Rock is dead. Long live rock.
Of the many prescient lyrics in The Who’s song Long Live Rock is this line- “People walk in sideways pretending that they’re leaving”. Pete Townsend wrote that almost 50 years ago, yet rock and ‘oldies’ are still the favorite music genres for much of the United States and the world. Sure, the Grammy’s have minimized it, and radio isn’t what it used to be, but metaphorically speaking people are still just pretending to be leaving the genre.
Rock has enjoyed massive commercial and cultural dominance for a long time, partly by injecting itself into other genres. Opera, broadway, symphony, folk, jazz, blues, latin and every other musical style has bent toward rock for its own self interest and, in some cases, preservation.
Early rockers like Elvis and Orbison migrated from the obsolete Country and Western genre to exciting new Rock and Roll. After C&W became Country, and rock bands like The Eagles blurred the lines, we ended up with Country-Rock. But now that Rap and Hip-Hop are dominant in the youth market, rock musicians like Steven Tyler, Jack White, and Bon Jovi have adopted Nashville. In many ways country music has replaced rock music commercially by becoming it. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Says Pete.
Statistics show Classic Rock is still the favorite genre of the largest number of people in the United States, which you wouldn’t guess because it doesn’t correlate with music sales. People are buying Hip-Hop and Pop, but more people still listen to Classic Rock. They already own the albums and CDs, and probably stream what they know best.
Baby boomers aren’t the only ones who love Rock. The current generation has its own roster of rock bands to carry the torch. From Britain’s The 1975, to Philly’s Couch Slut, and yes the pride of Frankenmuth- Greta Van Fleet. New bands are proving they’ve learned nothing from the past. And we’re all better for it.
Rock is dead they say… long live rock!
UPDATE: Alice Cooper's Detroit Stories topped Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart (dated March 03, 2021) debuting at No. 1.