With Me Sonic And The Black Knight Music Extended Essay

From a young age, Chicago soul singer Tridia Brown had a passion for listening to records, singing, and playing the congas in church.[1] Tridia’s mother had taken note of her exceptional talent for music; in fact, singing was a passion the two of them shared. And at age twenty-one, Tridia went with her mother to see her estranged father, Arrow, who, by this time, had become a somewhat eccentric producer and writer of soul music.[2]

Her father never really sold enough records to turn a profit. The short version of the story is that he had trouble navigating the notoriously complex network of distributors in Chicago who were capable of getting his music promoted and sent to retail outlets.[3] Nonetheless, at the time, Arrow was managing a home recording studio and a small record label called Bandit Records in a greystone at 4114 S. Martin Luther King Drive in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. When Tridia turned up at his door sometime in the early 1970s, her father welcomed her warmly, and he began to involve her in his latest project, a band he had assembled called the Majestic Arrows (Boyle and Mehr 2013, 24).

Arrow had loosely sketched out ideas for "I’ll Never Cry for Another Boy" on the electric organ but had yet to finish it. Tridia helped him complete the song, in part by adding an extended vamp section in which she improvised repeatedly on the song’s refrain. At some point, with the assistance of one of Arrow’s friends who was a guitarist, Arrow, Tridia, and two backup singers from the Majestic Arrows recorded a run-through of the song on a cassette recorder in the office of her father’s studio-home. This rehearsal recording of "I’ll Never Cry for Another Boy" was first released as a bonus track on the Numero label’s 2004 curated reissue of songs from Bandit’s catalog.

The guitarist’s finger-plucked arpeggios echo the Memphis-based guitar sound of Otis Redding’s ballads.

There are historical coordinates to the form of the song that are worth recounting in brief. It is a down-tempo 6/8 soul ballad reflective of a genre that pervaded much of the rhythm and blues of the 1950s and ‘60s. The guitarist’s finger-plucked arpeggios echo the Memphis-based guitar sound of Otis Redding’s ballads, particularly on numbers like "These Arms of Mine" (featuring Johnny Jenkins, released in 1962), and "That’s What My Heart Needs" (released in 1963 and featuring Steve Cropper).[4] In Tridia’s vocals, one can also hear echoes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Gladys Knight, Carla Thomas, and even Curtis Mayfield’s first band, The Impressions, all of whom recorded 6/8 soul ballads in the 1960s. (James’s rendition of "All I Could Do Is Cry" makes for an apt comparison.) There are inter-texts in the lyrics as well. For instance, the phrase "crying on the inside" seems to recall Aretha Franklin’s famous 1963 rendition of the 1946 ballad "Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)." These historical points of reference suture the recording to a history of style, to social networks of soul music, to radios, church services, jukeboxes, clubs, record players, and to the gradual individuation of a genre that was powerfully mediated by the culture industry.

Given the richness of this moment in Chicago’s cultural history, there is no doubt a great deal more that could be unearthed in the web of inter-textual references and the material connectivity of the social networks.[5] A full-length article could also examine the political economy beneath the song, its marginal relationship to the centers of power in the recording industry. But how might one go about approaching the recording on aesthetic terms? This essay proposes to complement such historical and material lines of inquiry with a set of interpretive questions. It asks: What does the rehearsal recording, as a particular configuration of sound, convey to us? How might we explain its significance and power as an object? I hope to demonstrate that an interpretation driven by the particulars of this recording—an immanent critique, if you will—yields unique philosophical questions that can illuminate its multifaceted texture. Far from a "pure" aesthetics that operates at a remove from social and historical life, I argue that there is a politics to close reading the recording’s forgotten particulars.

Tridia’s recording has four elements: a lead vocal, a guitar line, a kick drum, and a splattering of backup vocals. There are two verses. One is very short and low in register; it is immediately followed by a longer verse that is sung through twice, with a few minor musical differences the second time around. That takes about three minutes. Then, in the vamp Tridia lets loose for another three minutes. She riffs on the main line over and over again, improvises new couplets, and finally arrives at a cathartic climax. Tridia’s vocal is the backbone of the recording; her singing is what makes six minutes feel like four. We could probably do without the drum, backup vocals, and maybe even the guitar, but not the vocal. If Tridia were not there, the recording would collapse. Her vocal leads our ears for nearly six and a half minutes. It seems to have inspired the other musicians too—their playing picks up energy in the course of the run-through.

As a whole the recording is something like the sonic version of a home movie, its periphery rife with accidents. Consequently, it is not a finished work, nor is it an entirely exploratory improvisation. Its tentative fabric engenders the close listening one might do when listening to one’s own rehearsal recordings—when creative decisions need to be made, better or worse outcomes are at stake, the texture of sonic inconsistency is scrutinized for potentials to be elaborated and dead ends to be cut. Listening in on this rehearsal is akin to a sonic paleography, a forensic examination of musical sketches made of inconsistent waves. It elicits a search for the threads of excitement and emergent consistency (and excellence) that unfold in the irregularity of real time.

Around the skeletal structure of the song, there are a number of forgotten threads lying there in traces of sound. The opening guitar line is straightforward: four measures of arpeggios, walking up a series of harmonies to a cadence


. But the murmuring conversations in the background point to a broader inconsistency that preceded what we hear. They elicit speculation: What was going on? There is a brief exchange between a man and a woman five seconds in


. It seems like she is saying "I’m goin’ be late" in response to whatever he is saying to her. By the end of the opening phrase, laughter erupts again, and he parrots back the same phrase: "I’m goin’ be late"


. It’s a tease, a joke, with an impact that has permanently drifted away. Its fragmentary insistence nonetheless indexes a radiating network of actions that stretch far beyond the reach of the cassette recorder’s microphone. Attention to their near silence and borderline unintelligibility requires a mode of listening that is attuned to latent backgrounds (against, or in counterpoint with, the artist’s intentions) (Barthes 1985).

