishing what Sinatra and adult pop from Ray Charles to West Side Story started, rockers demanded creative freedom. Rock, a mainstream commercial form, positioned itself as anti-commercial or at least “authentic”: built around either the romantic authenticity of personal and communal experience or the modernist authenticity of newness and experiment. Whereas rock and roll’s popularity in the 1950s led to the music becoming softer, rock’s led to the music becoming louder: a response to violent times and the Vietnam draft, technology letting city-sized audiences hear every sustained note.13

Rock and roll lacked structural support, but rock had foundations in radio, touring, media, and urban neighborhoods. FM radio became the home for rock channels that began as stoned sounding “underground” or “free form” stations. Woodstock and Altamont were poorly organized music festivals, but the crowds they drew demonstrated the commercial potential of more organized tours. And the underground press of the era was funded by record industry advertisements and other merchants participating in what became known as “Hip Capitalism.” Rolling Stone magazine, in particular, a countercultural newspaper when it began in the hippie Bay Area, empowered a new creature, the rock critic, to argue over the meaning of the music, past and present. San Francisco itself, a bohemian haven earlier for the Beat poetry scene in North Beach, the most important of the Pacifica public radio stations (KPFA), and the writing of culture critics such as music’s Ralph Gleason and film’s Pauline Kael, became the American city that most defined the new rock sensibility, as the Haight-Ashbury district hosted the summer of love in 1967 and brought the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Joplin to prominence. 14

Still, as the 1960s ended, rock’s revolutionary moment passed. Star deaths from drug use (Hendrix, Joplin, Jim Morrison) proved the risks of new mores. Divides separated younger audiences who sought hard rock and former folkies who favored singer-songwriter messages. Undergrounds began to appear, with influential recordings like the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” set at the fringe. Black fans and performers used rock notions to redefine R&B as soul and funk—they had to, shut out from rock’s definition as art even as James Brown’s rhythmic changes were the decade’s most revolutionary. This era dominates discussion of rock’s peak, yet it was really only a few short years—the length, say, of a college education.15

Arenas and Formats: Rock in the 1970s

Cultural memory of rock in the 1970s has been framed through movies. Cameron Crowe looked back on his youth profiling bands for Rolling Stone in Almost Famous. Richard Linklater recalled his Texas high school in Dazed & Confused. Both films show how widely rock values proliferated by the middle of the decade: high school as much as college, middle and working class, stoners and jocks, boys and girls, with the music supporting sex and drug uses that felt, somehow, innocent. Rock bands became akin to deities. Crowe recreates Led Zeppelin’s leonine lead singer, Robert Plant, announcing “I am a golden God!” in a wasted moment.16

Rock was now an industry, fit for arenas and stadiums everywhere. Major label executives, notably David Geffen (who would become a billionaire in the process), made Southern California the geographic center for record labels and rock the core genre of pop. Rockers like Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad, criticized by critics and countercultural listeners as unprogressive, used the improved execution (stacked amplifiers, lighting to separate band from audience, reliable security) to showcase rock bigness as a triumph unto itself. “Cock rock,” as some called it, rooted in the working-class masculinity that connected electrified R&B and honkytonk country. But this version, the swagger and long guitar solos of anthems like “Whole Lotta Love,” or ballads like “Stairway to Heaven” saluted with lit cigarette lighters, let a young, white, male-dominated counterculture cross class lines. Marketing it was the 18‒34 year-old male-focused format of rock radio, AOR (album-oriented rock), geared to play arena rock’s warhorses constantly, fetishistically.17

Singer-songwriters emerged as no less commercially dominant, especially in album sales, creating a middle of the road soft rock known on radio by 1980 as “adult contemporary.” From Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water and Carole King’s Tapestry, the biggest albums ever to that point, to the mellow James Taylor and Jackson Browne or arena groups with akin sensibilities like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, singer-songwriters connected more to 1960s values than hard rockers. Their key subject, feminism and altered gender notions, used rock’s literacy and middle-class formal address to normalize social change as new bourgeois identity: contemporary casual, laid-back but still wealthy.18

The decade was a golden age for the artistic LP: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, and David Bowie, among others, explored changing taste and behavior in ways both intensely personal and commercially public, with supportive major labels. Those that critic Robert Christgau called “semipopular” performers, such as poet Leonard Cohen or sardonic balladeer Randy Newman, found stable perches too. Rock critics, who had emerged in underground publications at first, now held staff positions at daily newspapers and magazines; they reinforced the discourse that treated rock more as a new art form than an ephemeral commodity, with books from The Sound of the City to Greil Marcus’s soon hallowed Mystery Train and the critical collection, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, sealing in a narrative.19

In emphasizing artistic control, albums, splashy staging, and commercial anti-commercialism, rock shaped other categories. Soul and funk musicians recorded landmark albums and staged concerts akin to arena rock; some, like Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, reached rock fans, but most, like Maze or the Ohio Players, did not. Bob Marley, symbol of Third World Black Nationalism, was groomed to Dylan dimensions by label head Chris Blackwell. In country, outlaw figures like Willie Nelson, who rejected Nashville for more countercultural Austin, created a “redneck rock” hybrid; southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers stressed regional pride. Salsa musicians, New Yorkers with roots from Puerto Rico to Panama, provocatively reinvented Latin music. Rock even affected newer classical: Einstein on the Beach resembled the Who’s rock opera Tommy.20

Ultimately, though, the corporate 1970s version of rock counterculture smashed up as the decade progressed, like the United States and United Kingdom overall. Competing for the title of the biggest rock album of the decade was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, a stoned vision that new teens found endlessly fascinating, keeping it in Billboard’s charts for 741 weeks between 1973 and 1988. “Art rock,” or “progressive rock,” was rock quite distant from rock and roll. A revival movement, punk, started in New York around the nightclub CBGB, its most influential band the loud, fast, dumb acting Ramones, whose “Blitzkrieg Bop” compared arena shows to Nazi rallies. In London, an angry young man scrawled I Hate across his Pink Floyd shirt, took the name Johnny Rotten, and began British punk singing for the Sex Pistols. When Presley died in 1977, critic Lester Bangs eulogized not the King but rock and roll, now too fragmented to connect races, classes, regions, or tastes.21

If punk offered a backlash against mainstream rock, disco suffered a backlash led by mainstream rock. The dance craze, with its cross-racial appeal, Top 40 hits, and coded gay content (akin to Elton John in pop, Queen in arena rock, glam and Bowie as subculture), recalled earlier rock and roll. But not rock, whose AOR fans, outraged when heroes like the Rolling Stones “went disco” or radio stations switched to disco formats, gleefully destroyed disco records at a 1979 rally led by a rock DJ. Disco survived, as club music, as MTV pop, even as new wave in conjunction with rock. Mainstream rock, though, a caricature in punk attacks and its own disco attacks, never recovered its progressive image. Commercially successful rock now seemed compromised. The hallowed years of rock were behind it.22

Thriller or Destruction? Pop and Rock in the 1980s

While Bruce Springsteen achieved global superstardom with his Born in the U.S.A. album, and Irish rockers U2 joined the select ranks of arena bands categorized as formally and politically progressive, most 1980s rock registered as a retread, too regressive or obscure. Boomer rockers sang for charity in “We Are the World” and Live Aid; fans like Tipper Gore started organizations like the PMRC (Parents’ Music Resource Council) to decry youth trends. Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner inaugurated a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whose inductions, beginning in 1986 (the museum opened in Cleveland a decade later), ratified the rock view of pop history. Compact disc reissues enriched catalogs, promoted by classic rock radio stations.23

