Rock Music History

Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the 2010 Delaware State Fair

Back in the 1970's singer songwriter Mac Davis wrote the song "I Believe in Music." 

I remember the song well, It was not one of Mac's biggest hits.  That's a shame for a song that proclaimed "music is the universal language."

At the 2010 Delaware State Fair my then teen age daughter joined me for a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. As I watched the fans of Skynyrd Nation, I saw as many fifty year old fans, as I saw twenty something fans, all having a great time together.

The idea that music is the universal language was validated by my daughter who joined me, and told me at the end of the evening how much she really enjoyed the concert.

As someone who studies music and philosophy, I often see comments on the differences in generations, and how these differences are often marked by differences in music.

Many years ago I did a work shop for a social services agency with people from very diverse backgrounds. I used music as way to start conversations, and find common interests.

I don't beleve the music is what divides, but is indeed that universal language that brings us together.

Rock Music History.

We apply the principles of the philosophyguru, not to promote specific beliefs, but to help you understand ideas and philosophies, in order to stretch your mind.

On our journey through rock music history we reflect upon some of the greatest artists in the world of music with the hope that perhaps you will look at some of these musicians and their music in a way you never have before.

The Best Rock Bands?

First we dare to answer the question, who are the greatest rock bands of all time.  The answer to the question who is the best rock band ever is one that can change based on the mood of the person answering the question.

The best, as in what regard?  The most successful?  The most influential?  Just someone we like to hear?

The Greatest Musicians?

After we look at some of best rock bands ever, we take a look at some of the best rock musicians that made the music stand out in our memory.

The Fast Life and Untimely Death of the Rock Star

Rock stars and famous musicians are known for living on the edge and dying young. Many great music artists died at the peak of their careers, Some died so very young, and their legacy has grown so large after their death.

We have mixed in some stories of the many great artists who died in their prime. Drugs and alcohol abuse has claimed the lives of many rock stars and musicians.  But not every untimely death is because of substance abuse.  The constant traveling is perhaps why aircraft tragedies have caused so many promising stars to die young.


Photograph:Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the 2010 Delaware State Fair property of Tom Peracchio. All rights reserved..

Rock Music History: The Greatest Rock Bands British Roots

While the origins of rock and roll are rooted in various brands of American music, when the discussion turns to who were the greatest groups of all times, the answers often point to groups who came to America from across the pond. Perhaps when we talk about the fab four we should be talking about the four following groups from England that have shaped the world of rock and roll.

The question who is the greatest rock band of all time for many people comes down to The Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Two other groups often mentioned on a short list of the greatest rock bands of all time are Led Zeppelin and The Who.

The Beatles

The Beatles, Kennedy Airport, February 1964It is hard to argue the influence of The Beatles on the world of rock music.  With 20 number one singles in the Billboard Hot 100 charts and 19 number one albums in the Billboard Top 200 albums charts, no music act has dominated a generation of record sales like the Beatles.  Four decades after their break up, Beatles albums continue to be re-released and remastered and sell better than most new albums.

While some state the founding the date of The Beatles as 1957, the name the Beatles was first used by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison in 1960.  The group evolved from the high school band that John Lennon created in 1957 in Liverpool, England that went by The Quarrymen. Pete Best joined in the summer of 1960 as the band's drummer. In August 1962, Best was fired and replaced by Ringo Starr.

The Beatles would first hit the charts in 1964 with a list of number one songs that included, "A Hard Day's Night," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "Love Me Do. " Appropriately, one of the last number one songs of the Beatles would be in 1970 titled "The Long and Winding Road."

The Beatles would drift apart in the late 1960s, more interested in projects outside of the band. Paul McCartney, focused on the release of his solo album,  announced that he  was leaving the Beatles on April 10, 1970.

The Beatles spent most of the 1970s fighting between themselves.  John Lennon would be murdered in the streets of New York City in December 1980, eliminating any hope of a  reunion  George Harrison would die of cancer in 2001.

The Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones concert Milan July 11, 2006Established in 1962 in London, England the Rolling Stones continue to Rock on in the new millennium. Throughout their career, childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards remained at the core of the Rolling Stones since the very beginning. Drummer Charlie Watts has also been a member of the band from the original line up. 

Rhythm guitarist Brian Jones was one of the founding members of the band led the band in the early days until Jagger and Richards assumed leadership after teaming as songwriters. In 1969, Brian Jones left the band. A few weeks later Jones would be found dead in his swimming pool. Conspiracy theories say that Jones was murdered, the coroner ruled "death by misadventure."