Though it is just a rehearsal, the song seems to have a coherent form. Tridia, her two backup singers, and the single guitarist play as if they more or less know their way through the song. The vocals may be a bit ragged; the singers are likely just grasping their parts. The guitarist picks up rhythmic energy in the two middle verses as Tridia’s vocals become more urgent and punctuated. Arrow’s kick drum, for example, shifts to double-time during the second time through the main verse. Throughout the song, the guitarist plays as if in a trance beneath Tridia. He vamps a simple alternation between two chords (the tonic and subdominant) ornamented with some delicate sus voicings. A song restricted to just these two chords is rare in a soul ballad of the 1960s and ‘70s; the decision suggests what we are hearing is a loose sketch of what is to come in a fuller arrangement. In any case, on the recording, the two chords are there, however accidentally. That harmonic simplicity of the guitar part is hypnotic, and it stays out of the way of the vocal, framing and supporting the elaborate forms of Tridia’s flaring, circular, vocal gestures.

The specificity of Tridia’s voice elicits attention on its own. She skillfully loosens each of her sustained notes into a vibrato. Her voice has a distinct tinniness, almost a sharp oboe tone that seems to contain a strange amalgam of innocence and empowered resolve. Its brightness is salient, even exaggerated on cassette tape, a medium that saturates middle-range frequencies, while attenuating many of the highs and lows that, if recorded in hi-fi, would have given the voice a much fuller tone. On tape, the voice sounds at once more insistent and more fragile.

Consider the opening melody: only slightly removed from a spoken declamation, Tridia sings, "I’ve been all around the world"


above the delicate guitar. Two circular melodic figures immediately establish her credibility, power, cosmopolitan strength, and distance from us. Tridia sings it quietly, almost crooning. At the end of that opening tonic tone, her vibrato opens up, and there are right away three dimensions to her sound. In the next phrase of the opening antecedent, "Up and down, the highway of love,"


. Tridia meanders up to a few more notes of her register, and sits on the seventh of the chord, reaching up with a swerve to the ninth and back down in a small ornament, painting her words with a subtle upward gesture. Notice too that when her voice falls back, the "ow" vowel (of the word "down") opens with still greater color. The phrase finishes with a spoken declamation that brings us back to the root chord. It is a rounded phrase, expertly crafted, with the ninth hanging over the subdominant, like a geometric proof.
The contours of the consequent phrase


descend with a simple contrast, and deliver the bad news. Despite her cosmopolitan experience, and purported strength, her lyrics tell us that things have often gone poorly, painfully. Beneath the consequent melody one hears a second interruption in the background: a man exclaiming something ("I noticed—")


, but what follows is muffled and unintelligible. It is not clear how to read that ephemeral trace of a man’s voice. One approach to his fragmentary words concerns the question of Tridia’s lack of interlocutor—the instability of her address. Her melody is falling down, and follows the chord change from the subdominant back to the tonic. If she had spoken these same words, Tridia would be telling people—perhaps this man or her band mates—how she has been mistreated. But to take seriously the fact that this man’s mind is elsewhere as she sings, would seem to suggest that very little is currently being affectively conveyed, or openly acknowledged. It wouldn’t quite be fair or precise to say that he didn’t care about Tridia’s words or her pain. He may well have. But this is a rehearsal, and the two of them may be in their own cones of self-absorption. He may have heard this song five or six times in the last hour in this studio room, and it is just that he began doing something else during this take, as the run-through turned into an atmosphere for his thoughts. The affective landscape of a rehearsal can be disorderly.

Adding our ears to this social scene does not simplify things. It leaves us with the possibility that very little is expressed in the exact sound of the tape, or that as much is withheld, or never gets off the ground. With her sustained tones swelling into colorful vibratos, consider that Tridia might be singing with a composer’s mindset, and mulling over formal questions specific to the medium of her own voice. She might be wondering: Is this part of the song, bequeathed to her from her father, going to work adequately? At the bottom of this melody, there is a charming imperfection: "everybody’s clown" does not fit the declamation as well as the other lyrics. It is an inexpressive awkwardness, a formal wrinkle yet to be resolved, that indexes the provisional quality of the recording. Is the awkwardness of this phrase a good thing? Is it charming or distracting?

With a tape recording in hand, Tridia could mull these questions over later, with the benefit of hindsight, as if the song were a puzzle to be solved. For many years the cassette tape was provisional, its materiality fragile, but still reliable enough to function as a sketchbook that the band could use to prepare for live performances at clubs in Chicago. Now, after its 2004 re-release, it is enshrined in the streaming cloud of Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes by Numero’s curatorial platform, as a copy of space-time that refracts repeatedly, without loss or decay, a room at 4114 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in a greystone in Bronzeville. Caught in this paradoxical medium, the intentions animating Tridia’s performance are frozen in an ambiguous space. In the early 1970s her aims for this recording were likely provisional. They have now been repurposed into something potentially greater than what she once imagined.

To hear her expressivity accurately thus presents us with a puzzle: It is not easy to know what Tridia means. She could be marking her lines with a slight sense of absentmindedness, distracted by the self-consciousness of a composer contemplating the form of her own melody. She is the composer, performer, expresser, rehearsal participant, and archaic voice from the past all at once, with a song that is miles away from the transparency of ordinary language, or even from performative, heightened, or ecstatic speech. In the puzzle of its singular waveforms, the recording retains an inconsistent multiplicity of intentions.

Lulling us into a familiar place is the refrain: "And I’ll never, never, cry for another boy"


. It is a strange haunting melody to end this miniature verse. Her choice of pitches follows well the spoken declamation. Tridia could certainly be expressing something quite credibly based on her own experience with heartbreak. But, a refrain can drift away from its literal meaning as repetition sets in: "Never, never cry…" In what would initially appear to be a personally expressive performance, one finds an immersive abstraction.
There is, to be sure, still an underlying sense of direction and energy to her rhetoric. In the second phrase


, after she recounts no change in her love life, her melody is new, and the contour moves higher, and naturally, louder and more insistent. Correspondingly, the next two times she repeats this refrain


, she will sing a similar run of pitches, but in a higher register, with an marked sense of urgency


. If one pauses the recording after refrain three and starts over at the opening verse, one may be surprised how hushed Tridia’s singing initially is. In the very first phrases of the song, Tridia sang quietly with a subdued sense of resilience. Three minutes in, her mood is somewhat defiant.
In the vamp, Tridia’s gospel singing takes flight into a series of melismas

      (after 3:30)

. These repeated declarations propose that her last catharsis will not be an actual cry at the hands of abuse or a broken heart. Rather the catharsis will be this song—a work, a being, which survives her on tape—the sensuous embodiment of an empowered resolution made to an indeterminate public, many of whom will know nothing of her exact distress. What they will think and feel at the hands of a commodity remains quite open and unspoken. (Hence, our minds can wander when we listen back, particularly given the trance-inducing quality of her performance.)
Consider two of Tridia’s ecstatic glossolalias: "Baaay"


and "oooo"


. Under "Baay" the guitarist trips up playing a strum, as if overwhelmed by the impact of her scream, and forced to the point of a stutter in the rhythm of his forearm. Tridia’s "Baby" does not even make it into a full word; it sails outward into a cry that pierces like a dart. Her "ooo" is sung in a milky falsetto. We can listen to "ooo" next to "Baaay" in order to make palpable their parallel geometry: a sustained pitch followed by a tumbling melody. These glossolalias are apexes of expression—great sculptures of the song’s interior texture. They both reflect a loss of words, when the exaltation and the pain of the past are united in two soaring gestures.

