Monday, July 01, 2019

Rock 'n' Roll: The Classic Generation 1940 - 1950

The Classic Generation 1940 -1950 | The Concert Experience

The Founding Generation of Rock 'n' Roll (1910 - 1925)

Robert Johnson
Technologically the beginning of the 20th century captures a newly recorded generation of Blues men and women through the development of the phonograph record.  I start with Bessie Smith (1894) as "Mother of the Blues, and five key individuals as the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll- Howlin' Wolf (1910), Robert Johnson (1911), Sonny Boy Williamson (1912), Willie Dixon (1915), and Muddy Waters (1915). 

Muddy Waters
Here's a video clip of Muddy Waters where he talks about the Blues and how white kids in the 1960's started to imitate the Blues and instrumentally could play the Blues very well, but to vocalize the Blues, well Muddy tells it like it is. I first saw this clip on the Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars documentary, where Eric obviously agrees as he learned from the authentic masters who lived the Blues.

Woody Guthrie
Recorded folk music during that same birth era begins with the legendary Woody Guthrie (1912). I view Woody Guthrie as the 'Father of Folk' in that he lived the life of a common man who connected his music to democracy and people living at or below the poverty line. Woody labeled his guitars with the slogan, "This Machine Kills Fascists" and carried the torch for the power of the protest song.

The Pioneering Generation of Rock 'n' Roll (1925 - 1940) 

Chuck Berry
Building off the Blues, Folk and Country music, the next generation of artists birthed rock 'n' roll's beginning with- B.B. King (1925), Chuck Berry (1926), Fats Domino (1928), Bo Diddley (1928), and then the 1930's birth years of Little Richard (1932), Carl Perkins (1932), Johnny Cash (1932), Willie Nelson (1933), Elvis Presley (1935), Buddy Guy (1936), Kris Kristofferson (1936), and Buddy Holly (1936).

Phil and Don Everly
Here, I also have to include The Everly Brothers, Don (1937) and Phil (1939) as a major influence merging acoustic county harmony into many popular hits in the late 50's and early 60's leading to groups like Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.

I know I've left out other legends I should've included like Jerry Lee Lewis, but sorry, he was never a favorite of mine and remember, he married his 13 year old cousin for God's sake!

On the folk side, I've got to include Lead Belly (1888) that leads to Pete Seeger (1919) that leads to Bob Dylan (1941). 

You can make all kinds of linage links like- Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters to B.B. King to Eric Clapton. There is no one straight line because the above lists are a small but definitive collective of influential artists that stood on the shoulders of the previous generations.

The Classic Generation of Rock 'n' Roll (1940 - 1950) 

The Beatles
Building off the founding and pioneering generations of artists and music, the great majority of the classic generation of rock 'n' roll artists were born in Britain, the United States, and Canada between 1940 - 1950.

In my humble opinion, this is the greatest generation of rock 'n' rollers the world has ever produced, large in part to the effects and after effects of World War II.

In regards to the after effects of World War II, the greatest generation of now parents got busy making babies from 1946 - 1964 and created the largest generation of children that in the USA became to be known as the "baby boomers." I land in the middle with the birth class of 1955 where I'm too young to see The Beatles and Stones in the 60's, and too stupid not to catch Dylan, the Stones and The Who in the 70's.

Bob Dylan
So, all these babies being born during World War II through the mid-sixties, represented a new and very large group of young people who by and large lived a more affluent life than their parents did as children. The greatest generation also created the greatest middle class where their children had global access to mass media through television, radio, movies, magazines and most importantly vinyl 45's and records.

An explosion of musical talent emerged onto USA and UK stages and on television as these now twenty somethings were landing record deals, not to mention that they were by and large writing their own material that went on their records.

The Rolling Stones
The following is an absolutely stunning list of artists and bands starting in the 1960's and 1970's and for the most part, carry on today in some form or another as top grossing live acts across the globe!

This Part I blog is also a precursor to a Part II guide (from my baby boomer's perspective) of current music concerts. This includes the boomers themselves, to their children, and to their grandchildren, all attending these live shows with artists still performing in their 70's. Look for The Concert Experience blog next week as a follow up to this time line in history.

Now for the essential 1940-1950 rock 'n' roll birth list with my little commentary and personal opinion... and that's why it's called a blog.