Yet the 1980s were also among the best for rock and roll, to use that rubric for diverse, challenging youth-pop. Cable channel MTV launched in 1981, playing music videos as a rock radio equivalent with few black artists. But quickly, British new wave bands like Duran Duran, Culture Club, and Eurythmics—style conscious, gender bending, postmodern, preferring synthesizer to guitar—supplied the visuals and spark MTV required. Next, Michael Jackson, followed by Prince and Madonna—none white men—built superstar personas on MTV, now Top 40. With videos, album promotions could stretch over years, each new short extending the performer’s star text. Rockers Dire Straits had the blue-collar protagonist of “Money for Nothing” homophobically complain, as if protesting disco: “See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup … that ain’t working.” If, as with rock and roll in the 1950s, MTV encouraged a cross-racial youth culture, this Reagan-era iteration was no celebration of working-class culture, at least at first.24

Instead, the new superstars subsumed group identity as they rose. Jackson, once of Motown’s Jackson 5, triumphed solo with Thriller on Epic, validating major label R&B; the album made James Brown grooves central to Top 40, turned videos into blockbuster musical theater, and deployed rockers like Paul McCartney and Eddie Van Halen. Accused of abandoning blacks for crossover, Jackson more staged a coup: from Elvis as king of rock and roll to a new “King of Pop.” Prince, his rival, connected R&B mastery to guitar chops and motorbike rebellion on the album/film Purple Rain, redefining rock virtuosity in the decade that saw a Black Rock Coalition form. Madonna, sonically disco and chart pop, used video’s funhouse mirroring of original songs to insert third wave feminist comment on “Material Girl” gender assumptions. “Hound Dog” had touted liberation (working class, male, white-from-black sources) from the mainstream “Doggie in the Window.” “Like a Prayer,” “Thriller,” and “When Doves Cry” presented racial and gender alternatives to the white-male rock posturing, now itself mainstream, of “Stairway to Heaven,” “Dream On,” and “Free Bird.” Was this pop a new rock and roll? Superstar freedoms compensated for weakened group identity in the inequitable 1980s. Michael Jackson dominated alongside Michael Jordan but for African Americans as a whole, an “underclass” experience of crack epidemic, mass incarceration, and social separation later called the New Jim Crow locked in. Madonna’s intimacies matched Oprah’s but feminists experienced what Susan Faludi called a Backlash: the rejection of the Equal Rights Amendment and Moral Majority anti-feminism.25

From a new sounds perspective, rap was the decade’s rock and roll: a radicalizing of the pop voice to favor rhythm and timbre over melody, upending taste yet again: “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good,” as Run-D.M.C. put it. Indie labels again led the way, notably Def Jam, operated by Run’s brother Russell Simmons. Rappers came out of New York City to start but were national by the end of the decade, notably N.W.A in Los Angeles. Unlike rock and roll, whites rarely coopted hip-hop, as its larger form was increasingly called. At its most idealistic, from the politics of Public Enemy to visionaries like rapper Rakim, it represented a new soul. At its most pragmatic, N.W.A’s gangsta rap crime narratives, it had bullet-proof authenticity, rebranding the most disparaging word of all: to represent among Niggaz Wit Attitudes was to occupy an identity no white could claim.26

Still, white and black working-class experiences continued to parallel; N.W.A. found its Los Angeles counterpart in sexually confrontational (“turn around bitch”) rock group Guns N’ Roses. GNR were the last in a wave of Sunset Strip bands, from Van Halen to Mötley Crüe, mocked as hair metal by outsiders for their manes, make-up and spandex, yet belligerent in their partying, cartoonishly anti-authoritarian (“We’re Not Gonna Take It”). For fans, metal extended arena rock’s Dazed & Confused ethos. And the bands were pop savvy, slipping in synths and glossy production, using MTV more strategically than Dire Straits predicted. They needed cable: rock radio splintered over metal, which did not draw those advertisers preferred. Classic rock radio added few new songs. Modern rock radio, built on new wave, had a marginal audience share sold as more affluent.27

If rock in the 1970s had created space for adventurous albums, 1980s trends favored more postmodern blends: downtown art scene figures like Talking Heads, Paul Simon’s NPR-friendly African music album Graceland, parodic television like The Simpsons, the rocker as director (David Lynch), computer programmer (Steve Jobs and Apple, named after the Beatles’ holding company), or television host (David Letterman). Experimental rock from groups like Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and Sonic Youth relied on independent labels, now not expecting to create Top 40 hits, establishing sustainable touring club-level networks in conjunction with college radio stations. Scene leaders R.E.M. compared their status to illicit “Radio Free Europe.” Metal aside, rock rarely enjoyed the crossover thrill of rock and roll.28

Commodifying Dissent in the 1990s

The blockbuster products of 1991 set the tone for the decade’s reuniting of rock with rock and roll. Metallica’s self-titled “black” album, the biggest of the bunch, joined metal and punk for working-class listeners who no longer believed in a utopic “Stairway to Heaven” or even hair metal glamor. Pearl Jam and Nirvana’s albums, major label versions of a Seattle grunge scene centered on the indie label Sub Pop, worked the same punk-metal fusion for middle-class listeners within the creative capitalism that nurtured Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. And the industry marveled at the first Lollapalooza tour, which revealed a new rock and roll hybrid: alternative rock and hip-hop acts sharing the stage for a pierced and tattooed post-boomer audience, dubbed Generation X.29

Grunge, gangsta rap, and New Country all claimed a large, engaged audience in the early 1990s, inheriting parts of rock’s mantle. Top 40 declined, crossover less necessary given these expanded segments. It was the return of counterculture, if with blatant sponsorship and major labels that struck deals with Sub Pop or hip-hop’s Death Row, incorporating indie and street marketing into global corporations: only one major was now American owned. Rock radio resumed playing new music. R&B incorporated hip-hop as figures like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg hosted a groupie-filled party that resembled hair metal. Garth Brooks sold more albums, collectively, than anybody in the decade with an arena country that included Billy Joel and Aerosmith covers but no pop hits. Rolling Stone had magazine rivals in Spin (for alt-rock) and Vibe (for hip-hop and R&B).30

Once again, the revolutionary period proved short-lived. Notably, in the 1990s commercial popularity became an issue to an extent not seen before. In 1994, Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, a heroin addict, killed himself in a tragedy viewed as reflecting his struggles with popularity; Pearl Jam stopped making videos and scaled back their ambitions. The murders of rival West and East Coast rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. in 1995 and 1996 raised similar questions about the commodified rebellion of hip-hop. Brooks, like actual crossover country figures Shania Twain and Billy Ray Cyrus, found his popularity raising hackles among fans used to stars not getting above their raising.31

A second key 1990s shift was that rock put women more front and center. If very male grunge claimed the spotlight, rock critiques launching from the riot grrrl scene just south in Olympia, Washington, were no less pivotal: Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna gave Cobain the phrase “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and he saw his breakout as a blend of the two movements; in a different blend, Sleater-Kinney, another riot grrrl band, and grunge’s Pearl Jam became the region’s most lasting rockers, if at different levels of popularity. Commercially, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill rivaled grunge and Metallica with an anthem, “You Oughta Know,” whose lyrics (“Is she perverted like me?/Would she go down on you in a theater?”) combined “Honky Tonk Women” and Madonna: a woman’s rock not pop. Songwriter Diane Warren dominated adult contemporary, while performer Sheryl Crow had “Hot AC” hits; this younger category aimed at women as rock listeners supported Hootie and the Blowfish, Gin Blossoms, and others. New Country, from Twain to the Dixie Chicks, saw what one hit called “girls with guitars” chart higher than before or since. Lilith Fair offered a women’s music version of Lollapalooza.32