Something about the ontology of singing makes it appear slightly absurd that this voice—with its words, movements, and winding impact—has anything in particular to express to us, in the way that someone we converse with might convey something they experienced. Tridia’s voice has historicity, but its form also flies high above any particular romantic or erotic trial. I would suggest that this is Tridia’s covert formalism. Without the legitimacy of an elaborate meta-discourse in institutional journals, her recording is somehow inexhaustible as an object of one’s attention, contemplation, and affective absorption. It stands as high and as permanent as anything within the confines of the work, the song, the album, the picture frame, the exhibition catalog, or the authority of the book that disrupts our senses—even without the polished and abstract purposiveness of a work. Without finality or attention to the last detail, a complex poetics stretches into the fabric of its contingent imperfections, against the 1970s intentions of the artists who never planned to release this version.

From its strange ontology, we can return again to the even stranger manifestation of its content: there is no exact crying being done. Her resolve is an abstracted one, by virtue of the simple fact that repetition is required. Tridia is playing a role, acting a bit, certainly not without some truth from her experience. But there is an exaggeration; a distancing that produces a poetic paradox. To spell out the lyrics and to listen to the wailing excess of her melismatic gestures is to hear Tridia at a moment of resolve and empowerment. And yet, her improvisations in the vamp themselves sound like crying—as if she were transgressing her own resolve in the same gesture with which she expresses it in language. Language cannot be transparently expressive when the signified meaning of a phrase is contradicted by the gesture of its delivery.

Language cannot be transparently expressive when the signified meaning of a phrase is contradicted by the gesture of its delivery.

Things get even more complicated if one takes the backup singers seriously. They sing repeatedly: "Never, never, never, cry." This is puzzling. Are they telling her not to cry? Why would they need to shore up her resolve if Tridia herself is so determined to not cry? Or are they intoning somewhat mechanical echoes that cannot be heard except in some kind of abstracted virtual space of Tridia’s songwriting? Of course, the echoes have a history, one that is defined by genre. They are riffing on a convention in doo-wop, in gospel, and in a vast web of call-and-response practices across the Black Atlantic.[6] Girl groups since the Motown era had been using backup singers to echo the words of the lead singer, and Tridia herself belonged to a Motown-inspired girl group called the Au Naturals as a teenager at Kenwood High School in Hyde Park.[7] And yet, as musically conventional as these lines are, their utterances are also somewhat surreal in their indeterminacy. Tridia’s cathartic pleas are flanked by these falling, even somewhat mechanical, melodic cries, shorn from any particular pain in some infinitely repeatable space, while Tridia, the star, sings out to us from the middle. It is a contradiction that seems to resist explanation.

Congealed within the tape is an elusive and open abstraction. A second reader of the vamp could plausibly have thoughts running in the opposite direction. One could hear consonance, harmony, and ethical resolve, in which the backup singers bolster and mirror the expression forwarded by Tridia’s vocals. Both readings work. What matters is that the form of this song is resolutely dialectical: the historical weight and expressive charges of this ballad are irrevocable, and they project life into the form of the song’s objecthood at the same time they do nothing and mysteriously withhold meaning.[8] Feeling momentarily stunned by this paradox, one may be enjoined to wonder: What is inside Tridia’s voice? Is there something directly linked to hers, ours, and others’ desire and pain? To a feminist protest? To a broader expression of blackness?

If the form of the recording entails abstraction, its significance is not universal; it is a complicated public object. It encapsulates personal heartbreak as much as it refracts a much larger totality—the gravity of what Fred Moten has described so powerfully as the phonographic black scream—an unpresentable shriek of pain and pleasure, a sonic protest amid the structural racism that undergirded the segregated South Side of Chicago. For Moten, there is "a certain personhood within the commodity that can be seen as the commodity’s animation by the material trace of the maternal—a palpable hit or touch, a bodily and visible phonographic inscription" (2003:17–18). Tridia’s voice, what Moten might call "an affirmative force of ruthless negation," exemplifies the form of a non-semantic and specifically musical paradox. Her voice is at once right there as a sensuous particularity, in our headphones, and yet also somehow difficult to comprehend. It is certainly structured by commoditized memories and expectations of what soul music can do. Soul music is a pleasurable commercial genre that brought gospel conventions into the world of rhythm and blues, and exploded in popularity during the 1960s; it was a black discovery of sonic abstraction in the form of phonographic inconsistency. And "I’ll Never Cry for Another Boy" fits securely within the genre. At the same time, the recording refracts W. E. B. Du Bois’s logic of the veil; there is an opacity to Tridia’s mode of address, a blackness that both satisfies and disrupts her white listeners’ desires with an experience and a historicity that retains a measure of difference (Du Bois, 4–5).

Compounding this dialectic is the fact that this song is also an archival fetish, a collector’s document of an ephemeral moment of collaboration that went undervalued by the culture industry. Tridia claimed she co-wrote the song, and that Arrow, her father, who ran the Bandit record label and produced the recordings the label released, deceitfully took all the credit for her songwriting (Mehr 2005). This is significant less for the royalties connected to the album—Arrow’s Bandit label lost money, and the comparatively small royalties connected to Numero’s reissue now go to Tridia. It is significant because Arrow’s studio version, arranged by Benjamin Wright (whose fast-moving career would soon take him to Los Angeles), substantially changes the rhetoric of the song. He transfigures the hypnotic feel of the alternating I-IV chords on the rehearsal recording into a complex harmonic landscape, with elaborate string arrangements, a spoken verse, and colorful overtones of psychedelic soul.[9]

When she handed the cassette of the rehearsal over to the Numero label for the reissue, Tridia told her curators they were recovering something special—something she had a hand in writing. Does retrospective purposiveness—an ephemeral home movie of sound caught by a cassette recorder—still count as purposiveness? How does its ephemerality function to fetishize its status on the periphery of capital? Or to reify it as an exemplum of black "authenticity?" A strategic formalism, an interpretation-driven act of listening, cannot avoid practicing and rehearsing such consumptive gestures.

