This semester in class we’ve learned about many of the different genres that exist in Rock and Roll. Some genres sound very similar and some sound very different, but each genre was most likely inspired by a different genre and wouldn’t exist without it, or them. Each genre has a number of great artists that play that kind of music or were inspired by it.
The Misfits are a punk band often classified as “horror punk” because they blended their musical influences with horror films’ themes and imagery. The band was founded in 1977 in New Jersey and had a six year stunt with the original band members, including Glenn Danzig as the vocalist and Jerry Only as the bassist. In 1995 Only reformed the band excluding Glenn Danzig, throughout the years the Misfits had 17 different members in total with Jerry Only being the only original member to make it through to this day. In multiple interviews, and the band’s personal biography, Only said that the band was influenced by the early rock and roll of the ’50s. He also stated “The backbone of punk has always been the 3-chord progression which was ultimately inspired by classic rock and roll of the 1950’s.” The band used very big theatrics that were usually horror and monster themed, but they also refused to acknowledge worldly issues in their songs or performances because they believed that their fans came to have fun and could hear about politics elsewhere.
In 1997 the Misfits released their first “comeback album” as the new, revamped version. The album was titled American Psycho and music videos for the songs Dig Up Her Bones and American Psycho were so theatrical that they topped music tv charts all over the world and were shown at film festivals in and out of the U.S. This band is credited with creating a whole new sub-genre, horror punk, and influencing bands like Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer. Alice in Chains was considered, by some people, both Metal and Grunge. Their sound was hard enough for metal fans but their dark subject matter and punk style placed them at the forefront of Seattle’s grunge scene. The band’s Guitarist and Songwriter, Jerry Cantrell, leaned more towards the mainstream but the band’s vocalist, Layne Staley, was fascinated by the underground scene, this internal tension helped them raise to fame in the early years but it also eventually lead to their downfall. The tension was “near-crippling” and kept the band from fulfilling their full potential.
However, the band did rise to fame and their second album Dirt reached multi-platinum status. Jerry Cantrell wrote the songs and he said that he grew up listening to almost every kind of music there was and believes that they all influenced him in work, he even claimed that the dark elements of classical music “stuck” as influences. In an interview he stated that AC/DC was his favorite band and one of his biggest influences, even despite Alice in Chains not having the AC/DC sound. One of the things that made Alice in Chains unique was that they indulged fans’ depression which was noteworthy at the time because depression wasn’t something that was being discussed at the time. Another reason they were so unique and memorable was the lead singer’s voice. Layne Staley had a very distinct and likeable voice, in fact he is often credited with one of the most memorable voices in music.
While most vocalists have a some kind of similarities with another singer, Layne Staley had a voice that was all his own and didn’t sound like anyone else. His ability to project vulnerability and power in his voice coupled with the unique and complementary sound he created when singing with Jerry Cantrell is a style that would be years after Alice in Chains became a household name. This band not only influenced grunge fans but it also shaped the sound of hard rock and metal, even inspiring bands like Metallica and Pantera to adjust their sounds to sound more like what Alice in Chains did on Dirt.Donna Summers is referred to as the “Queen of Disco”.
In 1975 Donna Summers co-wrote and recorded a track called Love to Love You Baby which she initially intended to give to another artist, she ended up keeping the song for herself. However, the sounds of this song were so suggestive that many radio stations initially refused to play it, but that didn’t stop the path-breaking track to become a hit overnight. The track skyrocketed to No.
2 on the music charts. Donna Summers continued with her career and released two more albums in 1976 that were enormous successes. In 1978 her song Last Dance won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. In 1979 she achieved the biggest commercial success of her career with the album Bad Girls and she also became the first female artist to score three No. 1 singles in one calendar year.