All of this made the contrast to hard rock and hip-hop masculinity striking. New arena rock, as the 1990s ended, was still dominated by a metal-punk fusion that now added hip-hop elements, recognizing the working-class commonalities. This could take a radical form: Rage Against the Machine played against the World Trade Organization protests of 1999. But the “nu-metal” of groups like Limp Bizkit and Korn was interpreted as a new low in rock’s now long history of reactionary rage; Woodstock ’99, an anniversary concert, saw male fans attacking female spectators in a spectacle that electronic rocker Moby dubbed “rape rock.” Hip-hop success, meanwhile, centered on black street credibility that included referring to women as bitches and “hoes.” Differing takes on these intersectional modalities were inevitable: academics started to rethink the narrative of rock and roll as deliverance from prejudice, reaching back to 19th-century blackface minstrelsy, viewing identity as performed, and contextualizing through cultural studies.33

Many who loved music recoiled from rock and rap altogether by the end of the 1990s. Pop resurged on MTV’s afternoon program Total Request Live, where boy bands (Backstreet Boys, N’Sync) and pop princesses (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera) vied for audience votes. Global fans awaited each release, with influential writer-producers coming out of Sweden, most prominently Max Martin, and a flurry of Latin superstars: Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Shakira. Jive Records, home to many TRL acts, sold for $3 billion in 2002, the most ever paid for a label. Yet the performers seemed as tame as the manufactured stars Dick Clark once introduced on American Bandstand. Many had started on Disney’s New Mickey Mouse Club. Could a Spears, asserting sexuality in ways that resembled Madonna, be viewed as third wave feminist when she seemed so much less in control of her career? Was Memphis’s Justin Timberlake a new Elvis figure? Few said yes.34

Collegiate genres at decade’s end also looked to get away from rock and rap. Electronica, extending the legacy of disco, gave rockers a non-guitar palette: bands big as Radiohead and Daft Punk explored this direction; arenas became sites for dancing. Rootsier sounds, sometimes called alt-country and eventually Americana, kept the guitars but lost any connection to metal and almost any to punk. Even swing jazz enjoyed a momentary revival, alongside lounge exotica. Within hip-hop culture, a bohemian movement sometimes called neo-soul (Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, OutKast) questioned gangsta posturing. The most rock thing to do, as a half-century of rock and roll concluded, was often to not rock out at all.35

Rock in a New Century: Recent Developments

Nothing defined rock and roll’s legacy in the early 21st century better than the mash-up: two records, vocals from one with backing tracks of the other, merged on a home computer by an amateur producer who posted an MP3 for downloading. Beyond records, mash-ups combined genres and formats: early on, Top 40 singer Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” and alt-rock band the Strokes’ “Hard to Explain,” became “A Stroke of Genius” by Freelance Hellraiser. If rock and roll had married R&B, country, and Top 40, mash-ups stitched a new hybridity. Technology dissolved requirements of production studios and distribution networks. Whether social boundaries would fade so easily was a harder question.36

This latter sense, that mash-ups mixed people as much as the genres that divided them in the rock era, informed Glee, which aired on Fox in the 2000s, often after American Idol. The glee club teacher used mash-ups to heal race, gender, class, and disability: “the big difference between them is what makes them great,” he explained. Glee itself, like Idol, was a mash-up—the TV show and pop industry combined as part of what Henry Jenkins called “convergence culture,” old media meeting new, like the video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band too, like making a vintage rock and roll jukebox or Top 40 playlist out of the shuffle button on one’s brand new Apple iPod. Glee’s first anthem was a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” a power ballad that old school rockers might have dismissed as cheesy. In this century, it made as much sense as Barry Manilow covers on Idol. The older rock walls between types of music cultures had come down; not as rock and roll tearing them down but dissolved with a karaoke singer’s grin.37

Crossover seemed vital again: if the 1990s were troubled that everything could be commodified, no matter how marginal, the 2000s worried that nothing could be sold, no matter how mainstream. Napster, the illicit file sharing technology, and successors like Bit Torrent, made it impossible to keep recordings proprietary: album sales collapsed, with only rare performers (Taylor Swift, Adele) subsequently able to enjoy big totals. The shattered model of the record industry prompted artists to become brands unto themselves, reliant on their own convergence culture—sponsorships, connections to other media. Reality television and tabloid celebrity nurtured aspects of pop. Billboard charts came to reflect songs streamed from YouTube, a video site that provided hits on demand and let fans upload their versions, which counted too. Records, as a distillation of culture, gave way to broader media exposure and overlapping social networks.38

To consider major figures of this century, with notions of rock and roll or rock in mind, shows how confusingly remixed they’d become. Rapper Jay-Z called himself “the new Sinatra,” took swagger and Chairman of the Board savvy from rock into hip-hop. Kanye West emphasized the rocker as provocateur, making ambitious albums that intertwined bohemian neo-soul, indie experimentalism, hip-hop bravado, and synergistic promotion. Beyoncé calibrated her tabloid crossover, with “Single Ladies” a YouTube parody favorite. She also, one night on iTunes, with a single tweet as promotion, released an album of songs accompanied by videos, the artistry updating Prince’s standard of virtuosity. Taylor Swift, a confessional singer-songwriter, moved from country to Top 40, building working womanhood and a rock and roll echo of riot grrrl on 1990s paradigms. Adele, who after the death of Amy Winehouse inherited the British Invasion tradition, broke record sales records as an Adult Contemporary singer of relatable experience and a soulful tone.39

If the blockbuster performer as CEO was one pop response to shattered business models, another was a resurgence of Top 40 culture as catch-all, a global pop of mashed-up identities—Black Eyed Peas, Bruno Mars. The radio format itself boomed in the 2000s, as PPM (Portable People Meter) devices proved the popularity of eclectic hits presentations over ostensibly targeted approaches; the Jack format, an oldies blend impish about genre lines, was another version. What the 1970s had called disco, the 1980s house and techno, and the 1990s electronica was now EDM, or electronic dance music, which began registering hits that mashed up celebrity singers with influential live DJs. Critics started calling themselves poptimists and criticizing as rockism attempts to essentialize great music.40

At times, the results were unpredictable and exciting—a new rock and roll. A billion people globally checked out Psy’s madcap video for “Gangnam Style” and contemplated the Motown-in-Asia spectacles of K-Pop. Lady Gaga drew upon MTV traditions of superstar spectacle to create post-postmodernism. Rappers making “rhythmic Top 40” dance hits fostered a half-decade of the blackest pop programming in years, perhaps ever. At other times, popular music’s mash-up approach to history registered as too haphazard to create a lasting impact. American Idol fell into a rut of electing “WGWGs” (white guys with guitars) the winner. Top 40 stopped allowing R&B hits to cross to its top positions altogether. One tried to remember the last time a rocker had felt as central to the culture as Kurt Cobain. What were the collective stories of this new era?41

Yet the impact of rock and roll and rock, however reconstituted, remained massive. The biggest touring acts were rock derived, the subformats of rock on radio, added together, eclipsed other genres, and so did rock album sales—both new and catalog material. The indie networks of the 1980s that fed neoliberal creative corporations of the 1990s now remade neighborhoods in Brooklyn, East Nashville, or Portland around the hipster ethos of bands covered in Pitchfork or playing festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo. As social networks went berserk rehashing Beyoncé or Kanye, the Black Lives Matter-inspired masterpiece by rapper Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly), or that goofy new Drake video, it seemed apparent, if largely unspoken, that the major inheritors of cultural ambitions distilled from rock and roll into rock were African Americans. This represented a shift three generations in the making, just as the boldest explorers of messy rock and roll were now women.42

For about a century, once, the minstrel songs and show business ethos that cast a spell from Stephen Foster to “White Christmas” ruled American music. It seems likely that we are in the tail end of a second century, from Elvis Presley and Top 40 to the Beatles and rock, from rock and roll to hip-hop and EDM, the double imperatives of crossover and authenticity structuring a dialectic with new chapters every decade or so. Rock and roll’s revolution is too unstable; rock’s far too stable; the players and issues change but the back and forth continues to fascinate.