Amid these dialectical contortions, the sensuous particularity of the recording, in all its inconsistent form, remains and is unleashed when one presses play. The recording will still exist as a relatively open object, ready to be filled with listeners’ unspoken desires, desires that are intertwined with Tridia’s for no particular reason. In the face of such complex and ineffable traffic, I would contend that there is a politics to a close reading that highlights the way this recording refracts and makes vivid these dialectical crosscurrents. It is a formalism that attends to the details of the song and the medium in dialogue with the axes of history and sociality, while remaining responsive to the impact of its affective charges. In this way, a formalist listening can be a politically engaged act, particularly when its poetics—a black woman’s collaborative poetics—too often do not count as form, and often only as peripheral culture.[10]

In close reading any sound recording, one cannot sustain that level of listening attention without ending up occasionally transfixed by the flux of time. In the twenty-first century, surely, dismemberment through sampling is always an option, and it need not result in death—the music can be brought to life anew (Piekut and Stanyek 2010, 14–38). But, in its sensuous particularity, the recording can come across as almost too alive. In her 1982 performance art work, "Funk Lessons," Adrian Piper describes the impact of funk music on a group of white intellectuals who are ironically being "taught" to dance to funk (a kind of music that, hilariously, shouldn’t require a formalized pedagogy). She describes the flood of funk music as an "undeniable experience" (Piper 2006, 134). To me, these minimal words are apt for describing the specificity of the recorded musical object. The song is a ride, an undeniable ride that takes you along in its wake. In the case of Tridia’s song, it is a hushed ride in a delicate social space. A strange ride, because it brings us up against a no-longer-existing room in the South Side of Chicago, filled with the rich atmospheres of rooms in this greystone that we have not felt. But it is not a statement, a proposition, a message, or a representation. It is an acoustic transduction of a room that carries the listener through an inconsistent and opaque web of sounds.

The intermedial humanities propose to work across the boundaries of word, image, and sound.

The intermedial humanities propose to work across the boundaries of word, image, and sound. Many with intermedial interests, by virtue of the way the humanities are organized, work in the fields of literature, art history, performance studies, or film and media. Others work with some kind of mixture, particularly those who are interested in sound. Critical theory is, for some, a lingua franca that allows humanities scholars from different fields to converse with one another regardless of medium, period, cultural locale, or geographic area. But beyond the mastery of various theories and methods, scholars are increasingly called upon to describe, defend, and even reformulate the core methods of humanities disciplines.

Scholars in sound studies have done an excellent job of detailing its cultural and media history, and begun to formulate rich theoretical approaches to the ontology and philosophy of sound, music, and the voice. What still seems to be developing, in my view, are methods and critical debates about how to interpret sound recordings with a close level of attention to detail. Given the interdisciplinary ambition of sound studies, one’s technical vocabulary for interpretations of music is often limited by comparison with the scholarly methods of musical analysis. But a close reading of a sound recording can benefit from non-systematic approaches to its objects. It can readily assimilate vernacular observations and analyses of music, something increasingly of interest to music theorists.[11] Moreover, new media formats, time codes, and the ease of editing a digital snippet or loops also make it easier to point to sonic details. Digital recordings allow those with expertise in sound recording and production techniques to point to such details through a poetics that is specific to the recording studio. A multitude of analytical vocabularies can link specified sounds to interpretive gestures.

Guiding the outlines of the close reading are some of the basics that have long been native to the practice of critical interpretation: the language of paradox, of irony, of small details in form, and their relationship to the organization of the whole. I add to this the materialist imperative about the weight of social content and the potential for resistance. It is all steadied by a sober sense of what the recording can handle, and what brings it to life for the listener. It gets at an illuminating explanation of all that it means, and all that it might disrupt.


  1. Many thanks to Emily Ruth Capper, Berthold Hoeckner, Travis Jackson, Andy Flory, Tsitsi Ella Jaji, Timothy Brennan, Jairo Moreno, Steven Rings, James Chandler, and the participants at Duke University’s Humanities Futures seminar, the University of Chicago Society of Fellows text seminar participants, and the attendees of the Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature Colloquium at the University of Minnesota for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this essay. I am indebted to Clare Koury for first bringing this inspiring recording of the Majestic Arrows to my attention. A larger thanks goes to her and to the other students of my two quarters of Media Aesthetics: Sound in the Humanities Core at the University of Chicago who inspired many of the questions I began to pursue in this piece. Two other key sources of motivation were Charles Kronengold’s (2005) article,"Accidents, Hooks, and Theory," and Carolyn Abbate’s (2011) "Overlooking the Ephemeral." Also see Cook, et. al. (2009).
  2. In order to clearly distinguish Tridia Brown from Arrow Brown in this essay, I will refer to them by their first names.
  3. See Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label (Numero Group, 2004). From 2011–12, Numero staff members Ryan Boyle and Bob Mehr (2013) wrote an in-depth narrative documentation of the Bandit label, now included as an insert to a new 3-LP edition, released in January 2013. Also see Robert Sevier’s comments on Arrow’s difficulties with distributors in Mehr (2005). On the complexity of record distribution in Chicago soul, see Pruter (1992, 4–8). Note that Mehr and Boyle report that Tridia wrote "I’ll Never Cry for Another Boy." When I interviewed Tridia on January 29, 2016, she reported that she had co-written the song with her father.
  4. Thanks to Andy Flory who remarked over email that other Memphis-based guitarists like Teenie Hodges played similarly, and that Marvin Tarplin, a Motown-based guitarist, might be a second point of reference, since he preferred plucking on the three lower strings. With regard to lyrics, Steven Rings has remarked that Tridia’s line, "I’ll always walk in the rain" might refer to the sorrow of the 1964 Ronnettes’ ballad "Walking in the Rain." Likewise the phrases "I’ve been everybody’s clown" and "tears of a baby" echo the memorable title of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1967 hit, "The Tears of a Clown."
  5. On a detailed history of the labels and social networks that supported the 1960s’ and ‘70s’ boom of soul music in Chicago, see Pruter (1992). For a broader history of soul music, see Hirshey (1984). For a set of interpretive essays on cover songs in soul music, see Awkward (2007).
  6. On the call-and-response trope in music of the African diaspora, see Floyd’s chapter on "The Object of Call–Response: The Signifyin(g) Symbol" (1995, 226–66).
  7. On Tridia’s musical biography, see Boyle and Mehr (2013, 24).
  8. At midcentury, Monroe Beardsley and William K. Wimsatt famously argued for a formalist view of literature that did not take account of the author’s intent or of affective and emotional registers of meaning. See Beardsley and Wimsatt (1987; 1971).
  9. On Arrow Brown’s studio collaborators, see Boyle and Mehr (2013, 10–11, 30).
  10. Such an approach has affinities with the "strategic formalism" developed by English (2007, 31–2).
  11. Vernacular sources for musical analysis are particularly interesting in cases where there is an ambiguity in the musical structure that engenders debate and disagreement. Steven Rings (2016) discusses online debates about the ambiguous tonal center of Daft Punk’s 2013 single "Get Lucky." Nathan D. Hesselink similarly discusses metrical ambiguity in Radiohead’s 2001 "Pyramid Song" (2013).



