The Rise of Rock and Roll

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12147

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak” (William Congreve). Music is influential and many feared and still fear the effect of rock and roll. Check it out!


History, Musical Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Can music make people think, say, or do bad things?
  • Does it express or impress or both?
  • What makes you think the way you do?

Nowadays in America, you can hear rock music nearly everywhere.

You can, of course, see it on TV and hear it on the radio. There are countless YouTube channels and Internet sites devoted to it. When you stop at the gas station to pump gas or shop for your groceries at the grocery store, it is often heard playing overhead and even at the pump! It plays a major role in most movies, and even some churches hold services using rock music.

You would never know it judging by today’s widespread acceptance of rock music, but in its earliest days, it was considered to be a dangerous development that would corrupt the youth of America and erode tightly-knit communities.

Learn more about the early history of rock and roll. As you read an article about how the public received this new musical form in the 1950s, write down information and ideas that answer the following questions:

  • What were some of the popular musical forms and performers prior to the rise of rock and roll?
  • From where did rock and roll originate?
  • What were some of the public responses to this new form of music?

Now read the article, America Rocks and Rolls, courtesy of the Independence Hall Association. Write down your responses to the questions listed above. Share your findings with your parent or teacher, then reflect on the following questions and discuss them together:

  • What specific aspects of rock and roll do you think parents and others found so threatening?
  • Do you think they were justified in their feelings and responses? Why or why not?
  • Is rebellion a normal feature of youth culture, or was there something new about the rebelliousness of rock and roll?

It seems like these days, there are more and more potent and abrasive forms of rock music, each competing with those that came before. For that reason, a lot of the earliest rock music seems harmless and sweet by way of comparison.

In the Got It? section, compare the earliest rock and roll hits with the most popular music that came right before it in order to understand what it was like to hear rock and roll for the first time.

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