Rock and Roll was a musical genre born from the ashes of American Blues with Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" arguably being the first song to establish the genre officially. Combining the styles of blues, country, gospel, and jazz; rock and roll took flight in the 1950's. Known as the 'white man's' blues; rock and roll soared to popularity with artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash etc... With such popularity, came excess, shock, sexual expression and groundbreaking cultural revolutions that cemented the genre as the permanent enemy of parents all over the world. Yet, today's Rock music seems to not only be best friends with most parents; even worse, it has sort of just become completely irrelevant, repetitious, predictable, and faked. A quick look at the Billboard 200 is all you need to realize that new rock music doesn't sell anymore (with the exception of veteran acts). Clearly there is a market for the genre considering some of the highest grossing tours are dominated with rock bands like U2, The Rolling Stones, and AC/DC taking the top 3 spots for the last 7 years according to Pollstar's "Top 50 Worldwide Concert Tours". However, there are no new rock giants to take the mantle from their predecessors. You may be asking yourself "Who killed Rock and Roll?" and the answer is a mixture of the record giants, the fans, and the artists themselves. Furthermore, the more important question is not 'who', but 'when' did Rock and Roll die.
Ellen Goodman stated in a 1980's column, rock ratings: The outrageous edge of rock and roll has shifted its focus from Elvis's pelvis to the saw protruding from Blackie Lawless's codpiece on a WASP album. Rock lyrics have turned from "I can't get no satisfaction" to "I am going to force you at gunpoint to eat me alive."
Personally, I believe the 1980's was the last decade of great Rock music. Shock factor, public reaction, and crazy stage presence was important but the bands had the songs and the music was, although evolved, still very connected to the African American blues roots of the 1950's Rock and Roll. Arguably, I'd say Rock and Roll died in the early/mid 1990's. The 1990's became festered with politically correct, greasy, yarling grunge rockers who weren't interested in the full Rock star package. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and the rest of the Seattle movement were not interested in the larger than life rock spectacle (which dated back to the 1950's). Instead they decided to get on stage dressed like the homeless, and their music was a depressing reflection of their 'image'.
The grunge movement was a reaction toward the 1980's Hair Metal explosion. Although Hair Metal started off great, the market became oversaturated with bands both amazing and terrible that the Record industry spat out by the 100's. It was only natural that at the height of Rock music's popularity there would be a steep decline right around the corner. The fans became sick and tired of the continuous watering down of Hair Metal perpetrated by the record companies and the larger than life attitude/lifestyle of the bands. Essentially, Grunge was not simply rebelling against Hair Metal, it was rebelling against the heightened, decadent characteristics of Rock and Roll (just like punk rock did to the 70's stadium rock bands). Rather than gloat about their money, cars, women, and drugs they became pretentious and ashamed to be or act like rock stars. In short, they handed over the larger-than-life attitude over to Rap.
The Grunge philosophy, similarly to that of the Punk Rock of the 1970's was a paradox; self-destructive by nature. Rock and Roll however, was explosive with the aim of a global take over; the more in your face the better. Grunge was always meant to be anti-mainstream/anti-establishment but its eventual success led to it hypocritically becoming the mainstream music of the early/mid 1990's. Grunge had become a product, and just like punk rock it was short lived (pun intended. too soon?); its end marked by the 1994 suicide of Kurt Kobain.
Although Grunge is dead, the aftermath of its influence is unfortunately alive and well. Yarling is the quintessential staple of modern alternative rock acts such as Nickelback. Every popular modern rock band seems to be suffering from the formulistic influence of their Grunge predecessors. Although this is considered new/modern rock there is hardly anything new about it seeing as the style has been dragged on for the better part of 15+ years. It comes as no surprise to see the success of modern rock bands slowly dissipating as the general public gets their Rock star fix from the veteran classic rock bands or even rap (which seems to have more of an excessive rock attitude than the modern rock bands). If Rock and Roll wants to make a comeback it needs to go back to the basics. The veteran bands are proof that there is still demand for stadium rock. Only time will tell if the artists can fill that demand.