Abbate, Carolyn. 2011. "Das Ephemere übersehen" [Overlooking the Ephemeral]. In Latenz: Blinde Passagiere in den Geisteswissenschaften, edited by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and Florian Klinger, 23–50. Göttingen: Vanenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Awkward, Michael. 2007. Soul Covers. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Bandit Records. 2004. Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label. Chicago: Numero Group.

Barthes, Roland. 1985. "Listening." In Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Art, Music, and Representation, translated by Richard Howard, 245–60. New York: Hill & Wang.

Beardsley, Monroe, and William K. Wimsatt. 1987. "The Intentional Fallacy." In Philosophy Looks at the Arts, 3rd ed., edited by Joseph Margolis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Beardsley, Monroe, and William K. Wimsatt. 1971. "The Affective Fallacy." In Critical Theory since Plato, edited by Hazard Adams. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Boyle, Ryan, and Bob Mehr. 2013. Liner notes to Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label, Bandit Records. 3LP Vinyl. Chicago: Numero Group.

Cook, Nicholas, Eric Clarke, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and John Rink. 2009. The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Du Bois, W.E.B. (1903) 1996. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Penguin Classics.

English, Darby. 2007. How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Floyd, Samuel A. 1995. "The Object of Call–Response: The Signifyin(g) Symbol." In The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from Africa to the United States, 226–66. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hesselink, Nathan D. 2013. "Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’: Ambiguity, Rhythm, and Participation." Music Theory Online 19 (1). http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.13.19.1/mto.13.19.1.hesselink.php

Hirshey, Gerri. 1984. Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. New York: Times Books.

Kronengold, Charles. 2005. "Accidents, Hooks, and Theory." Popular Music 24 (3): 381–97.

Mehr, Bob. 2005. "The Godfather of King Drive." Chicago Reader (April 21). http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-godfather-of-king-drive/Content?oid=918575.

Moten, Fred. 2003. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Piekut, Benjamin, and Jason Stanyek. 2010. "Deadness: Technologies of the Intermundane." Drama Review 54 (1): 14–38.

Piper, Adrian. 2006. "Notes on Funk I/II//1985/83." In Participation, edited by Claire Bishop, 130–134. London: Whitechapel.

Pruter, Robert. 1992. Chicago Soul. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Rings, Steven. 2016. "Tonic." Oxford Handbooks Online. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190454746.013.6

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For the original 1950s style of rock music, see Rock and roll. For other uses, see Rock music (disambiguation).

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States.[1][2] It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the African-American genres of blues and rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass and drums and one or more singers. Typically, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

By the late 1960s "classic rock"[1] period, a number of distinct rock music subgenres had emerged, including hybrids like blues rock, folk rock, country rock, raga rock, and jazz-rock, many of which contributed to the development of psychedelic rock, which was influenced by the counterculturalpsychedelic and hippie scene. New genres that emerged included progressive rock, which extended the artistic elements; glam rock, which highlighted showmanship and visual style; and the diverse and enduring subgenre of heavy metal, which emphasized volume, power, and speed. In the second half of the 1970s, punk rock reacted by producing stripped-down, energetic social and political critiques. Punk was an influence in the 1980s on new wave, post-punk and eventually alternative rock. From the 1990s alternative rock began to dominate rock music and break into the mainstream in the form of grunge, Britpop, and indie rock. Further fusion subgenres have since emerged, including pop punk, electronic rock, rap rock, and rap metal, as well as conscious attempts to revisit rock's history, including the garage rock/post-punk and techno-pop revivals at the beginning of the 2000s.

Rock music has also embodied and served as the vehicle for cultural and social movements, leading to major subcultures including mods and rockers in the UK and the hippie counterculture that spread out from San Francisco in the US in the 1960s. Similarly, 1970s punk culture spawned the goth, punk, and emo subcultures. Inheriting the folk tradition of the protest song, rock music has been associated with political activism as well as changes in social attitudes to race, sex and drug use, and is often seen as an expression of youth revolt against adult consumerism and conformity.


A good definition of rock, in fact, is that it's popular music that to a certain degree doesn't care if it's popular.
—  Vulture.com[3]

The sound of rock is traditionally centered on the amplifiedelectric guitar, which emerged in its modern form in the 1950s with the popularization of rock and roll,[4] and was influenced by the sounds of electric blues guitarists.[5] The sound of an electric guitar in rock music is typically supported by an electric bass guitar, which pioneered in jazz music in the same era,[6] and percussion produced from a drum kit that combines drums and cymbals.[7] This trio of instruments has often been complemented by the inclusion of other instruments, particularly keyboards such as the piano, Hammond organ and synthesizers.[8] The basic rock instrumentation was adapted from the basic blues band instrumentation (prominent lead guitar, second chordal instrument, bass, and drums).[5] A group of musicians performing rock music is termed a rock band or rock group and typically consists of between three–the power trio–and five members. Classically, a rock band takes the form of a quartet whose members cover one or more roles, including vocalist, lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bass guitarist, drummer and often that of keyboard player or other instrumentalist.[9]

