By Lea Sabb
Rock ‘n roll, with its many layers and twisted history, is what I believe to be the greatest thing to come out of the 20th century. As a long-time musician and someone who spends a lot of their free time learning about the period, rock is something I greatly admire and appreciate. It deserves to be kept alive, and cherished.
There is a dire need for change as far as contemporary music goes. Modern media and “Top 40” pop have led to the industrialization of what was once art; it is ruining the concept of music. Rock, here used as an umbrella term for all its diverse subgenres, needs to make a return to help revive the industry in its decline of creativity. The efforts of rock music led to art and innovation; the efforts of pop “music” led to a product, ready to be sold.
Back in the day, the creation of music was done purely out of sheer passion that the musicians had for what they did. For example, concept albums were one of the most quintessential and innovative advancements in the world of music. From the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”, concept albums allowed a creative space for musicians to redefine the impact of their records. They became storytellers through their craft and could narrate a world of wonder through every strum. Lyrics were raw poetry that opened floodgates of emotion, pulsing through every syllable.
Nowadays, there is seldom ambition or passion behind what people are putting out. Albums are just compilations of poorly written songs that other people wrote for one person to sing and perform for a cheap buck.
This becomes apparent in today’s live performances, where modern musicians seem afraid to do anything experimental. At festivals like Woodstock, everyone who attended or performed got to experience at least one thing for the first time. Whether it was improvisations on stage or just the time’s craze for psychedelics, Woodstock harboured this untameable restlessness and hunger for freedom. Festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza are plain pathetic compared to Woodstock. The difference in musicians’ amount of drive and purpose is immeasurable. These festivals used to be the steps that led to people finally finding the courage to fight for what they believed. Music was such a vital part of everyone’s identity back then. Rock music and the culture it sparked has helped shape so many people’s minds and views on society, that it would be crazy to let it drift off into the hands of time and history.
Sure, it’s a lot to ask for an entire generation to suddenly appreciate rock again. I acknowledge that rock may not be for everybody. My point is not to abolish other types of music. I respect the place of other music, but there needs to be a higher regard for rock and, most importantly, its cultural impacts. If we once again sweep the culture of rock aside, the importance of music will perish. Music will increasingly be marketed and sold as a product. It will become a popularity contest, a race to the top, rather than an ongoing desire to create art.
We need to change the idea that rock is just sex and drugs. Often, we forget the endless number of subgenres that rock offers, such as progressive, psychedelic, folk, soft, glam, chicano, motown, funk, blues and jazz rock.
I think it's time for people to look beyond what’s being shoved down their throats and take it upon themselves to expand their musical repertoires. Theoretically, it would help stop endorsing and encouraging today’s music industry, which capitalizes off of young impressionable ears who truly don’t know any better. Expose those, who don’t already know, to the wide variety of classic rock music, and really let them see it for the art that it is. Those with a newfound love and appreciation for rock will draw inspiration from it and continue to create music based on their newfound influences, contributing to the legacy of rock ‘n roll along the way. Take Greta Van Fleet for example: a young modern rock band who has attained great success and popularity in these last 5 years. They’ve been compared to Led Zeppelin a lot, and rightfully so, as Zeppelin have influenced many successful bands through their undeniable impact. Greta Van Fleet are individually talented musicians serving as a breath of fresh air to mainstream music. All this to say, it's not impossible to bring rock back to the mainstream. Rock is a timeless part of history, and though many have decided to forget it, it isn’t dead. By bringing it back, we’d only be doing ourselves a favour. I won’t let rock ‘n roll die.