From baseball and television to air conditioning and Coca-Cola, the United States has offered the world no shortage of contributions. Few of those contributions, however, can hold a candle to the one American export that completes the vaunted triple crown of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.
Born at the crossroads of gospel, country, jazz, and R&B, rock ’n’ roll emerged in earnest in the boom years after World War II. While conservatives, traditionalists, religious fundamentalists, and squares of all stripes tried their hardest to force the rock ’n’ roll genie back in its bottle, there was no turning back once the music met their children’s ears.
Marilyn Manson once said, “Society has traditionally always tried to find scapegoats for its problems. Well here I am.” If rock music were a person, it could have made the exact same statement about itself. From Elvis’ hips to hippie hair to heavy metal headbanging, rock music has been blamed for every perceived societal decline that’s taken place since the 1950s.
The problem is, it’s just so cool. It’s so cool, in fact, that the lucky few who ascend to the genre’s highest level of celebrity earn the title that is more coveted than any other in American popular culture: rock star.
Rock stars fill stadiums, earn millions, command the attention of legions of adoring fans, and steer societal trends. Their music has changed society, launched protest movements, and defined entire eras. Whatever they eat, drink, wear, or do is immediately copied by the masses who immerse themselves in the mythology, tragedy, and unrelenting excesses synonymous with the movement.
Rock ’n’ roll expanded over the years and decades to include spinoff subgenres like punk, heavy metal, industrial rock, alternative music, psychedelic, and grunge. Although it might seem like a vast ocean separates Little Richard from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they both have one thing in common: They rock.
Using a variety of sources, Stacker created a loosely chronological list of 50 moments in history that defined rock ’n’ roll. From its earliest conception to its current state, the journey has been loud, debaucherous, and frequently reviled. After seven or so decades, however, one thing is certain: Rock ’n’ roll is here to stay.
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