Rock music is traditionally built on a foundation of simple unsyncopated rhythms in a 4/4 meter, with a repetitive snare drum back beat on beats two and four.[10] Melodies are often derived from older musical modes, including the Dorian and Mixolydian, as well as major and minor modes. Harmonies range from the common triad to parallel fourths and fifths and dissonant harmonic progressions.[10] Rock songs, since the late 1950s[11] and particularly from the mid-1960s onwards, often used the verse-chorus structure derived from blues and folk music, but there has been considerable variation from this model.[12] Critics have stressed the eclecticism and stylistic diversity of rock.[13] Because of its complex history and tendency to borrow from other musical and cultural forms, it has been argued that "it is impossible to bind rock music to a rigidly delineated musical definition."[14]

Unlike many earlier styles of popular music, rock lyrics have dealt with a wide range of themes in addition to romantic love: including sex, rebellion against "The Establishment", social concerns and life styles.[10] These themes were inherited from a variety of sources, including the Tin Pan Alley pop tradition, folk music and rhythm and blues.[15] Music journalist Robert Christgau characterizes rock lyrics as a "cool medium" with simple diction and repeated refrains, and asserts that rock's primary "function" "pertains to music, or, more generally, noise."[16] The predominance of white, male and often middle class musicians in rock music has often been noted[17] and rock has been seen as an appropriation of black musical forms for a young, white and largely male audience.[18] As a result, it has been seen as articulating the concerns of this group in both style and lyrics.[19] Christgau, writing in 1972, said in spite of some exceptions, "rock and roll usually implies an identification of male sexuality and aggression".[20]

Since the term rock began to be used in preference to rock and roll from the late-1960s, it has often been contrasted with pop music, with which it has shared many characteristics, but from which it is often distanced by an emphasis on musicianship, live performance and a focus on serious and progressive themes as part of an ideology of authenticity that is frequently combined with an awareness of the genre's history and development.[21] According to Simon Frith "rock was something more than pop, something more than rock and roll. Rock musicians combined an emphasis on skill and technique with the romantic concept of art as artistic expression, original and sincere".[21] In the new millennium the term rock has sometimes been used as a blanket term including forms such as pop music, reggae music, soul music, and even hip hop, with which it has been influenced but often contrasted through much of its history.[22]

1950s: Rock and roll[edit]

Main article: Rock and roll

See also: Origins of rock and roll and Rockabilly

The foundations of rock music are in rock and roll, which originated in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to much of the rest of the world. Its immediate origins lay in a melding of various black musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues and gospel music, with country and western.[23] In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues music (then termed "race music") for a multi-racial audience, and is credited with first using the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the music.[24]

Debate surrounds which record should be considered the first rock and roll record. Contenders include Goree Carter's "Rock Awhile" (1949);[25]Jimmy Preston's "Rock the Joint" (1949), which was later covered by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1952;[26] and "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (in fact, Ike Turner and his band the Kings of Rhythm), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1951.[27] Four years later, Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) became the first rock and roll song to top Billboard magazine's main sales and airplay charts, and opened the door worldwide for this new wave of popular culture.[28][29]

It has also been argued that "That's All Right (Mama)" (1954), Elvis Presley's first single for Sun Records in Memphis, could be the first rock and roll record,[30] but, at the same time, Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll", later covered by Haley, was already at the top of the Billboard R&B charts. Other artists with early rock and roll hits included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent.[27] Soon rock and roll was the major force in American record sales and crooners, such as Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and Patti Page, who had dominated the previous decade of popular music, found their access to the pop charts significantly curtailed.[31]

Rock and roll has been seen as leading to a number of distinct subgenres, including rockabilly, combining rock and roll with "hillbilly" country music, which was usually played and recorded in the mid-1950s by white singers such as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and with the greatest commercial success, Elvis Presley.[32] In contrast doo wop placed an emphasis on multi-part vocal harmonies and meaningless backing lyrics (from which the genre later gained its name), which were usually supported with light instrumentation and had its origins in 1930s and 1940s African American vocal groups.[33] Acts like the Crows, the Penguins, the El Dorados and the Turbans all scored major hits, and groups like the Platters, with songs including "The Great Pretender" (1955),[34] and the Coasters with humorous songs like "Yakety Yak" (1958),[35] ranked among the most successful rock and roll acts of the period.[36]

The era also saw the growth in popularity of the electric guitar, and the development of a specifically rock and roll style of playing through such exponents as Chuck Berry, Link Wray, and Scotty Moore.[37] The use of distortion, pioneered by electric blues guitarists such as Guitar Slim,[38]Willie Johnson and Pat Hare in the early 1950s,[39] was popularized by Chuck Berry in the mid-1950s.[40] The use of power chords, pioneered by Willie Johnson and Pat Hare in the early 1950s,[39] was popularized by Link Wray in the late 1950s.[41]

In the United Kingdom, the trad jazz and folk movements brought visiting blues music artists to Britain.[42]Lonnie Donegan's 1955 hit "Rock Island Line" was a major influence and helped to develop the trend of skiffle music groups throughout the country, many of which, including John Lennon's Quarrymen, moved on to play rock and roll.[43]

Commentators have traditionally perceived a decline of rock and roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By 1959, the death of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a plane crash, the departure of Elvis for the army, the retirement of Little Richard to become a preacher, prosecutions of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry and the breaking of the payola scandal (which implicated major figures, including Alan Freed, in bribery and corruption in promoting individual acts or songs), gave a sense that the rock and roll era established at that point had come to an end.[44]

Early 1960s[edit]

Pop rock and instrumental rock[edit]

Main articles: Pop rock and Instrumental rock

See also: Doo Wop, British rock and roll, and Soul music

The term pop has been used since the early 20th century to refer to popular music in general, but from the mid-1950s it began to be used for a distinct genre, aimed at a youth market, often characterized as a softer alternative to rock and roll.[45][46] From about 1967, it was increasingly used in opposition to the term rock music, to describe a form that was more commercial, ephemeral and accessible.[21] In contrast rock music was seen as focusing on extended works, particularly albums, was often associated with particular sub-cultures (like the counterculture of the 1960s), placed an emphasis on artistic values and "authenticity", stressed live performance and instrumental or vocal virtuosity and was often seen as encapsulating progressive developments rather than simply reflecting existing trends.[21][45][46][47] Nevertheless, much pop and rock music has been very similar in sound, instrumentation and even lyrical content.[nb 1]