Discussion of the Literature

The earliest writing on rock and roll, usually by figures unfamiliar with its musical lineages, hasn’t aged well, though later studies by figures older than the first fans (Arnold Shaw, with his music business expertise; pioneering musicologist Charles Hamm, sociologists Philip Ennis and Richard Peterson) offers a useful, because distanced, perspective.43 The first key contemporaneous studies came from England, Nik Cohn capturing the pop cultural mythos and then Gillett the facts (with an emphasis on independent labels) of the transition from R&B to rock and roll.44 American rock critic views coalesced by the mid-1970s with The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (avoid the final 1992 edition), rock and roll epiphany collector (and rock mistruster) Greil Marcus’s American studies treatise Mystery Train, and the mytho-historical efforts of Nick Tosches (an American Cohn) and Peter Guralnick (an American Gillett).45 Other first-generation writers include feminist Ellen Willis, ecumenical canonizer Robert Christgau, protopunk Lester Bangs, Robert Palmer (the rare example of a musician-critic), working class identified Dave Marsh, white southern stalwart Stanley Booth, and conceptualist Richard Meltzer.46

In the next generation, from the 1980s to early 2000s, perspectives on rock and roll diversified considerably. Scenester extraordinaire Nelson George and Black Arts theorist Greg Tate’s Village Voice writing established black critical perspectives, hard to find earlier beyond perhaps the soul writing of Phyl Garland.47 As writers and editors, Ann Powers, Evelyn McDonnell, and Barbara O’Dair worked systematically to document, interpret, and increase women’s voices.48 Rap criticism, starting with maverick author David Toop’s outsider perspective, became a discourse unto itself in the Source, Vibe, and so on, collected by Raquel Cepeda, with books too from hip-hop feminist Joan Morgan, the gonzo zine Ego Trip, an Experience Music Project oral history, and Jeff Chang and later Dan Charna’s authoritative syntheses.49 Alternative rock views emerged around Spin and the Voice, with new wave-identified Rob Sheffield, alternative-to-alternative Chuck Eddy, mainstream defender Chuck Klosterman, poet-of-singles Joshua Clover, worldly Will Hermes, and British spy Simon Reynolds among those expanding rock canons.50 As classic rock flourished, uncritical hagiographies or equally uncritical exposes produced bestsellers; by contrast, David Ritz co-wrote memoirs by rock and roll types, often understudied African Americans, and Barney Hoskyns brought nuance to rock and soul storytelling.51

Over the same quarter-century, academic writing on rock became a growing field.52 Popular music studies developed from the sociology merged with early pop (challenging rock) criticism of Simon Frith and the legacy of Birmingham Centre cultural studies, including minstrelsy rethinker Eric Lott, rock postmodernist Lawrence Grossberg, mod subculturalist Dick Hebdige, black diaspora theorist Paul Gilroy, pop modernist Iain Chambers, girls subculturalist Angela McRobbie, clubculturalist Sarah Thornton, and genre unpacker Keith Negus, with Keir Keightley’s “Reconsidering Rock” exemplifying a new rock studies synthesis.53 African American studies and ethnic studies intervened via rap subculturalist Tricia Rose, post-soul pioneer Mark Anthony Neal, race music redefiner Guthrie Ramsey Jr., aesthete Fred Moten, sage hip-hop judge Imani Perry, black rock scholar Maureen Mahon, subaltern roots rocker George Lipsitz, and audiotopian Josh Kun.54 Musicologists (feminist Susan McClary, roots of power, and power chords, investigator Robert Walser, cross-categorizer David Brackett) and ethnomusicologists (Charles Keil and Steven Feld debating grooves, Joseph Schloss collecting beats, Daniel Cavicchi worshipping with Springsteen fans) belatedly explored rock and pop’s working languages, with John Covach, Alan Moore, Susan Fast, and Albin Zak theorizing rock alongside philosopher Theodore Gracyk.55 Academics like Will Straw, Barry Shank, Sara Cohen, Keith Kahn-Harris, Richard Lloyd, and Holly Kruse examined rock scenes differently than journalists had Beatlemania or grunge, as evolving urban cultural formations.56

Recent critical takes on rock and roll have turned toward confronting taste. Inspired by a Kelefa Sanneh essay reviving the critique of “rockism” from new wave days, critics developed “poptimism” to embrace commercial diversity. Key essays were collected in Best Music Writing, published yearly by Da Capo from 2000 to 2011 with guest editors. Another new source for critical writing, the 33 1/3 series of idiosyncratic music album monographs, included Carl Wilson’s look at a much-dismissed Celine Dion album, Let’s Talk about Love. Framing his study as a “journey to the end of taste,” Wilson popularized Bourdieu’s ideas of cultural capital; rock and roll’s belated apology to Patti Page. Another much-noted book, Elijah Wald’s How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll, went back to the 1920s in an effort to denounce rock’s rejection of teen girls dancing to black pop in the name of art.57

Historical digging and textual reinterpretation, aided by new Internet access to archival material and growing academic hiring, has shaped recent scholarly work. Disco’s underground links to rock counterculture were clarified by Tim Lawrence; Alice Echols complicated this to appreciate mainstream disco’s identity moves. Diane Pecknold and other country scholars dismantled that genre’s “hardcore” and soft-shell versions of rockism. The roots of rock and roll read differently as David Suisman, Karl Hagstrom Miller, Barry Mazor, Edward Comentale, and Marybeth Hamilton supplied new chapters and Michael Kramer historicized early rock. Questioning category, Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor explored authenticity debates in multiple eras, Charles Hughes deconstructed mythologies of integrated soul, Steve Waksman removed the divide between punk and metal, and my study reframed rockism/poptimism around questions of genre and format. Mitchell Morris brought musicology to soft pop sounds; Loren Kajikawa an equal focus to the sonics of race in rap. And the expanded presence of popular music in the second edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music demonstrated the growth of the field within music departments. Music made by U.S. Latinos finally intersected the rock and roll story: Ned Sublette on Cuban inheritances, theorizing by Alexandra Vazquez, punk Latinos via Michelle Habell-Pallán, Deborah Paredez and Deborah Vargas on Chicana divas, Dolores Inés Casillas on regional Mexican music and radio; the best overview to date comes from Deborah Pacini Hernandez.58

Primary Sources

Rock and roll recordings have never been easier to access, through streams from services like Spotify, individual tracks from YouTube, downloads via iTunes, and albums mail-ordered from Amazon. The harder challenge is to winnow down and find trustworthy discographical information: All Music Guide,, is invaluable as a first, not final reference point. YouTube has also made much more available rock and roll’s visual history: television appearances, music videos, concert footage. The proliferation in the 2000s of DVDs made it almost as likely that a full-length visual recording would exist of a performer as an audio recording.