In the early 80’s Summers left disco briefly, but she returned to the scene in 1983. Being as influential and ground breaking as she was she definitely inspired a lot of other musical artists, that list surprisingly includes David Bowie. Artists from many different genres have covered her songs and/or credited her as one of their influences. She shaped the dance music landscape and defined the disco era. In addition, her influences can be found in many different R&B genres as well. Donna Summers was also inspiring to women of color and was the first African-American woman to win a Grammy. Public Enemy is a hip-hop group that was formed in New York in 1982. After the groups debut album was released they almost went completely unnoticed, except by hip-hop insiders.
However, their second album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back took the world by storm, it was hailed one of hip-hop’s masterpieces and eventually sold a million copies. The group’s first Top Ten album was Fear of a Black Planet, it explored the nature of white racism and called on African-Americans to unite. Public Enemy teamed up with Anthrax to redo one of their songs as well as doing a joint tour together, the group also opened for U2’s Zoo Tv Tour. Most of the things that the groups did were politically focused, this made them special but also pretty controversial. Every element of the Public Enemy “brand” was designed to draw maximum attention to their rebooted black power message. This group was different from others because they did things to raise awareness for issues that were more than just their own. Many people say that the messages in Public Enemy’s songs are still relevant and the fear that they convey still seems real to this day.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Ray Charles was called the father of soul because he practically invented soul music by bringing together gospel music, the lyrics and narratives of blues and country, the big-band arrangements of jazz, and the rhythms and improvisation possibilities of them all. At age six Charles suffered from glaucoma and lost his vision. He did not however let this slow down his love of music, instead he just learned to compose songs in braille.
He was by the popular Nat “King” Cole. His first Top Ten hit was Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand, it reached the charts in 1951. His song I got a Woman featured a seven-piece band fronted by Charles on pounding gospel piano and a new raspy, exuberant vocal sound. His albums from the mid-sixties onward have downplayed gospel and blues in favor of jazz standards, pop songs, and show tunes, but his singing remained distinct. So many people liked his voice that his cover of Georgia on My Mind was made the official song of Georgia. With the release of his album Modern Sounds of Country and Western (Vol. 1 and 2) Charles was able to bring his unique style to a new audience. He broke down the boundaries of genres, and by doing that he definitely became a huge part of Rock and Roll history.
For this reason, Ray Charles was one of the first people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His passionate singing and melding of genres remains the ideal by which many musicians continue to gauge their work. Alice Cooper started a band in high school and they did covers of bands he loved and was inspired by, these bands included: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, etc. The group gained a reputation for their outrageous performances, which is a part of the reason they were so big and controversial to some people. The groups theatrical performances included “murdering” infant dolls on stage, using fake guillotines and electric chairs, and lots of fake blood during shows.
In 1974 Alice Cooper split from the rest of the group but kept the name, his first solo album was called Welcome to My Nightmare which earned him continued praise and critical success. One of the show staples includes the song School’s Out and it is probably one of the more recognized Alice Cooper songs. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Guns N Roses’ album Appetite for Destruction was the biggest selling debut album in Rock and Roll history. The album recalled the early Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Aerosmith, and the Sex Pistols, while also showing off the band’s virtuoso techniques and destroy-passerby attitude. Appetite for Destruction also reached No. 1 on the charts and stayed there for five weeks but stayed on the chart for a total of three years. MTV loved to play the tracks Sweet Child O’ Mine and Welcome to the Jungle, which became some of the band’s biggest songs.
Guns N Roses opened for Aerosmith after their first album came out in order to gain a live following, they then went on to open select dates for the Rolling Stones’ 1989 tour and gained an even bigger audience. The band didn’t get their own headlining tour until 1991. In 1991 the lead vocalist, Izzy Stradlin, left the band, soon followed by Slash who left the band due to creative differences and regrettably gave up the rights to the band. Axl Rose stayed, added new members to the band, and continued to tour and put out music but they group wasn’t as popular anymore. In the early days the band’s songs hinted at their substance abuse which lead to the press portraying them as nothing more than drug addicts and alcoholics, Slash even said “The problem with our relationship with music journalists is that they don’t write much about our music.” These early songs weren’t only influenced by the band’s substance habits, but the band was also inspired by groups like the Dolls, Cheap Tricks, and a few others.