The Rolling Stones would score their first number one on the Billboard charts in 1965 with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." The song would go on to rank at number two of the Rolling Stone Magazines list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 

The self proclaimed World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band would continue to crank out hits in each of the decades that followed. Scoring hits in 1971  with "Brown Sugar" and in 1981 with "Start Me Up." Voodoo Lounge would win the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.  Their popular 2003 song "Sympathy for the Devil" would chart on the The Billboard Hot 100 as well as on various dance charts.

Recording and touring with few breaks since they began, few groups have endured and survived in the world of rock music like the Rolling Stones.

Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page and Robert PlantLed Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in London, England in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer  Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. With their heavy, guitar-driven blues rock sound, Led Zeppelin are regularly cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock even though the band's individualistic style drew from many sources and transcends any single music genre.

Led Zeppelin preferred to establish the concept of album orientated rock, refusing to release popular songs from their albums as singles. The albums Led Zeppelin II from 1969, Led Zeppelin III from 1970, and Houses of the Holy from 1973 were all number one on the The Billboard 200 album charts.

While the group did not release their songs as singles, their two most well known songs, "Kashmir" and "Stairway to Heaven" are often listed near the top of many lists of all  time great songs.

Led Zeppelin disbanded following drummer John Bonham's death in 1980, but continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence. The band is widely considered to be one of the most successful, innovative and influential bands in the history of music

The Who

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The WhoThe Who were formed in 1964 in London, England by Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon, The four band members had wildly different personalities. Keith Moon would fall over his drums as Pete Townshend leaped into the air spinning his right hand over his guitar in exaggerated windmills. Vocalist Roger Daltrey strutted across the stage, while John Entwistle stood relatively still playing his bass guitar.

The first music work to be billed as a rock opera would be one of the most memorable works of The Who. Tommy, a double album released in 1969, tells the story about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard. Songs from the album that made tha charts included "Pinball Wizard," "See Me, Feel Me," and "I'm Free."  The album Tommy was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.  Pete Townshend would continue to expand and improve on the concept of the rock opera following Tommy with Quadrophenia in 1973.

Illustrating that good rock and roll does not always lead to chart success, for all their great music of the 1960's it would be the  1981 single "You Better You Bet" that would score the only number one hit on the Billboard charts for The Who.

Keith Moon would die in 1980 of drug related causes.  John Entwistle survived a bit longer than Moon, but would die of a heart attack induced by cocaine in 2002.

Daltrey and Townshend continue to keep The Who alive. One of their notable performances of the new millennium was at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIV on February 7. 2010.


Photo Credits:

The Beatles, Kennedy Airport, February 1964 United States Library of Congress

Rolling Stones concert Milan July 11, 2006, From Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant two different photos edited togther, From Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, From Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The Greatest Rock and Roll Drummers

These great musicians lived parallel lives with a theme heard too often in 1970s rock music, untimely deaths in their prime.

When asked the question of who is the greatest rock band of all times, Led Zepplin and The Who would be on many top 10 lists.

When asked who was the greatest Rock and Roll drummer of all times, John Henry Bonham and Keith John Moon would be the top two on many lists.

The Rolling Stone readers poll of the best drummers of all time place Led Zepplin drummer John Henry Bonham at number one, and The Who drummer Keith John Moon at number two.

The two greatest rock and roll drummers of all times lived and died in very similar ways.

John Henry Bonham: 1948 - 1980

Drummer John Bonham 1975Born May 31, 1948 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, John Henry Bonham was best known as the drummer of English rock band Led Zeppelin.

As a drummer Bonham was known for his speed, power, fast right foot, and distinctive sound. His famous drum solo, first entitled "Pat's Delight," later renamed "Moby Dick", would often last for 30 minutes and regularly featured his use of bare hands to achieve different sound effects.

On September 24, 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studios for an upcoming tour of the United States. During the journey, Bonham asked to stop for breakfast, where he drank sixteen shots of vodka. After a long day of drinking and rehearing he retired for the night with the rest of his band members at friends house. Bonham was found dead the next afternoon, at the age of 32.

The coroner's inquest ruled the death accidental and stated that John Bonham had consumed forty shots of vodka in the twenty four hours before he died, which resulted in him vomiting and subsequently inhaling his vomit causing asphyxiation.

Keith John Moon: 1946 - 1978

Born August 23, 1946 in Wembley, Middlesex, England, Keith John Moon was best known for being the drummer of the English rock group The Who.