Written material on rock and roll represents a second key growth area. For period critical writing, Rock’s Backpages collects thousands of reviews and articles by leading British and American music press writers from the 1960s to 2000s. Databases preserve magazines and trade journal sources: notably, ProQuest’s Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive documents Billboard, Radio & Records, Melody Maker, New Music Express, and Spin. Music memoir, a form adding stories to the record that were not told at the time, has flourished: examples include Chuck Berry, Ronnie Spector, Tommy James, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Pamela DesBarres’s groupie memoir, Loretta Lynn, Gregg Allman, Steven Tyler, Patti Smith, the oral history Please Kill Me, Viv Albertine, Nile Rodgers, Kristin Hersh, Jay-Z, Questlove, the RZA, and Carrie Brownstein.59

The rock documentary, or rockumentary, offers another way to survey rock and roll, so long as one watches as much to see how the story is being framed as to learn a direct lesson. Among the most hallowed, including films that still document a pop moment: Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records and Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (original rock and roll); The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit and TAMI Show (1960s rock and roll); Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, Woodstock, and Gimme Shelter (1960s rock revolution); Soul Power and Wattstax (soul era); The Song Remains the Same, Tommy, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and The Last Waltz (1970s arena rock); The Blank Generation, The Filth & the Fury, and The Decline of Western Civilization (punk); Stop Making Sense, Purple Rain, Truth or Dare (1980s new wave and MTV); Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years and Heavy Metal Parking Lot (hair metal); Style Wars, Rhyme & Reason, and Planet Rock: The Story of Hip-Hop and the Crack Generation (hip-hop); 1991: The Year Punk Broke, Hype, Meeting People Is Easy, Some Kind of Monster (1990s rock); The Punk Singer, Shut Up and Play the Hits, and I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (21st-century indie).60 Overview television histories include Time-Life’s The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll and PBS’s Rock & Roll, both of which run through the 1990s, the latter more critically insightful.61 Different series focus on performers, with Behind the Music and Unsung emphasizing scandal and redemption, Unplugged and VH1 Storytellers the performers looking back at their repertoire.

There are a range of archives worth investigating, starting with The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives, but also: the New York City Public Library for the Performing Arts, ARChive of Contemporary Music, and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; The Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles; the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, a long-standing archive with many non-country holdings, and Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN; the Film & Television Archive and other collections at University of California, Los Angeles; the Music Library and Sound Recording Archives at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio; the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina; and the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago.

Further Reading

  • Bennett, Andy, Barry Shank, and Jason Toynbee, eds. The Popular Music Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Brackett, David, ed. The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates. 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Cateforis, Theo, ed. The Rock History Reader. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Cepeda, Raquel, ed. And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Past 25 Years. New York: Faber and Faber, 2004.
  • Echols, Alice. Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.
  • Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2012.
  • Frith, Simon. Sound Effects: Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll. New York: Pantheon, 1981.
  • Gillett, Charlie. The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll. Rev. ed. New York: Pantheon, 1984. Originally published in 1970.
  • Guralnick, Peter. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. New York: Little, Brown, 1994.
  • Hernandez, Deborah Pacini. Oye Como Va! Hybridity and Identity in Latino Popular Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.
  • Keightley, Keir. “Reconsidering Rock.” In The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock. Edited by Simon Frith, Will Straw, and John Street, 109–142. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Kramer, Michael J. The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Lipsitz, George. Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.
  • Marcus, Greil. Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. 6th ed. New York: Plume, 2015. Originally published in 1975.
  • Matos, Michaelangelo. The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America. New York: Dey Street Books, 2015.
  • McDonnell, Evelyn, and Ann Powers, eds. Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop and Rap. New York: Delta, 1995.
  • Miller, Jim, ed. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Rev. ed. New York: Rolling Stone Press/Random House, 1980.
  • Moore, Ryan. Sells Like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis. New York: New York University Press, 2009.
  • Negus, Keith. Music Genres and Corporate Cultures. New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • Palmer, Robert. Rock & Roll: An Unruly History. New York: Harmony, 1995.
  • Savage, Jon. England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
  • Waksman, Steve. This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.
  • Wald, Elijah. How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Walser, Robert. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1993.
  • Weisbard, Eric. Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.
  • Willis, Ellen. Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
  • Zak, Albin. I Don’t Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.


  • 1. Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, expanded 2d ed. (New York: Pantheon, 1984); Richard Peterson, “Why 1955? Explaining the Advent of Rock Music,” Popular Music 1.9 (1990): 97–116; Philip Ennis, The Seventh Stream: The Emergence of Rocknroll in American Popular Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1992); Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (New York: Little, Brown, 1994).

  • 2. For guitar, see Robert Palmer, “Church of the Sonic Guitar,” in Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture, ed. Anthony DeCurtis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992) and Steve Waksman, Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). For Presley’s vocalizing, see Edward Comentale, Sweet Air: Modernism, Regionalism, and American Popular Song (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013). The best overview is Albin J. Zak III, I Don’t Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010).

  • 3. Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); George Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight: Labor and Culture in the 1940s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); James Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How The Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); John Broven, Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009).

  • 4. Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War (New York: Basic Books, 1988); Leerom Medovoi, Rebels: Youth and the Cold War Origins of Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

  • 5. Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, 6th ed. (1975; reprint New York: Plume, 2015); Robert Fink, “Elvis Everywhere: Musicology and Popular Music Studies at the Twilight of the Canon,” American Music 16.2 (1998): 135–179; Maureen Mahon, “Listening for Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton’s Voice: The Sound of Race and Gender Transgressions in Rock and Roll,” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 15 (2011): 1–17.

  • 6. Kerry Segrave and Linda Martin, Anti-Rock: The Opposition to Rock ‘n’ Roll, rev. ed. (New York: Da Capo, 1993); Keir Keightley, “You Keep Coming Back Like a Song: Adult Audiences, Taste Panics, and the Idea of the Standard,” Journal of Popular Music Studies 13 (2001): 7–40; Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (New York: Verso, 1996).

  • 7. Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock (New York: Harmony Books, 1985); W. T. Lhamon Jr., Deliberate Speed: The Origins of a Cultural Style in the American 1950s (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990); Nick Tosches, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story (New York: Delta, 1982); Craig Morrison, Go Cat Go: Rockabilly Music and Its Makers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996); Robert Christgau, “Chuck Berry,” in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, rev. and expanded ed., ed. Jim Miller (New York: Rolling Stone Press/Random House, 1980), 54–60; Chuck Berry, The Autobiography (New York: Fireside, 1986); for Holly, Comentale, Sweet Air; John Broven, Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans, 3d ed. (1988; reprint Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2016); Robert Palmer, Rock & Roll: An Unruly History (New York: Harmony, 1995) and “Liner Notes for Ray Charles: The Birth of Soul in Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer, ed. Anthony DeCurtis (New York: Scribner, 2009), 163–188; Ray Charles and David Ritz, Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story (New York: Dial, 1978); Michael Streissguth, ed., Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Reader (New York: Da Capo, 2002); Alice Echols, “Smooth Sass and Raw Power: R&B’s Ruth Brown and Etta James,” in Trouble Girls: The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock, ed. Barbara O’Dair (New York: Random House, 1997); Etta James and David Ritz, Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story (New York: Villard, 1995); for doo wop, Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

  • 8. Matthew F. Belmont, The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012); Michael Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000).

  • 9. Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, 177–189; Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs, Re-Making Love: The Feminization of Sex (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986); Devin McKinney, Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).

  • 10. Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

  • 11. Stanley Booth, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones (1984; reprint Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000); Andrew Loog Oldham, Stoned: A Memoir of London in the 1960s (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Keith Richards with James Fox, Life (New York: Little, Brown, 2010).

  • 12. Ellen Willis, “Dylan,” in Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011); Bob Dylan, Chronicles, vol. 1 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); Mike Marqusee, Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s, rev. ed. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005); Lee Marshall, Bob Dylan: The Never Ending Star (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2007); David Shumway, Rock Star: The Making of Musical Icons from Elvis to Springsteen (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).

  • 13. Keir Keightley, “Reconsidering Rock,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, ed. Simon Frith, Will Straw, and John Street (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 109–142; Grace Elizabeth Hale, A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

  • 14. Michael J. Kramer, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Susan Krieger, Hip Capitalism (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, 1979); Devon Powers, Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013); Charles Perry, The Haight-Ashbury: A History (New York: Random House, 1984).

