Music History

Bob Dylan Explains What Killed Rock’n’Roll–And It’s Not What You Think

If we’re to be honest, rock has been in better health. Bob Dylan has some views on what’s killing (or has already killed) it. The blame lies not with the Internet, video games, smartphones, streaming music services, record label or any of the other usual suspects. It was, according to Zimmy, the segregation of music into “white” and “black.”

Bob Dylan - AARP

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There’s always been that sardonic sense that “real rock is dead,” from Johnny Rotten to Kurt Cobain, up to today, where it seems everyone is bitching about it. (For the record, rock is far from dead). But it’s never clear where the genesis of this sentiment actually stems from, and like trying to locate the Big Bang, it proves futile… until now.

I expected another old-guy-yelling-from-his-porch sentiment on how modern rock is boring blah blah blah (I’m looking at you, Scorcese). What I got, however, was a heartbreaking revelation of a silent assassination. Essentially:

From its fused inception, rock ‘n’ roll was already a racially integrated American invention being blasted in teenage bedrooms as early as 1955, but as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum going into 1960, the genre was being commercially segregated, on the sly, intowhite (British Invasion) and black (soul) music by the (WASPy) establishment.

Needless to say, I was floored. Why wasn’t this common knowledge? It was quite the bombshell, and one that predates the beloved (no matter how tired) rock pantheon whose zenith is too often capped at the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — who, it should be noted, however great, are not American bands. It’s also important to note that no one person or act invented the genre formally known as rock, it was, generally speaking, wrought from the confluence of Americana forces: big band, jazz, and country blues.

The whole article is fascinating. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38431 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

7 thoughts on “Bob Dylan Explains What Killed Rock’n’Roll–And It’s Not What You Think

  • I am not a huge fan of his albums after Blood On The Tracks, but there is no denying that Bob Dylan is a musical genius. I am sure you have listened to his radio shows. He knows music inside and out. What he is saying makes total sense. I always wished he would retire from performing and just do a syndicated radio show every week for the rest of his life. I’d listen every time.

    • Hey Sean, long time. I agree, Dylan should do more radio. But what he is talking about isn’t killing rock, but what commodified it. But the most interesting thing I have heard on Alan’s radio show is that Vinyl is in it’s 11th year of double digit growth. Rock’s not dead. A vinyl only store opened where I live in Hull this summer, mostly rock. Good stuff, new and used, called Vinyl Scene. The last time I saw a vinyl only store open was never. Vinyl is not the only pre-digital tech that is increasing it’s cache, there’s steampunk stuff too, but Vinyl is the only one that is being recognized for being better. And rock is mostly just hibernating. It will always exist in between the grooves, and will always sound better on vinyl. The ear is an analog reciever, digital can’t sound better.

  • I don’t get this article at all, or I don’t get how your headline relates to the article, barely a connection . And Bob Dylan is barely rock ‘n roll.
    Mick Fleetwood has the best take (and a clearer version) on the British Invasion. Young Brits were listening to all the soul and R&B coming out of America (that white America was ignoring) and recreating it in their garages and bedrooms. All they did was bring it back over and sell it back to (white) America as rock ‘n roll.
    The article got one thing bang on- payola=consultant. Payola is alive and well, it’s just corporate now.

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  • Robert Zimmerman was designed to be a false ‘social agitator’. yet only the brain-dead hippies of the 60s (now AARP Magazine) fell for such nonsense.
    From his stealing of Blues material to dating Communist Party activists his motives were never genuine or original. .. and more importantly his ‘sanctified’ status as a lyricist was just hype.
    Blowing in the Wind?
    More like controlled opposition for the masses aka ‘Breaking Wind’…
    Look at the Billboard 200 right now…
    Every single track and album is either a black artist or a tranny!
    Where is the white hegemony Bob Zimmerman and the equally sclerosised Stephen King whine about?
    The Top 40 in the USA as of your reading this does NOT feature a single white, heterosexual, Christian male.
    There is NOT a single true “WASP” in ANY major media corporation in the USA.

    Bob ‘Dylan’ Zimmerman stands as a fool and was NEVER, in any way, affiliated with rock n roll.


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