As a drummer Moon was known for his dramatic, suspenseful style with ambidextrous double bass drum work and wild cymbal crashes and washes. Keith Moon played on all The Who albums and singles from 1964 to 1978. The 1978 single "Who Are You" was released three weeks before his death.

In one of the sad but famous events of his life, Moon passed out on stage during a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California in 1973 after taking a large mixture of horse tranquillizers and brandy. A member of the audience filled in for the remainder of the concert.

On September 7, 1978, Keith Moon died in London, at the age of 32. The cause of death was a massive overdose of a sedative he had been prescribed to alleviate his alcohol  withdrawal symptoms as he tried to dry out on his own.

Parallel lives with tragic endings

A chilling similarity between Led Zeppelin and The Who is that both groups had drummers that could be described using the same sentence, "Considered one best drummers of all time, died in his prime at the age of 32 of substance abuse."


Photo Credits:

John Henry Bonham 1975, From Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

1970s Rock Legends Who Died in Their Prime

Sadly, drugs are implicated in the untimely deaths of these 1970s rock legends who died In their prime. It is hard to believe that more than three decades have passed since these rock music legends have passed away.

The 1970s will be remembered for peace marches and the end of the Vietnam War. In music it will be remembered for a new generation of music started by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the 1960s. The 1970s will also be remembered for the untimely deaths of some of the brightest young stars in the world of rock music.

Jimi Hendrix: 1942 - 1970

Born November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, Jimi Hendrix was a music legend widely considered to be the greatest electric guitarist in musical history. Hendrix made a name for himself and secured his place in rock music history as the headline act at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

The song Purple Haze defined the genre of music known as Psychedelic rock. Hendrix would also forever be remembered for his electric guitar rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner performed at Woodstock in 1969.

Jimi Hendrix was found dead on September 18, 1970, in a London apartment at the age of 27. While various stories have circulated over the years as to how he died, the official cause of death has been listed as a combination of sleeping pills and alcohol.

Janis Joplin: 1943 - 1970

Born January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, Janis Joplin became the Queen of Psychedelic Soul in the 1960s. Before going on to a successful solo career Joplin worked as the lead vocalist for the group Big Brother and the Holding Company. Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Joplin had a very unique and soulful voice. Joplin was one of the few female lead singers, along with Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, in the male dominated world of rock and roll in the 1960s.

The untimely death of Janis Joplin on October 4, 1970, at the age of 27, came less than a month after the death of her fellow rock superstar Jimi Hendrix. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.

Jim Morrison: 1943 - 1971

Born December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida, Jim Morrison was an intellectual genius who studied the writings of philosophers and poets. As lead singer of American rock band The Doors, Morrison was known for very unpredictable stage performances. Many attribute Morrison's wild poetic lyrics to a troubled bipolar mind often influenced by drugs.

Throughout their performing days The Doors would have several altercations with the law due to Morrison's wild antics. Even with their relatively brief existence as a band from 1965 to 1973, The Doors have sold over 35 million albums in the US, and nearly 100 million albums worldwide. In 1993, The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1998, "Light My Fire" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame under the category Rock.

Jim Morrison was found dead on July 3, 1971, in a Paris apartment bathtub by Morrison's girlfriend, Pamela Courson. Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed. as there was no evidence of foul play. Because of Morrison's struggles with depression and drug addiction many speculate his death was drug related. Like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Morrison was 27 years old at the time of his death.

Drugs and 1970s Rock Music

Sadly, drugs are implicated in the untimely deaths of these 1970s rock legends who died In their prime. It is hard to believe that more than three decades have passed since these rock music legends have passed away. Thanks to all the classic rock radio stations, and the vehicle of the internet, their music and memories live on in all of us.

Peace. Rock On.

Rock Music History: The Day the Music Died

The Winter Dance Party 1959The 1971 song by Don McLean "American Pie" tells the story of the day the music died. That day would be February 3, 1959.

"The Winter Dance Party" was a hectic tour that was to cover twenty four Midwestern cities in three weeks. This infamous tour was plagued by cold weather issues with below zero temperatures and a bus with a broken heating system 

Frustrated by the travel problems Buddy Holly chartered a plane to save time and to avoid the cold bus ride of 380 miles from Clear Lake, Iowa to Moorhead, Minnesota.

Shortly after take off the small plane crashed into an Iowa field killing three of the brightest stars of their generation; Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson.

Investigators concluded that the crash was due to a combination of poor weather conditions and pilot error.

Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin Holley) 1936 - 1959

Buddy Holly, 22 years old at the time of his death, released only three albums in his lifetime, but his recordings and work would continue to be released decades after his death. Rock greats Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton all mention Buddy Holly as an influence on their career.