  • 15. Greil Marcus, “Rock-a-Hula, Clarified,” Creem, June 1971, 36–52; Lester Bangs, “James Taylor Marked for Death,” Who Put the Bomp, Winter‒Spring 1971 and Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, ed. Greil Marcus (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 53–81; David Browne, Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970 (New York: Da Capo, 2011); Clinton Heylin, From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock, 2d ed. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005); RJ Smith, The One: The Life and Times of James Brown (New York: Gotham, 2012).

  • 16. Almost Famous (Universal City, CA: DreamWorks Home Entertainment, 2001), DVD; Dazed & Confused (1993; Universal City, CA: Universal Studios, 2004), DVD.

  • 17. Fred Goodman, The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce (New York: Times Books, 1997); Stephen Davis, Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga (New York: William Morrow, 1985); Steve Waksman, “Heavy Music: Cock Rock, Colonialism, and Led Zeppelin,” in Instruments of Desire, and This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009); Susan Fast, In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Eric Weisbard, Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

  • 18. Barney Hoskyns, Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes, and the Sound of Los Angeles (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996) and Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006); Sheila Weller, Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—And the Journey of a Generation (New York: Atria, 2008); Bruce J. Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (New York: Free Press, 2001).

  • 19. Jimmy McDonough, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography (New York: Random House, 2002); Rolling Stone Magazine, Neil Young: The Ultimate Compendium of Interviews, Articles, Facts, and Opinions from the Files of Rolling Stone (New York: Macmillan, 1994); Stacey Luftig, The Joni Mitchell Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (New York: Schirmer Books, 2000); Michelle Mercer, Will You Take Me as I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period (New York: Free Press, 2009); June Skinner Sawyers, ed., Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader (New York: Penguin, 2004); Paul Trynka, David Bowie: Starman (New York: Little, Brown, 2011); Peter Doggett, The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s (New York: HarperCollins, 2012); Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the ’70s (New Haven, CT: Ticknor & Fields, 1981); Marcus, Mystery Train; Miller, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll.

  • 20. Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm & Blues (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988); Mark Anthony Neal, What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (New York: Routledge, 1999); Ward, Just My Soul Responding; Craig Werner, Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul (New York: Crown, 2004); Jason Toynbee, Bob Marley: Herald of a Postcolonial World? (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2007); Jan Reid, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock (1977; reprint Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004); Travis D. Stimeling, Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Country Music Scene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Will Hermes, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever (New York: Faber and Faber, 2011).

  • 21. Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York: New Press, 2010); Edward Macan, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Kevin Holm-Hudson, ed., Progressive Rock Reconsidered (New York: Routledge, 2002); Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Methuen, 1979); Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989); Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992); Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (New York: Grove Press, 1996); Lester Bangs, “Where Were You When Elvis Died?,” in Village Voice, August 29, 1977, and Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, 212–216.

  • 22. Simon Frith, Sound Effects: Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll (New York: Pantheon, 1981); Alice Echols, Shaky Ground: The Sixties and its Aftershocks (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002) and Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Tim Lawrence, Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Peter Shapiro, Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco (New York: Faber & Faber, 2005); Theo Cateforis, Are We Not New Wave? Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2011).

  • 23. Dave Marsh, Glory Days: The Bruce Springsteen Story (New York: Pantheon, 1987); Simon Frith, “The Real Thing—Bruce Springsteen,” in Music for Pleasure: Essays in the Sociology of Pop (New York: Routledge, 1988), 94–101; Daniel Cavicchi, Tramps Like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Tipper Gore, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society (New York: Bantam, 1988); Fredric Dannen, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business (New York: Times Books, 1990); Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1993); Chuck Klosterman, Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (New York: Scribner, 2001).

  • 24. Dave Rimmer, Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop (London: Faber and Faber, 1985); Andrew Goodwin, Dancing in the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992); Carol Vernallis, Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004); Rob Sheffield, Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut (New York: Dutton, 2010); Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution (New York: Dutton, 2011).

  • 25. Kobena Mercer, “Monster Metaphors: Notes on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’” in Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader, ed. Simon Frith, Andrew Goodwin, and Lawrence Grossberg (New York: Routledge, 1993), 93–108; Greg Tate, “I’m White!: What’s Wrong with Michael Jackson,” in Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 95–99 and “Michael Jackson: The Man in Our Mirror,” in Best Music Writing 2010, ed. Ann Powers (New York: Da Capo, 2010), 29–35; Jason King, “Michael Jackson: An Appreciation of His Talent,” Best Music Writing 2010, 36–48; Susan Fast, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014); Michaelangelo Matos, Sign “O” the Times (New York: Continuum, 2004); Touré, I Would Die for You: Why Prince Became an Icon (New York: Atria, 2013); Maureen Mahon, Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004); Susan McClary, “Living to Tell: Madonna’s Resurrection of the Fleshly,” in Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, & Sexuality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991); Lisa Frank and Paul Smith, eds., Madonnarama: Essays in Sex and Popular Culture (Pittsburgh, PA: Cleis Press, 1993); Carol Benson and Allan Metz, eds., The Madonna Companion: Two Decades of Commentary (New York: Schirmer Books, 1999); Lucy O’Brien, Madonna: Like an Icon (New York: Bantam, 2007); Michele Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010); Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (New York: Crown, 1991); Gil Troy, Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980’s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

  • 26. David Toop, The Rap Attack: African Jive to New York Hip Hop (Boston: Serpent’s Tail, 1984); Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994); Raquel Cepeda, ed., And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Past 25 Years (New York: Faber and Faber, 2004); Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005); Dan Charnas, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (New York: New American Library, 2010); Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal, eds., That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, 2d ed. (New York: Routledge, 2012).

  • 27. Robert Duncan, The Noise: Notes from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Era (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1984); Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology (New York: Lexington Books, 1991); Chuck Eddy, Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe (New York: Harmony, 1991); Donna Gaines, Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia’s Dead End Kids (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991); Walser, Running with the Devil; Klosterman, Fargo Rock City; Waksman, This Ain’t the Summer of Love; Weisbard, Top 40 Democracy.

  • 28. Lawrence Grossberg, Dancing in Spite of Myself: Essays on Popular Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997); George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990); Bernard Gendron, Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Gina Arnold, Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993); Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981–1991 (New York: Little, Brown), 2001.

  • 29. Glenn Pillsbury, Damage Incorporated: Metallica and the Production of Musical Identity (New York: Routledge, 2006); Ryan Moore, Sells Like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis (New York: New York University Press, 2009); Joshua Clover, 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009); Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time (New York: Crown, 2007).

  • 30. Alan Light, ed., The Vibe History of Hip-Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999); Eric Weisbard with Craig Marks, eds., Spin Alternative Record Guide (New York: Vintage, 1995); Will Hermes, ed., Spin: 20 Years of Alternative Music: Original Writing on Rock, Hip-hop, Techno, and Beyond (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005); Bruce Feiler, Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes, and the Changing Face of Nashville (New York: Avon Books, 1998); David Hesmondhalgh, The Cultural Industries, 3d ed. (London: SAGE, 2012); Timothy Dowd, “Concentration and Diversity Revisited: Production Logic and the U.S. Mainstream Recording Market, 1940‒1990,” Social Forces 82 (2004): 1411–1455.

  • 31. Wendy Fonarow, Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 2006); Stephen Duncombe, Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, 2d ed. (Bloomington, IN: Microcosm Publishing, 2008); Eithne Quinn, Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004); Keith Negus, Music Genres and Corporate Cultures (New York: Routledge, 1999).

