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Brian Setzer, Joe Cocker, George Thorogood, Steve Hill

Rock Music

First coined by Cleveland radio DJ Alan Freed in 1951, rock and roll takes its roots from 1940s blues, R&B, gospel, big band, folk and country music. The genre is characterised by the use of electric guitars and by its near-tribal rhythms, as well as three-chord based melodic hooks. A subjective glance at rock's eventful and long-lasting history.

The Birth of Rock and Roll

Taking its cues from 1940s Black artists such as Louis Jordan or Fats Domino, rock and roll fully emerged as a genre in 1951, with the release of Jackie Brenston's Rocket 88, widely considered to be the first rock and roll song ever recorded.

With the USA still divided by racial tensions in the early 1950s, the music industry first sought out Caucasian performers to take advantage of the new rock craze. One of the most famous examples of this phenomenon was Elvis Presley, whose early career success was fuelled by successfully re-recorded songs from Black artists, like Big Mama Thornton's Hound Dog, Otis Blackwell's Don't Be Cruel or Wynonie Harris' Good Rockin' Tonight.

Crazy Sound

Wanda Jackson In 1953, Bill Haley and the Comets released the first rock and roll hit song with Crazy, Man, Crazy, followed by Rock Around the Clock the next year, a song that showed rock's strong ties to the big band and swing sound of the 1940s. With the success of Elvis Presley also came the subgenre of "rockabilly" – an amalgamation of "hillbilly" with "rock". Similar acts included Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Wanda Jackson and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Rock and roll's wild and exciting side truly unfolded with the arrival of Gospel-inspired provocative artists like Esquerita and, especially, Little Richard, with songs like Tutti Frutti (1955) or Lucille (1957). Both artists wore make-up and frenetically played the piano while singing with an animal-like verve, a style Jerry Lee Lewis later imitated.

Have Guitar, Will Rock

In time, the guitar ended up taking precedence over the piano as rock and roll's weapon of choice. Contributing to this phenomenon were groundbreaking artists like Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry, who was the first to introduce the electric guitar as lead instrument in 1955.

In 1958, Link Wray championed the fuzz-tone guitar sound with Rumble, introducing, along with Duane Eddy, the instrumental and guitar-driven song to the public. The genre was further made popular by The Ventures with their hit Walk, Don't Run (1960), while the UK had The Shadows' Apache (1960). The instrumental craze blossomed into the California-based "surf" music style, a term coined and spearheaded by Dick Dale in 1961, and made famous thanks to The Beach Boys' Surfin' (1961), Jan and Dean's Surf City (1963), The Surfaris' Wipe Out (1963), and The Trashmen's Surfin Bird (which took from The Rivingtons' Papa Oom Mow Mow).

Over in the UK, "skiffle" music was all the rage in 1955 - a style popularised by Lonnie Donegan and his song Rock Island Line - later progressing into the Mersey Sound in 1963, with Liverpool, and The Beatles, at its centre. In their formative years, the Fab Four regularly covered songs by the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

By 1964, American blues-influenced groups like The Rolling Stones or The Animals were bursting into the UK music scene. Other groups like The Kinks (You Really Got Me, 1964), The Who (My Generation, 1965) and The Yardbirds (Shapes of Things, 1966) were playing a louder and more aggressive form of rock, exhibiting rawness that some credit as the beginnings of heavy metal.

Garage Power

In the United States, an insurgence against pop music was also taking place, with groups like The Kingsmen (Louie Louie, 1963), The Sonics (Psycho, 1964), Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (Wooly Bully, 1965) and The Young Rascals (Good Lovin', 1965) laying the foundations for what would later be known as "garage rock", consisting mostly of lo-fi rock groups inspired by The British Invasion, like Count Five (Psychotic Reaction, 1966), The Strangeloves (I Want Candy, 1965), ? & The Mysterians (96 Tears, 1966), Paul Revere and the Raiders (Kicks, 1966) and The Music Machine (Talk Talk, 1966).

Lou Reed In 1966, California was experiencing a folk-rock, acid pop and psychedelic revolution with bands like The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Love, The Doors and Grateful Dead. At the same time, New York City had a more avant-garde outlook, with the Velvet Underground and Nico, featuring John Cale and Lou Reed, an art ensemble that would influence a multitude of groups thereafter, and one that many believe to be the purveyors of the punk movement 10 years later.