In 2016 Slash and Axl Rose made up and Slash rejoined the band, this meant the group could go back to selling out football stadiums. While Izzy Stradlin never actually rejoined the band, he was present when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, Axl was not.It’s hard to put Prince’s music into a specific genre but most people can agree that he can be considered a funk artist. Prince was very talented in many way; he could compose, produce, and play music as well as sing. He played almost all the instruments on his first five albums and he taught himself how to play the guitar, drums, and piano. His albums Prince, Dirty Mind, and Controversy all eventually went platinum despite the obscene topics of some of the songs from those albums.
His album 1999 went platinum and was bolstered by the Top 10 singles Little Red Corvette and Delirious. The music video for Little Red Corvette was among the first videos by a black artist to be played regularly on MTV. In 1984 Prince released a seemingly autobiographical movie set in the Minneapolis club scene called Purple Rain. The movie was a huge hit and so was it’s soundtrack.
The soundtrack for Purple Rain spent 24 weeks at the top of the charts and sold 13 million copies. The songs When Doves Cry and Let’s go crazy from the soundtrack both reached number one on the charts and the track Purple Rain reached number two. This album was the first time Prince recorded with and credited his backing band the Revolution, he also won the oscar for Best Original Score with this soundtrack in 1985. Prince grew up around music, his parents were jazz musicians in the same band and his mother was the vocalist.
He said that in his early life he tried to sound like Carlos Santana or Boz Scaggs when he played, but with his own music he really strived for originality and he hoped that people could tell that when listening to his songs. Prince is an inspiration to so many people and his legacy will certainly live on for a very very long time. James Taylor rose to fame as a folk singer in the 1970’s when he became known for writing and performing more sensitive and personal songs. After his original band broke up James Taylor moved to London where he was signed by the Beatles’ Apple record label. His self-titled debut album was well liked by critics but didn’t sell very well. After some substance abuse, Taylor moved to California where Warner Brothers signed him.
His career skyrocketed with the success of his second album, Sweet Baby James, which came out in 1970. This album also contains his best known song, Fire and Rain. Taylor says the he was inspired by music like: hymnal songs, some country music, some jazz, some R&B, some brazilian music, etc. He also idolized Ray Charles while he was growing up. Time magazine called Taylor “a fusion of the three black and white mainstreams of pop: the lonely twang of country, they pithy narrative of folk, and the rhythmic melancholy of blues.” Not only this but, his dictation is also reflective of the jazz artists he admired like John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. James Taylor was a very successful folk musician, he won 5 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2000. Johnny Cash was an early Rock and Roll artist that successfully combined the sounds of Rock and Country.
In 1955, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two released their first song, Hey Porter, and later that year their song Cry Cry Cry peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard charts. True fame arrived in 1956 when Cash wrote and released I Walk The Line which became No. 1 on the country charts and sold two million copies. Johnny started a solo career and released his debut album, Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar, in 1957 and cemented his fame with chart toppers like: Ballad of a Teenage Queen and Don’t Take Your Guns Down. He co-wrote his signature song, Ring of Fire, with June Carter in 1963.
Johnny Cash was a musical superstar by the early 60’s and he won 2 Grammy Awards for his live album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. He continued to work on his music up until he died and he had a influence that outlived him. Johnny Cash not only influenced country artists but also other musicians like Bob Dylan and Bono. In 1980 he became the youngest living person to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
We’ve seen how genres are capable of influencing other genres but I think that in the future we’ll stop classifying music into genres. Because their are so few artists who stick to strictly one type of music there are going to be millions of different sub-genres that are produced so I predict that the whole idea of “genres” will be thrown out entirely. I think that music will continue to sound more and more electronic to a point, I think that people will eventually want to go back to using only instruments to make their songs because that is how things typically seem to go. I am torn however, I can’t decided if people will revert all the way back to music of the 50’s or if they’ll only go as far os the 80’s kind of like we do now.
Overall, I think that music will lose its genres and continue to change until people really start to miss “the old days” and that becomes the new fad.