  • 32. Sara Marcus, Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution (New York: HarperPerennial, 2010); Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir (New York: Riverhead Books, 2015); O’Dair, Trouble Girls; Evelyn McDonnell and Ann Powers, eds., Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop and Rap (New York: Delta, 1995); Sheila Whitely, ed., Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender (New York: Routledge, 1997); Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800–2000 (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2003); Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009).

  • 33. Moore, Sells Like Teen Spirit; V/A, “Special Report: Woodstock ’99: How Three Days of Music Erupted into Fire, Rape and Riot,” Spin, November 1999; Charles Aaron, “What the White Boy Means When He Says Yo,” Spin, November 1998, and Cepeda, And It Don’t Stop, 211–237; Joan Morgan, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-hop Feminist Breaks It Down (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999); Imani Perry, Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip-Hop (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004); Mark Anthony Neal, Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (New York: New York University Press, 2013); Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Simon Frith, Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).

  • 34. Gayle Wald, “‘I Want It That Way’: Teenybopper Music and the Girling of Boy Bands,” Genders 35 (Spring 2001); John Seabrook, The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory (W. W. Norton, 2015); Vanessa Grigoriadis, “The Tragedy of Britney Spears,” Rolling Stone, February 21, 2008, and Greil Marcus, ed., Best Music Writing 2009 (New York: Da Capo Press, 2009), 115–141.

  • 35. Simon Reynolds, Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave (Boston: Little, Brown, 1998); Sarah Thornton, Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996); for reception of Radiohead’s shift away from rock, contrast Brent DiCrescenzo, 10.0/10 review of Kid A, Pitchfork, October 2, 2000, and Nick Hornby, “Beyond the Pale,” New Yorker, October 30, 2000; Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock, eds., The Best of No Depression: Writing about American Music (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005); Richard A. Peterson and Bruce A. Beal, “Alternative Country: Origins, Music, World-view, Fans, and Taste in Genre Formation,” Popular Music and Society 25.1–2 (2001): 233–249; Barbara Ching, “Going Back to the Old Mainstream: No Depression, Robbie Fulks, and Alt.Country’s Muddied Waters,” in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), 178–195; Degen Pener, The Swing Book (New York: Hachette, 1999); Bill Milkowski, Swing It: An Annotated History of Jive (New York: Billboard Books, 2001); Mark Anthony Neal, Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (New York: Routledge, 2002).

  • 36. Sasha Frere-Jones, “1+1+1+1=1: The New Math of Mashups,” New Yorker, January 10, 2005, and Theo Cateforis, ed., The Rock History Reader, 2d ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013), 339–342; Aram Sinnreich, Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010); Simon Reynolds, Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (New York: Faber & Faber, 2011).

  • 37. Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006); Katherine Meizel, Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011); Karen Tongson, “The Grain of Glee,” In Media Res, April 5, 2010.

  • 38. Stephen Witt, How Music Became Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Music Piracy (New York: Viking, 2015); Anita Elberse, Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment (New York: Henry Holt, 2013); Kiri Miller, Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

  • 39. Kelefa Sanneh, “Jay-Z and the Rise of Corporate Rap,” New Yorker, August 20, 2001; Jay-Z, Decoded (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2010); Jon Caramanica, “Behind Kanye’s Mask,” New York Times, June 11, 2013; Daphne A. Brooks, “‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’: Black Female Soul Singing and the Politics of Surrogation in the Age of Catastrophe,” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 8.1 (2007): 180–204; Emily J. Lordi, “Beyoncé’s Boundaries,” New Black Man, December 18, 2013; Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You: The BeyHive,” NPR: The Record, March 1, 2014; Jody Rosen, “Platinum Underdog: Why Taylor Swift Is the Biggest Pop Star in the World,” New York Magazine, November 17, 2013; Tavi Gevinson, “Just Kidding, Love Sucks: Notes on Taylor Swift,” The Believer, July/August, 2013; Lindsay Zoladz, “On Adele’s 25, Pop’s Old Soul Goes Modern Enough to Keep Things Interesting,”, November 20, 2015.

  • 40. Gabriel Rossman, Climbing the Charts: What Radio Airplay Tells Us about the Diffusion of Innovation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); Michaelangelo Matos, The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America (New York: Dey Street Books, 2015); Kelefa Sanneh, “The Rap Against Rockism,” New York Times, October 31, 2004.

  • 41. JungBong Choi and Roald Maliangkay, eds., K-pop: The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry (New York: Routledge, 2015); Kyung Hyun Kim and Youngmin Choe, eds., The Korean Popular Culture Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014); Judith Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Boston: Beacon Press, 2012); Charnas, The Big Payback; Raquel Rivera, Wayne Marshall, and Deborah Pacini Hernandez, eds., Reggaeton (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); Maura Johnston, “Wimpy White Dudes with Guitars Ruined American Idol,” The Concourse, May 13, 2015, and “How This Summer's Monumentour Testifies to the Resilient Role of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Indy Week, July 16, 2014; Chris Molanphy, “100 & Single: The R&B/Hip-Hop Factor in the Music Business’s Endless Slump,” Village Voice, July 16, 2012.

  • 42. Motti Regev, Pop-Rock: Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism in Late Modernity (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2013); Scott Plagenhoef and Ryan Schreiber, eds., The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008); Richard Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City (New York: Routledge, 2005); Greg Tate, “How #BlackLivesMatter Changed Hip-Hop and R&B in 2015,” Rolling Stone, December 16, 2015; Jon Caramanica, “Drake: Rapper, Actor, Meme,” New York Times, October 23, 2015; Zandria F. Robinson, “Beyoncé’s Black Southern Formation,” Rolling Stone, February 8, 2016; Jessica Hopper, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (Chicago: Featherproof Books, 2015).

  • 43. For compendia of writing on rock and pop, including early accounts, see David Brackett, ed., The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates, 3d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Cateforis, The Rock History Reader; Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage, eds., The Faber Book of Pop (London: Faber and Faber, 1995); Arnold Shaw, The Rockin’ 50s: The Decade That Transformed the Pop Music Scene (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1974); Charles Hamm, Putting Popular Music in Its Place (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Ennis, The Seventh Stream; Peterson, “Why 1955?”

  • 44. Nik Cohn, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock (1969; reprint New York: Grove Press, 2001); Gillett, The Sound of the City.

  • 45. Miller, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History; Marcus, Mystery Train; Nick Tosches, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story (New York: Dell, 1982) and Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis.

  • 46. Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps; Christgau, Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the ‘70s; Bangs, Psychotic Reactions; DeCurtis, Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer; Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (New York: Plume, 1989); Booth, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones; Richard Meltzer, The Aesthetics of Rock (1970; reprint New York: Da Capo, 1987). For collections, focused on earlier writers, see William McKeen, ed., Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay: An Anthology (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000); Clinton Heylin, ed., The Penguin Book of Rock & Roll Writing (New York: Penguin, 1992). For histories, Powers, Writing the Record; Gendron, Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club; DeRogatis, Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic (New York: Broadway Books, 2000); Robert Christgau, Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man (New York: Dey Street Books, 2015).

  • 47. George, The Death of Rhythm & Blues; Tate, Flyboy in the Buttermilk; Phyl Garland, The Sound of Soul (Chicago: H. Regnery, 1969).

  • 48. Powers and McDonnell, Rock She Wrote; O’Dair, Trouble Girls.

  • 49. Toop, The Rap Attack; Light, Vibe History of Hip-Hop; Cepeda, And It Don’t Stop; Morgan, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost; Sacha Jenkins et al., eds., Ego Trip Book of Rap Lists (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999); Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop; Charnas, The Business of Hip-Hop; Jim Fricke, Yes Yes Y’All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop’s First Decade (New York: Da Capo Press, 2002).