1940 - John Lennon and Ringo Starr. John Lennon only lived to 40 years old and is still is one of the top 10 songwriters of rock 'n' roll. Paul McCartney and John Lennon are the best songwriting duo of all time.

Ringo Starr simply gets overlooked by many, but is the best rock 'n' roll drummer of all time. Ringo tours with his All-Star band, a rotating group of top hit making musicians. You have to see Ringo, he tours constantly. I saw him in concert several years ago and sat in the second row with my wife, Mary Kit. We were 10 feet from Ringo and that's the closest we're ever going to be get to a Beatle.

Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band

The Beatles are the greatest band of all time and the most influential band ever, in any genre .

1939/1940 - Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. The princes of Motown. Nobody sang like Marvin. Smokey is what I call a "5 tool musician" - songwriter, leader of the band, singer, producer and influencer.

1940 - Levon Helm. The original band leader of 'Levon and the Hawks' before the band renamed itself to The Band in 1968, one of the most influential bands in rock 'n' roll history. In my opinion, Levon Helm is the 'heart beat' of The Band who never wanted The Band to split in 1975.

1941 - Bob DylanThe most important song writer in rock 'n' roll history. Bob wrote the anthems for a generation. A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall (1962), Blowin' in the Wind (1963), The Times They Are a-Changin (1964), Like a Rolling Stone" (1965), I could go on and on, but listen to his lesser known songs like, Only a Pawn in their Game (1964) and With God on our Side (1964) and you realize nobody writes like Bobby Dylan.

Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon
1941 - Paul SimonOne of the Top 10 songwriters of rock 'n' roll. Simon and Garfunkel is the best folk-rock duo of all time. Paul is a musician's musician and a fantastic singer. His blending of different genres into pop hits is an infectious marvel. Like Smokey, he's a 5 tool musician including a master at guitar. His farewell tour last year was a must for me, and woke me to the fact that if you want to see one of the greats, DO IT NOW!

1941 - Harry Nilsson. The Beatles favorite singer, and one of mine too. Harry's voice was kissed by the gods.

1942 - Paul McCartney. The greatest singer-songwriter in rock 'n' roll history. His career speaks for itself. Paul releases a new album of new material every several years and tours constantly. I saw Paul last week in Phoenix. At 77, he plays for 3 straight hours without a break other than to tell great short stories and does a total of 38 songs. Paul will keep you young my friends.

The Beach Boys
1942 - Brian WilsonOne of the Top 10 singer-songwriters of rock 'n' roll and one of the most influential. The Beach Boys are one of the greatest bands in rock 'n' roll history. Brian Wilson invented the "California sound" and elevated the record industry in Los Angeles. He is a total 5 tool musician.

1942 - Aretha Franklin. Queen of Soul. Grew up with Smokey Robinson in Detroit just a couple of blocks away and they always looked out for each other throughout their lives. She sang so many great songs, including You Make Me Feel Like a Nature Woman, written for her by the next person on this list.

1942 - Carole KingOne of the Top 10 singer-songwriters of rock 'n' roll who writes more than two dozen top hits for other artists in the 1960's with first husband Gerry Goffin, and then writes and sings her own huge hits in the 1970's. Tapestry held the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years.

1942 - Jimi Hendrix. Often called the Greatest electric guitar player of rock 'n' roll. However, Jimi was only on the world stage for three years from 1967 - 1970 and his tragic death at 27 due to an overdose puts him into my category of "Sure Could Have Been." It would have been great to see Jimi Hendrix at the Forum in 2019, we all could only wish...

The Byrds
1942 - Roger McGuinn. Leader of The Byrds, one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of the 1960's and literally instrumental in developing the "jingle-jangle" sound compressed in recording of his Rickenbacker guitar. That sound is the lineal link to Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, need I say more.

1943 - George Harrison. The youngest Beatle who also died way to young at 58. He wrote great songs with The Beatles and in his solo career, and with The Traveling Wilburys. One of the greatest things George ever did was create the concept of Love the theater production with Cirque du Soleil's Guy Laliberté. You have to go see Love at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Here is the ticket information, just do it. The Beatles live on here like nothing you've ever seen or heard. Thank you George!