Other iconic American figures of the psychedelic movement were guitarist Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf and their biker anthem Born to Be Wild (1967) and Texas legends The 13th Floor Elevators. The British psychedelic movement favoured more outlandish and melodic, drug-induced musical experimentations and arrangements, with groups like Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues following the template set by The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Natural Evolution

The 1970s in the UK were marked by the natural evolution of psychedelic into progressive rock, a style that elevated rock to a new standard of compositions, arrangements and lyrics, usually epic concepts and stories, drawing from jazz and classical influences. Key groups were Yes, King Crimson, Genesis as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Canada's most important contribution to this sub-genre was power trio Rush.

Incorporating prog's fantasy and theatrics but with more sexual overtones - most of the time advocating androgyny -, glam rock appeared soon after with David Bowie, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Sweet and Marc Bolan's T. Rex.

The genre was less popular in the US for its flamboyant use of sexually ambiguous costumes, make-up and lyrics, although The New York Dolls enjoyed a great deal of cult success in the early-1970s, blending right into the New York scene, which in 1976 was bursting with a new wave of anti-establishment groups, namely The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Television and Richard Hell.

Anarchy in the UK

Inspired by the NYC scene, punk took a flight of its own in the UK, with The Sex Pistols causing a stir in 1977 for their anti-establishment lyrics, attitude and sometimes violent on-stage antics. Britain's political and social climate collided with the angry youths of this generation, with groups like The Clash, Generation X (with Billy Idol), Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Undertones or The Buzzcocks at its core.

In the early 1980s, punk rapidly faded away, with guitars taking a back seat to make room for new wave and its synthesizers. Pop bands like Duran Duran and Culture Club were all the rage, but rock's fortunes were soon revived by The Police, who peaked with their no 1 album Synchronicity in 1983, and U2, whose anthemic songs, including  New Year's Day and Sunday, Bloody Sunday, soon allowed them to fill stadiums and sports arenas worldwide.

Classic, Heavy and Alternative Rock

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the saviour of rock'n'roll enjoyed his second coming: nearly 10 years after Born to Run made him a serious contender, Bruce Springsteen finally conquered classic rock's world heavyweight champion title thanks to Born in the U.S.A. (1984). Around the same period, heavy metal managed to enter the mainstream, with artists such as Ozzy Ozbourne, Van Halen, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden causing quite a commotion.

Other guitar bands were to develop a keen following, especially on American college campus radio. For lack of a common style or set of aesthetics, groups like R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and Pixies were filed under the alternative rock label, as were their British indie cousins The Smiths, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo & The Bunnymen.

Smells Like Grunge

Rock went through another serious shake-up in the early 1990s with the arrival of grunge. Rooted in an anti-corporate and anti-music industry attitude, the sub-genre favoured an apathetic attitude and detached lyrics. Strongly influenced by bands like Sonic Youth as well as Neil Young's Freedom (1989), the purveyors of this new style were Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Soungarden, Mudhoney as well as Nirvana, whose Smells Like Teen Spirit single (1991) caused a worldwide sensation. Ironically, grunge (like punk) would eventually be co-opted by the very industry it stood against.

Around the same time in the United Kingdom, a new wave of musicians started taking their cues from 1960s and 1970s rock/pop deities like The Beatles and The Kinks. Blur, Oasis and Supergrass were among the bands which spearheaded a new musical scene dubbed Britpop by the specialized press.

Rock Is Dead, Long Live Rock!

At the end of the 1990s, rock was about to be pronounced dead - again - by many an expert, ushering in a new era with the emergence of electronica and the rise of the DJ as the new rock star. But like the Phoenix from the flames, rock stood up once more at the beginning of the New Millenium. Its latter day champions included The White Stripes, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand and several others.

Finally, as if this were necessary, let us offer this undisputable truth of rock's lasting nature: nearly 50 years into their careers, The Rolling Stones aren't planning to start gathering moss any time soon. And to think that these former bad boys are now rubbing elbows with the world's leading politicians and personalities… Rock is dead? Well then, long live rock.

Rock at the Festival

Bob Dylan Many rock legends graced the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal stage throughout the years, among them rockabilly giants Wanda Jackson and Brian Setzer - who opened the event in rockin' fashion. British combo The Moody Blues, American poet and rocker Lou Reed, guitarist Marc Ribot, Newcastle-born singer Eric Burdon and his Animals, 1970s rock stalwarts The Doobie Brothers and Steve Miller, and Montréal-based outfit The Besnard Lakes all received a warm welcome during the 31st edition in 2010.

Other headliners from past editions worthy of a mention are the indefatigable George Thorogood and the Destroyers (2001, 2004, 2007), the legendary Bob Dylan (2007),  America über-duo Steely Dan (2008), guitar hero Jeff Beck (2009), singers Joe Cocker (2009) and Jackson Browne (2009) as well as local axemen Steve Hill (2009) and Olivier Langevin (2009), to name but a few.

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