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Blackness and the Creation of Rock n’ Roll

Rock ‘n’ Roll can be considered as one of the most quintessential American genres of music. Cultivated during the 1950’s and 1960’s, it has solidified itself as a revolutionary American sound. However, rock ‘n’ roll has been a part of this country’s identity long before popular artists like Elvis Presley came about. Black culture is, without a doubt, American culture. Unfortunately, due to the whitewashing of rock ‘n’ roll, the influences of blues and soul on the genre have been ignored. However, now is the time to give credit where credit is due. In the words of Lizzo in her recent single “Rumors”, “Black people made rock and roll, yeah!”

Using instruments like drums, guitars and many more, rock is known for its high-tempo and powerful energy. Like rock, the blues has the same soul and passion, making it the parent of rock ‘n’ roll itself. Artists like B.B King and Howlin’ Wolf laid the foundation for rock ‘n’ roll with their spirited and emotional blues records. In addition to blues, the ever-present influence of gospel music on rock is hard to deny. Sung both within and outside of the Black church, spirituals have had a long lasting effect on rock, from the intense crescendos to the rhythmically detailed runs. Black music has been known to influence numerous popular genres of music, but when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, genres such as soul, the blues, and gospel are especially present and alive in its sound.

When looking at the numerous contributions to rock ‘n’ roll given by Black culture, there must be a conversation about the incredible amount of talented Black artists that have trailblazed and solidified the genre. Considered by many to be the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Little Richard was the “it” artist of the 1950’s. With songs such as, “Tutti Frutti” and “Keep a Knockin”, he was a pioneer in the art of performance, wearing flamboyant costumes while putting on his memorable high-energy shows. Another universally admired Black rock star is the legend, Tina Turner. A role model to Queen Bey, Tina Turner has left an undeniable mark on the genre with her hits “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. Wearing sparkly, beaded dresses, she has become an American icon while keeping the Black influences on rock ‘n’ roll alive, with her signature soulful voice and fast-paced dance numbers.

Today, Black rock artists are still making waves in the industry. For instance, Willow Smith has jumped onto the scene with her single “Transparency”, which has definitely become an anthem for Gen-Z. Rock ‘n’ roll is an American treasure and its origins deserve the same amount of recognition and praise. Black music is rock ‘n’ roll and rock ‘n’ roll is Black music.

Simone Nixon is a junior biology major, chemistry minor from Maryland. She enjoys telling the stories of the world around her and hearing the stories of others. She plans to pursue a career in the dental field.
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