1943 - Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The two founding members of the Best Rock 'n' Band of all time, The Rolling Stones. What's the distinction between greatest (The Beatles) and best you say? Well you figure it out. I will say longevity has something to do with it. I remember in the 80's, some in the media were calling U2 the best rock and roll band, please that just made me laugh out loud.

Mick Jagger is the best front man/lead singer in a band of all time. Keith Richards trading off between lead and rhythm guitar is the creator of the greatest riffs of all time. Keith Richards is also the greatest band leader of all time. One of my favorite documentaries is the 1987 Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. What I love about this movie is Keith Richards trying his level best to lead Chuck towards the best performance he and the band can give in front of the cameras. Richards tells the story (I can't remember if it's in the movie) that Chuck, his boyhood idol gets mad at him and slugs him in the mouth. Jealousy runs deep in rock 'n' roll, but don't you think in Chuck's heart of hearts he knew Keith Richards was a very special cat and very much at Chuck's level.

Joni Mitchell
1943 - Joni Mitchell. One of the 10 top singer-songwriters in rock 'n' roll and one of the most influential artists to inspire generations of musicians. Joni's been in poor health the last several years and stopped touring long ago. What I would give to have been at one of her shows in the mid-1970's.

1943 - Randy Newman. One of the greatest songwriters of all time. Randy's songs are good stories and there's nothing better than a good story.

1943 - Roger Waters. Founding member of Pink Floyd and still touring!

1943 - Jim Morrison. Founding member of The Doors and still dead. Jim is one of rock's great coincidences of rock stars dying in their 27th year. Light My Fire is one of my top 10 favorite rock 'n' roll songs and one hell of a coming of age song for a 12 year old.

1943 - Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, and
The Band
Richard Manuel
. Along with Garth Hudson (1937) and Levon Helm (1940) were all members of The Band, one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all-time and fathers of the 'Americana' genre of music.

1944 - Jeff Beck. He is often called a "guitarist's guitarist" as he is not a singer but pure instrumentalist. Jeff Beck has played with everyone, and has been overlooked by the public, but every electric guitar player knows Jeff Beck.

The Who
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. The Who for
many is synonymous with "rock band" and one of the first bands to show the world how to be a counter-culture rock band by destroying their instruments on stage. But The Who were much more than that- with Daltrey as the front man lead singer twirling his mic, Townshend's windmill guitar flying in his white jumpsuit, John Entwistle's (1944) driving bass line, and Keith Moon's (1946) unique drumming style that is my personal favorite with his tum-tum beat effortlessly rolling through the songs. Pete and Roger are still doing it, and I'm going to see them October 16th at San Diego State. Bucket list time, once again.

1944/1946 - Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons. I call both, "The Godfathers of Country Rock" for their influence in the seminal album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo with The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers.  Gram then left The Flying Burrito Brothers and did two solo albums with Emmylou Harris before dying at the tender age of 26 due to a drug overdose.

1944/1948 - Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Interesting that the leaders of Led Zeppelin follow Townshend and Daltrey here as both bands have great showman lead singers and guitar phenoms. Led Zeppelin powered 1970's rock like no other and all the heavy metal bands that followed them never even come close to writing and performing songs like Led Zeppelin.

The current Fleetwood Mac
1945/1947 - John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.  These two are the constant nucleus of the 1960's and early 70's Blues band Fleetwood Mac, and then, the more pop Fleetwood Mac band from 1974 to today. With McVie on bass and Fleetwood on drums, these two are my favorite rhythm section along with Entwistle and Moon from The Who. Fleetwood Mac has had more line up changes with the possible exception of the Cleveland Browns at quarterback. By the way, if you know who Peter Green (1946) and Danny Kirwan (1950) are, you know your rock 'n' roll! And, if you are lucky to see the current Fleetwood Mac with Mike Campbell, he even plays a Peter Green song.

1945 - Eric ClaptonOne of the Greatest Guitarists of all time in so many fantastic bands including - The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos.
But what separates Eric from all the great electric guitar players of his generation is he could sing better than any of them. Clapton is also one of the greatest songwriters of all time spanning the Blues, rock 'n' roll, pop, rock and country rock. A 5 tool musician who is currently doing select concerts here and there. I saw Clapton two years ago with Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the The Forum, the best place to see an arena concert on the west coast.