Buddy Holly achieved major rock and roll stardom in his very brief career and is best known for the songs "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be The Day."

Ritchie Valens (Richard Steven Valenzuela) 1941 - 1959

Ritchie Valens was a pioneer of the Spanish speaking rock and roll movement. Although his career was cut short, Ritchie Valens was 17 years old at the time of his death, Valens had several hits and is best known for the songs "La Bamba" and "Oh Donna."

The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.) 1930 – 1959

J. P. Richardson, Jr. better known as The Big Bopper was 28 years old at the time of his death.  The Big Bopper was a rock music innovator who coined the term "music video" in an article back in the fifties and created  the first rock video. 

Richardson is the songwriter of "Running Bear" sung most famously by Johnny Preston in 1959, and is best known for his recording of "Chantilly Lace" one of the most-played songs of 1958.

Rock Music History: Lynyrd Skynyrd Suffers Great Losses in Tragic Crash

Lynyrd Skynyrd taken in 2010Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd would suffer great losses in a plane crash on October 20, 1977.

Lynyrd Skynyrd had just released the album Street Survivors and were five shows into what promised to be a very successful tour. A chartered plane carrying the group from Greenville, South Carolina, where they had just performed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ran out of fuel near the end of their flight and crashed into a forest in Gillsburg, Mississippi. The cause of the crash was listed as inadequate flight planning and an engine malfunction of undetermined nature in the right engine which resulted in a higher than normal fuel consumption.

The group suffered great loses in the crash as founding member Ronnie Van Zant, along with Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick were all killed on impact in the crash. Several other band members and road crew suffered serious injuries.

The emotional and physical scars of the crash took a decade to heal. In 1987 Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, took over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

While the band has undergone many personnel changes over the years it has continued to rock on. Lynyrd Skynyrd is best known for the songs "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama."

Photograph:Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the 2010 Delaware State Fair property of Tom Peracchio. All rights reserved..

Rock Music History: Tragic Aircraft Crashes Claim Many Stars

Rock stars and famous musicians are known for living on the edge and dying young. Drugs and alcohol abuse has claimed the lives of many great artists in their prime. Other than substance abuse, it appears that aircraft tragedies is a major cause of many promising stars to die young.

In our previous two articles we told the story of The Day the Music Died and the tragic crash that took the lives of the Skyneyd band. The one common thread to both of these stories is that the tragedies took place while the stars where on tour.

While many other famous musicians were killed in plane crashes, here are some other Tragic Aircraft Crashes that happened while the artist was on tour.

Jim CroceJim Croce (James Joseph Croce) 1943 – 1973

Jim Croce was 30 years old at the time of his death. On September 20, 1973, Croce was killed in the crash of a chartered plane upon takeoff from the Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Croce had just completed a concert and was flying to Sherman, Texas, for another concert.

Croce had just finished recording the album "I Got a Name" just over a week before his death. It was released in December 1973 and would produce three hits: "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues", "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song." Jim Croce is best known for the songs "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle,"  both number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Ricky Nelson  (Eric Hilliard Nelson) 1940 – 1985

Ricky Nelson was 45 years old at the time of his death. Nelson and his band were on a three stop tour of the Southern United States. On December 31, 1985, the band boarded their chartered jet in Guntersville, Alabama for a New Year's Eve show in Dallas, Texas. Four hours into the flight the plane caught fire and crashed. Nelson and his fiancee, Helen Blair, and several members of his band were killed in the crash.

As the son of famous parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Ricky was known for his roles on television. Nelson also starred in the western film, Rio Bravo with John Wayne. As a musician the songs "Poor Little Fool" and "Travelin' Man" would both chart at number one for Nelson.

Stevie Ray Vaughan (Stephen Ray Vaughan) 1954 – 1990

Stevie Ray VaughanStevie Ray Vaughan was 35 years old at the time of his death. on August 27, 1990, four helicopters were being used at night to transport a concert group from Elkhorn, WI, to Chicago, IL. The third helicopter carrying Stevie Ray Vaughan with members of Eric Clapton's tour crew crashed into the side of a hill. There were no survivors.

Stevie Ray was the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan and frontman for Texas blues rock group Double Trouble. He was nominated for 12 Grammys, winning six. Stevie Ray Vaughan is widely considered one of the most influential guitarists of all time. The Stevie Ray Vaughan song "Crossfire" would hit number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts in 1989.

We can only imagine what loss the music world suffered when all these bright stars died so young.