  • 50. Weisbard, Spin Alternative Record Guide; Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape; Chuck Eddy, Rock and Roll Always Forgets: A Quarter-Century of Music Criticism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); Klosterman, Fargo Rock City; Clover, 1989; Hermes, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire; Reynolds, Generation Ecstasy.

  • 51. Jerry Hopkins and Daniel Sugarman, No One Here Gets Out Alive (New York: Warner Books, 1980); Davis, Hammer of the Gods; Marsh, Glory Days; Dannen, Hit Men; Tommy Lee et al., with Neil Strauss, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band (New York: Regan Books, 2001); David Ritz, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985); James and Ritz, Rage to Survive.

  • 52. For overviews, see Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin, eds., Rock, Pop, and the Written Word (New York: Pantheon, 1990); David Hesmondhalgh and Keith Negus, eds., Popular Music Studies (London: Arnold, 2002); Simon Frith, ed., Popular Music: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge, 2004); Andy Bennett, Barry Shank, and Jason Toynbee, eds., The Popular Music Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006).

  • 53. Simon Frith, Taking Popular Music Seriously: Selected Essays (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007); Lott, Love and Theft; Grossberg, Dancing in Spite of Myself; Hebdige, Subculture; Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); Iain Chambers, Urban Rhythms: Pop Music and Popular Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985); Angela McRobbie, Postmodernism and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994); Thornton, Club Cultures; Negus, Music Genres and Corporate Cultures; Keightley, “Reconsidering Rock.”

  • 54. Rose, Black Noise; Neal, What the Music Said; Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr., Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Perry, Prophets of the Hood; Bakari Kitwana, The Rap on Gangsta Rap (Chicago: Third World Press, 1994); Lipsitz, Time Passages; Josh Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

  • 55. McClary, Feminine Endings; Walser, Running with the Devil; David Brackett, Interpreting Popular Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Charles Keil and Steven Feld, Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994); Joseph G. Schloss, Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004); Cavicchi, Tramps Like Us; Susan D. Crafts et al., My Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1993); John Covach and Graeme M. Boone, Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Allan Moore, Rock, the Primary Text: Developing a Musicology of Rock (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 2001); Fast, Houses of the Holy; Albin Zak, The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Theodore Gracyk, Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997).

  • 56. Will Straw, “Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Scenes and Communities in Popular Music,” Cultural Studies 5.3 (October 1991): 361–375; Barry Shank, Dissonant Identities: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994); Sara Cohen, Rock Culture in Liverpool: Popular Music in the Making (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Keith Kahn-Harris, Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge (New York: Berg, 2007); Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia; Holly Kruse, Site and Sound: Understanding Independent Music Scenes (New York: Peter Lang, 2003); Andy Bennett and Richard Peterson, eds., Music Scenes: Local, Trans-local and Virtual (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004).

  • 57. Sanneh, “The Rap Against Rockism”; Douglas Wolk, “Thinking about Rockism,” Seattle Weekly, May 4, 2005; Jody Rosen, “The Perils of Poptimism,” Slate, May 9, 2006; Daphne A. Brooks, “The Write to Rock: Racial Mythologies, Feminist Theory, and the Pleasures of Rock Music Criticism,” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 12 (2008): 54–62; Miles Park Grier, “Said the Hooker to the Thief: ‘Some Way Out’ of Rockism,” Journal of Popular Music Studies 25.1 (March 2013): 31–55; Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (New York: Continuum, 2007); Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll. See also essays first presented at the EMP Pop Conference, collected in Eric Weisbard, ed., This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); and Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).

  • 58. Lawrence, Love Saves the Day; Echols, Hot Stuff; Diane Pecknold, The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007) and McCusker and Pecknold, A Boy Named Sue; David Suisman, Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Miller, Segregating Sound; Barry Mazor, Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2014); Comentale, Sweet Air; Marybeth Hamilton, In Search of the Blues (New York: Basic Books, 2008); Kramer, The Republic of Rock; Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor, Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007); Charles Hughes, Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Waksman, This Ain’t the Summer of Love; Mitchell Morris, The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013); Kajikawa, Sounding Race in Rap; Charles Hiroshi Garrett, ed., The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Ned Sublette, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2004); Alexandra T. Vazquez, Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013); Michelle Habell-Pallán, Loca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Deborah Paredez, Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); Deborah Vargas, Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012); Dolores Inés Casillas, Sounds of Belonging: U.S. Spanish-Language Radio and Public Advocacy (New York: New York University Press, 2014); Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Oye Como Va! Hybridity and Identity in Latino Popular Music (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010); see too George Lipsitz, Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

  • 59. Berry, The Autobiography; Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldren, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette (New York: Harmony Books, 1990); Tommy James with Martin Fitzpatrick, Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondelles (New York: Scribner, 2010); Dylan, Chronicles; Richards, Life; Pamela DesBarres, I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie (New York: William Morrow Company, 1987); Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey, Coal Miner’s Daughter (Chicago: Regnery, 1976); Aerosmith with Stephen Davis, Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith (New York: Avon Books, 1997); Patti Smith, Just Kids (New York: Ecco, 2010); McNeil and McCain, Please Kill Me; Viv Albertine, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes: Music, Music, Music: Boys, Boys, Boys: A Memoir (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2014); Nile Rodgers, Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014); Kristin Hersh, Rat Girl (New York: Penguin, 2010); Jay-Z, Decoded; Questlove with Ben Greenman, Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2013); Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

  • 60. Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records (Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 2002), DVD; Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (1970; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2007), DVD; The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit (1964; Hollywood, CA: Capitol Records, 2003), DVD; TAMI Show (1964; Los Angeles: Shout Factory, 2010), DVD; Don’t Look Back (1967; New York: Docurama, 1999), DVD; Monterey Pop (1968; Santa Monica, CA: Criterion, 2006), DVD; Woodstock (1969; Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009), DVD; Gimme Shelter (1970; Santa Monica, CA: Criterion, 2000), DVD; Soul Power (2008; Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2010), DVD; Wattstax (1974; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2004), DVD; The Song Remains the Same (1976; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 1999), DVD; Tommy (1975; New York: Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2009), DVD; Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973; New York: EMI Records, 2002), DVD; The Last Waltz (1978; Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment, 2002), DVD; The Blank Generation (1976; Oaks, PA: MVD Visual, 2001), DVD; The Filth and the Fury (Los Angeles, CA: New Line Home Video, 2000), DVD; The Decline of Western Civilization (1981; Los Angeles: Shout Factory, 2015), DVD; Stop Making Sense (1984; New York: Palm Pictures, 1999), DVD; Purple Rain (1984; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 1997), DVD; Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991; Santa Monica, CA: Artisan Home Entertainment, Inc., 1999), DVD; The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years (1988; Los Angeles: Shout Factory, 2015), DVD; Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986: Factory 515, 2005), DVD; Style Wars (1983; Los Angeles: Public Art Films, 2003), DVD; Rhyme & Reason (1997; Burbank, CA: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2000), DVD; Planet Rock: The Story of Hip-Hop and the Crack Generation (New York: VH1 Docs, 2010), DVD; 1991: The Year Punk Broke (1992; Santa Monica, CA: Universal Home Entertainment, 2011); Hype! (1996; Santa Monica, CA: Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2004); Meeting People Is Easy (Hollywood, CA; Capitol, 1999), DVD; Some Kind of Monster (Hollywood, CA: Paramount, 2005), DVD; The Punk Singer (New York: IFC Films, 2014), DVD; Shut Up and Play the Hits (New York: Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2012), DVD; I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (New York, Plexigroup, 2003), DVD.

  • 61. The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll (1995; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2004), DVD; WGBH’s 1995 series Rock & Roll for PBS, produced in partnership with the BBC, with VHS tapes made available to educators, has not been issued on DVD—likely for licensing reasons. There is, however, a bootleg version, and full clips are available on YouTube to download. How rock and roll is that?