1945 - Neil Young. Right behind Bob Dylan as the most important songwriter in rock 'n' roll. Along with Stephen Stills and
Buffalo Springfield
Richie Furay
 (1944), Young created one of the greatest short-lived bands (1966-68) in rock 'n' roll history, and also one of my favorites Buffalo Springfield. His albums of the 1970's stand with the best in rock 'n roll and he's simply a complete original. Don't go through life without seeing him at least once, for many it's something they never will forget, as he spans all generations of fans, like being the "Godfather of Grunge" in the 90's.

1945 - Stephen Stills. One of my all time favorites with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Manassas with Chris Hillman (1944), and his solo albums.

1945 - John Fogerty. Creedance Clearwater Revival, one of my favorite bands in 7th grade (1967-68). Saw him several years ago in Las Vegas and he blew the room away, fantastic show!

1945 - Van Morrison. Starts his career with the band Them and writes the mid-sixties monster hit Gloria. Morrison then goes solo and the hits keep coming with, Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, Domino, and Wild Night. "Van the Man" has put out 40 studio albums and just never stops with new material and its all very very good. Celtic Soul baby.

1945 - Leo Kottke. My favorite acoustic guitar instrumentalist. His unique style of finger picking bends the strings and the genres. Nobody plays quite like Leo.

1946 - Linda Ronstadt.
Linda Ronstadt
My favorite female singer in rock 'n' roll history
. She could do the slow songs with conviction and blast that voice into the stratosphere and over the Stratocasters on the rockers. Linda gave her last concert in 2009 and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2012, which left her unable to sing. I cried upon this news and although I'll never see her live in concert, I enjoy her conversations on video and watching her sing on video. YouTube has a place in rock 'n' roll.

1946 - John Prine. Another Godfather of Americana and creative songwriter of his generation. Nobody writes songs like John has he has been described as the 'Mark Twain' of singer-songwriters. Both Prine and Randy Newman are in a songwriting category of their own, right next to Bobby Dylan.

1946/1947 - Freddy Mercury and Brian May. Queen is the best live show in rock 'n' roll history, not that I have ever seen them live but I've seen the video. This month, I get to see Queen + Adam Lambert at The Forum. Now won't that be a blast!

- Elton John. From 1970 - 1975, nobody was bigger. In 1975, my girlfriend won a lottery for two tickets to see him perform a benefit for the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the 300 seat capacity Troubadour in Los Angeles. This is the best concert I have been to in my life, not to mention that my girlfriend got kissed by Bernie Taupin that night, I didn't mind. That same girlfriend is going to see Elton John at the Tacoma Dome in September and his quote, "farewell tour," but I wouldn't believe that.

1947 - David Bowie. In 1973 that same girlfriend turned me on to Ziggy Stardust and my little world was starting to get a little bigger...

Gram Parson/Emmy Lou Harris
1947 - Emmylou Harris. I saw Emmylou perform with her Hot Band back in the late 70's in Pacific Beach in a theater long torn down. It was magic, not to mention I was totally memorized and thought she was the most beautiful creature on the planet! If you look at her body of work as a solo artist as well as her collaborations with Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler - I call her, "The Godmother of Americana genre of music."

1947 - Jeff Lynne. In 1970 Jeff Lynne created the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and along with Badfinger keep the spirit of The Beatles alive at least through their hit songs. Jeff would become fast friends with George Harrison and formed the Traveling Wilburys together in the late 1980's. I just saw ELO a couple of weeks ago in Anaheim and it was a fabulous show, you must see ELO! Here is my recent blog on that concert.

1947/1948 - Don Henley (1947), Glen Frey (1948),
and Joe Walsh (1947).  The Eagles are one of the few bands, I actually saw in the 1970's and have been fortunate enough to see several times after their reunion in the 90's. Desperado is one of the best albums in rock 'n' roll historyThe History of the Eagles - Live in Concert tour in 2015 with Glen Frey (his last tour before his death) and with Bernie Leadon at SDSU is one of my favorite concerts of all time. The Eagles are my wife's favorite band, and she see's them and Don Henley as much as humanely possible. In September, she will be off to Vegas again, this time with daughter in tow to see them at the MGM Grand. Great place to see a concert by the way, yes both Vegas and the MGM Grand.

