History of Rock, Part One

Learn about the early days of rock music, from the pre-rock years of the post World War II era through the birth of rock in the mid 1950s to the psychedelic era of the late 1960s.

About The Course

This course, part 1 of a 2-course sequence, examines the history of rock, primarily as it unfolded in the United States, from the days before rock (pre-1955) to the end of the 1960s. This course covers the music of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and many more artists, with an emphasis both on cultural context and on the music itself. We will also explore how developments in the music business and in technology helped shape the ways in which styles developed. 

Rock emerged in the mid 1950s as a blending of mainstream pop, rhythm and blues, and country and western--styles that previously had remained relatively separate. This new style became the music of the emerging youth culture and was often associated with teen rebellion. We will follow the story of how this rowdy first wave of rock and roll (1955-59) was tamed in the early 60s but came roaring back with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and then went psychedelic by the end of the decade.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, the textbook (if you decide to use it) and the time to read it, an eagerness to seek out and listen to the music, and the desire to discuss the music and the issues it raises.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

    You probably will know a fair amount of rock music when you begin the course, but you'll know a lot more more when you finish it. You may be surprised how much of this new music you will like, even if you initially thought you might not. You'll also gain a deeper and broader sense of context in which to enjoy your favorite rock music. A course that helps you enjoy your favorite music even more--how can you beat that?!

Recommended Background

No previous training in music is required.