The period of the later 1950s and early 1960s has traditionally been seen as an era of hiatus for rock and roll.[51] More recently some authors[weasel words] have emphasised important innovations and trends in this period without which future developments would not have been possible.[52][53] While early rock and roll, particularly through the advent of rockabilly, saw the greatest commercial success for male and white performers, in this era the genre was dominated by black and female artists. Rock and roll had not disappeared at the end of the 1950s and some of its energy can be seen in the Twist dance craze of the early 1960s, mainly benefiting the career of Chubby Checker.[53][nb 2]

Cliff Richard had the first British rock and roll hit with "Move It", effectively ushering in the sound of British rock.[56] At the start of the 1960s, his backing group the Shadows was the most successful group recording instrumentals.[57] While rock 'n' roll was fading into lightweight pop and ballads, British rock groups at clubs and local dances, heavily influenced by blues-rock pioneers like Alexis Korner, were starting to play with an intensity and drive seldom found in white American acts.[58]

Also significant was the advent of soul music as a major commercial force. Developing out of rhythm and blues with a re-injection of gospel music and pop, led by pioneers like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke from the mid-1950s,[59] by the early 1960s figures like Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder were dominating the R&B charts and breaking through into the main pop charts, helping to accelerate their desegregation, while Motown and Stax/Volt Records were becoming major forces in the record industry.[60][nb 3] Some historians of music[weasel words] have also pointed to important and innovative technical developments that built on rock and roll in this period, including the electronic treatment of sound by such innovators as Joe Meek, and the elaborate production methods of the Wall of Sound pursued by Phil Spector.[53]

Surf music[edit]

Main article: Surf music

The instrumental rock and roll of performers such as Duane Eddy, Link Wray and the Ventures was developed by Dick Dale, who added distinctive "wet" reverb, rapid alternate picking, and Middle Eastern and Mexican influences. He produced the regional hit "Let's Go Trippin'" in 1961 and launched the surf music craze, following up with songs like "Misirlou" (1962).[62] Like Dale and his Del-Tones, most early surf bands were formed in Southern California, including the Bel-Airs, the Challengers, and Eddie & the Showmen.[62]The Chantays scored a top ten national hit with "Pipeline" in 1963 and probably the best known surf tune was 1963's "Wipe Out", by the Surfaris, which hit number 2 and number 10 on the Billboard charts in 1965.[63]

Surf music achieved its greatest commercial success as vocal music, particularly the work of the Beach Boys, formed in 1961 in Southern California. Their early albums included both instrumental surf rock (among them covers of music by Dick Dale) and vocal songs, drawing on rock and roll and doo wop and the close harmonies of vocal pop acts like the Four Freshmen.[citation needed] Their first chart hit, "Surfin'" in 1962 reached the Billboard top 100 and helped make the surf music craze a national phenomenon.[64] The surf music craze and the careers of almost all surf acts was effectively ended by the arrival of the British Invasion from 1964.[citation needed][nb 4]

British Invasion[edit]

Main article: British Invasion

See also: Beat music, British blues, and British rock

By the end of 1962, what would become the British rock scene had started with beat groups like the Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the Searchers from Liverpool and Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman's Hermits and the Hollies from Manchester. They drew on a wide range of American influences including soul, rhythm and blues and surf music,[65] initially reinterpreting standard American tunes and playing for dancers. Bands like the Animals from Newcastle and Them from Belfast,[66] and particularly those from London like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, were much more directly influenced by rhythm and blues and later blues music.[67] Soon these groups were composing their own material, combining US forms of music and infusing it with a high energy beat. Beat bands tended towards "bouncy, irresistible melodies", while early British blues acts tended towards less sexually innocent, more aggressive songs, often adopting an anti-establishment stance. There was, however, particularly in the early stages, considerable musical crossover between the two tendencies.[68] By 1963, led by the Beatles, beat groups had begun to achieve national success in Britain, soon to be followed into the charts by the more rhythm and blues focused acts.[69]

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the Beatles' first number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100,[70] spending 7 weeks at the top and a total of 15 weeks on the chart.[71][72] Their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964, drawing an estimated 73 million viewers (at the time a record for an American television program) is often considered a milestone in American pop culture. During the week of 4 April 1964, the Beatles held twelve positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, including the entire top five. The Beatles went on to become the biggest selling rock band of all time and they were followed into the US charts by numerous British bands.[68] During the next two years British acts dominated their own and the US charts with Peter and Gordon, the Animals,[73]Manfred Mann, Petula Clark,[73] Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman's Hermits, the Rolling Stones,[74]the Troggs, and Donovan[75] all having one or more number one singles.[71] Other major acts that were part of the invasion included the Kinks and the Dave Clark Five.[76][77]

The British Invasion helped internationalize the production of rock and roll, opening the door for subsequent British (and Irish) performers to achieve international success.[78] In America it arguably spelled the end of instrumental surf music, vocal girl groups and (for a time) the teen idols, that had dominated the American charts in the late 1950s and 1960s.[79] It dented the careers of established R&B acts like Fats Domino and Chubby Checker and even temporarily derailed the chart success of surviving rock and roll acts, including Elvis.[80] The British Invasion also played a major part in the rise of a distinct genre of rock music, and cemented the primacy of the rock group, based on guitars and drums and producing their own material as singer-songwriters.[33]

Garage rock[edit]

Main article: Garage rock

Garage rock was a raw form of rock music, particularly prevalent in North America in the mid-1960s and so called because of the perception that it was rehearsed in the suburban family garage.[81][82] Garage rock songs often revolved around the traumas of high school life, with songs about "lying girls" being particularly common.[83] The lyrics and delivery tended to be more aggressive than was common at the time, often with growled or shouted vocals that dissolved into incoherent screaming.[81] They ranged from crude one-chord music (like the Seeds) to near-studio musician quality (including the Knickerbockers, the Remains, and the Fifth Estate). There were also regional variations in many parts of the country with flourishing scenes particularly in California and Texas.[83] The Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon had perhaps[according to whom?] the most defined regional sound.[84]

The style had been evolving from regional scenes as early as 1958. "Tall Cool One" (1959) by The Wailers and "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (1963) are mainstream examples of the genre in its formative stages.[85] By 1963, garage band singles were creeping into the national charts in greater numbers, including Paul Revere and the Raiders (Boise),[86]the Trashmen (Minneapolis)[87] and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana).[88] Other influential garage bands, such as the Sonics (Tacoma, Washington), never reached the Billboard Hot 100.[89]