1948 - Steve Winwood. Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and a great solo career. He's still on my bucket list. How could Eric Clapton leave Steve and Blind Faith?  That Eric is a fickle one...

1948 - James Taylor. Influenced by my friend Paul Hobbs, I started listening to James and believe he is one of the best singer-songwriters in rock 'n' roll history. Sweet Baby James is one of the top 10 songs in rock 'n' roll. James has a singing voice for the ages and is one of the best pickers around. I finally got to see James in the late 80's and then a second time in 2015 at the San Diego Sports Arena.

1948 - Jackson Browne. Jackson grew up in Los Angeles and traveled up US 101 as the beginning tapestry for his songwriting that just pulled me to him musically. He is one of the five top songwriters in rock 'n' roll history, but as Woody Guthrie said about Bob Dylan, "it's his singing voice." Jackson in fact has the perfect voice to communicate his writing, it is so real and he makes it look and sound so easy. A gift for the ages! Late for the Sky is my favorite Jackson Browne album, I burned the grooves out of that vinyl record. And hey, if I couldn't be James Taylor, I'd be Jackson Browne in 1970.

1949 - Bruce Springsteen. He represents the last group of superstars born before the 1950's that sustained classic rock 'n' roll with fresh talent in the mid 1970's, that continues to this day. Bruce is one of the rare artists who keeps putting out fresh material decade in and decade out. Check out the east coast boss of rock 'n' roll do a little west coast sound on his latest album just released in June, Western Stars. I still have not seen Bruce live, another bucket not yet fulfilled.

1949 - Mark Knopfler. One of my BFF Bill DeVoe's favorite rock 'n' rollers of all time, mine too. So WTF dude why haven't we gone to a concert together to see him? Like Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler keeps putting out fresh material all the time and it just gets better. Mark's my favorite guitar player, both acoustic and electric, but he's also one of the greatest songwriters in rock 'n' roll history too. Like Jackson Browne, his singing voice matches his writing and I'm so excited to see him at the Santa Barbara Bowl in September!

- Stevie Wonder. You forget how young Little Stevie Wonder was when he was signed by Motown at age 11 and had a No. I hit, Fingertips at age 13. Here he is in the last group of rock stars born in the "classic period" in 1950 and already had a big hit in 1963! But that was only the start as he and Elton John lead the 1970's. His songs are so infectious and probably he did more for racial harmony through his music than any other artist in rock 'n' roll history. He is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. Have you ever met anybody that did not love Stevie Wonder?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

1950 - Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers just next to the Stones, are the best rock 'n' roll band of all time. I remember being at my neighbor's house in the early 90's and listening to his tricked out video/stereo system with a laserdisc concert film of the band. I literally had never heard and seen anything to match Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom took everything from the masters born in the 1940's and made it into his own hybrid of pure classic rock 'n' roll. Mike Campbell is one of my favorite electric guitar players and I just love how he just walks the stage playing so effortlessly.

Mary Kit and I had the chance to see Tom and the band at Safeco Field in Seattle in one of his last concerts in August, 2017 just before he died that October. Tom, Mike and the band toured constantly over the decades and I thought after the Safeco concert, "Next time I want to see him at The Forum."

Hail! Hail! rock 'n' roll!

Okay, who did I leave out? You may be are saying, Stevie Nicks (1948), my wife is gasping at this omission, or Billy Joel (1949), or Peter Gabriel (1950), or Sting (1951) Relax, I love all these people, (well Stevie Nicks is okay I guess), just didn't include them here as that's Rolling Stone's job, and I'm determined to publish this blog by midnight on this Monday.

Lastly, so our great classic rock stars born between 1940 - 1950 are mostly in their 70's today and not getting any younger. The time for seeing these "classic live wires" is a window that is sadly starting to close. So, go see them in concert whether it is the first time or tenth time. You won't regret it!

Check out my Part II next week for tips and tricks on seeing your favorite artists in concert!

And, no new playlist this week by the Monday publishing deadline. But not to fret, I have My 100 Songs, Second 100 Songs, and (now updated) Third 100 Songs to classically fall back on. Enjoy my friends! An update- I've added my Fourth 100 Songs here, and I'm currently working on my Fifth and last coming sometime in the future!

My 100 Songs

My Second 100 Songs

My Third 100 Songs

My Fourth 100 Songs

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