The British Invasion greatly influenced garage bands, providing them with a national audience, leading many (often surf or hot rod groups) to adopt a British influence, and encouraging many more groups to form.[83] Thousands of garage bands were extant in the US and Canada during the era and hundreds produced regional hits.[83] Despite scores of bands being signed to major or large regional labels, most were commercial failures. It is generally agreed that garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically around 1966.[83] By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts and at the local level as amateur musicians faced college, work or the draft.[83] New styles had evolved to replace garage rock.[83][nb 5]

Psychedelia and progressivism[edit]

Blues and folk fusions[edit]

Blues rock[edit]

Main article: Blues rock

See also: British blues

Although the first impact of the British Invasion on American popular music was through beat and R&B based acts, the impetus was soon taken up by a second wave of bands that drew their inspiration more directly from American blues, including the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.[91] British blues musicians of the late 1950s and early 1960s had been inspired by the acoustic playing of figures such as Lead Belly, who was a major influence on the Skiffle craze, and Robert Johnson.[92] Increasingly they adopted a loud amplified sound, often centered on the electric guitar, based on the Chicago blues, particularly after the tour of Britain by Muddy Waters in 1958, which prompted Cyril Davies and guitarist Alexis Korner to form the band Blues Incorporated.[93] The band involved and inspired many of the figures of the subsequent British blues boom, including members of the Rolling Stones and Cream, combining blues standards and forms with rock instrumentation and emphasis.[58]

The other key focus for British blues was John Mayall; his band, the Bluesbreakers, included Eric Clapton (after his departure from the Yardbirds) and later Peter Green. Particularly significant was the release of Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (Beano) album (1966), considered one of the seminal British blues recordings and the sound of which was much emulated in both Britain and the United States.[94] Eric Clapton went on to form supergroups Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, followed by an extensive solo career that helped bring blues rock into the mainstream.[93] Green, along with the Bluesbreaker's rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, formed Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, who enjoyed some of the greatest commercial success in the genre.[93] In the late 1960s Jeff Beck, also an alumnus of the Yardbirds, moved blues rock in the direction of heavy rock with his band, the Jeff Beck Group.[93] The last Yardbirds guitarist was Jimmy Page, who went on to form The New Yardbirds which rapidly became Led Zeppelin. Many of the songs on their first three albums, and occasionally later in their careers, were expansions on traditional blues songs.[93]

In America, blues rock had been pioneered in the early 1960s by guitarist Lonnie Mack,[95] but the genre began to take off in the mid-1960s as acts developed a sound similar to British blues musicians. Key acts included Paul Butterfield (whose band acted like Mayall's Bluesbreakers in Britain as a starting point for many successful musicians), Canned Heat, the early Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, the J. Geils Band and Jimi Hendrix with his power trios, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, whose guitar virtuosity and showmanship would be among the most emulated of the decade.[93] Blues rock bands from the southern states, like the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and ZZ Top, incorporated country elements into their style to produce distinctive Southern rock.[96]

Early blues rock bands often emulated jazz, playing long, involved improvisations, which would later be a major element of progressive rock. From about 1967 bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience had moved away from purely blues-based music into psychedelia.[97] By the 1970s, blues rock had become heavier and more riff-based, exemplified by the work of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and the lines between blues rock and hard rock "were barely visible",[97] as bands began recording rock-style albums.[97] The genre was continued in the 1970s by figures such as George Thorogood and Pat Travers,[93] but, particularly on the British scene (except perhaps for the advent of groups such as Status Quo and Foghat who moved towards a form of high energy and repetitive boogie rock), bands became focused on heavy metal innovation, and blues rock began to slip out of the mainstream.[98]

Folk rock[edit]

Main article: Folk rock

By the 1960s, the scene that had developed out of the American folk music revival had grown to a major movement, utilising traditional music and new compositions in a traditional style, usually on acoustic instruments.[99] In America the genre was pioneered by figures such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and often identified with progressive or labor politics.[99] In the early sixties figures such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan had come to the fore in this movement as singer-songwriters.[100] Dylan had begun to reach a mainstream audience with hits including "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "Masters of War" (1963), which brought "protest songs" to a wider public,[101] but, although beginning to influence each other, rock and folk music had remained largely separate genres, often with mutually exclusive audiences.[102]

Early attempts to combine elements of folk and rock included the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" (1964), which was the first commercially successful folk song to be recorded with rock and roll instrumentation[103] and the Beatles "I'm a Loser" (1964), arguably the first Beatles song to be influenced directly by Dylan.[104] The folk rock movement is usually thought to have taken off with The Byrds' recording of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" which topped the charts in 1965.[102] With members who had been part of the cafe-based folk scene in Los Angeles, the Byrds adopted rock instrumentation, including drums and 12-string Rickenbacker guitars, which became a major element in the sound of the genre.[102] Later that year Dylan adopted electric instruments, much to the outrage of many folk purists, with his "Like a Rolling Stone" becoming a US hit single.[102] Folk rock particularly took off in California, where it led acts like the Mamas & the Papas and Crosby, Stills and Nash to move to electric instrumentation, and in New York, where it spawned performers including The Lovin' Spoonful and Simon and Garfunkel, with the latter's acoustic "The Sounds of Silence" (1965) being remixed with rock instruments to be the first of many hits.[102]

These acts directly influenced British performers like Donovan and Fairport Convention.[102] In 1969 Fairport Convention abandoned their mixture of American covers and Dylan-influenced songs to play traditional English folk music on electric instruments.[105] This British folk rock was taken up by bands including Pentangle, Steeleye Span and the Albion Band, which in turn prompted Irish groups like Horslips and Scottish acts like the JSD Band, Spencer's Feat and later Five Hand Reel, to use their traditional music to create a brand of Celtic rock in the early 1970s.[106]

Folk rock reached its peak of commercial popularity in the period 1967–68, before many acts moved off in a variety of directions, including Dylan and the Byrds, who began to develop country rock.[107] However, the hybridization of folk and rock has been seen as having a major influence on the development of rock music, bringing in elements of psychedelia, and helping to develop the ideas of the singer-songwriter, the protest song and concepts of "authenticity".

Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2006, showing a quartet lineup for a rock band (from left to right: bassist, lead vocalist, drummer, and guitarist).
A simple 4/4 drum pattern common in rock music  Play (help·info)
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