Major Acts in Rock Music of the 1960s

Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

This lesson provides insight into four top rock acts of the 1960s. Through descriptions of the impact of their music along with lyrics from each, you'll come away with a taste of what late 1960s rock had to offer the world.

Four Early Acts

Imagine you're a teenager living in the United States in 1969. As you look around a music store for a new album, there are several major acts from recent years that catch your eye. This lesson explores what each had to offer the world of rock and why a teen like you might be drawn to listen to these greats.

The Beatles

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

-''Blackbird,'' The Beatles

Since we're imaging the year 1969, we wouldn't know that the Beatles are in their last year as a group, about to break up the following year. Yet their legacy is one that will last into the future, influencing just about every rock group to come after them.

Formed in the late 1950s in Liverpool, England, the Beatles were a young group full of energy and personality that kicked off a movement known as the British Invasion. By 1964, they did the unthinkable on Billboard's Top 40: All five of the top spots were Beatles songs. For comparison, imagine a star of today like Katy Perry holding all five top spots at once! Their record is one that hasn't yet been broken.

The Beatles were a key part of a movement known as the British Invasion.
An image of the Beatles leaping into the air

Although some albums are considered more closely related to pop music due to their mass appeal, other Beatles' songs like ''Helter Skelter'' take on the harder edge you might expect from heavy metal bands. They also broke major barriers with albums like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with creative sounds and lyrics that felt completely new and mind-blowing to the music world. As a teen deciding on an album to buy, this one would be hard to beat.

The Rolling Stones

When I'm drivin' in my car

And a man comes on the radio

And he's tellin' me more and more

About some useless information

Supposed to drive my imagination

-''(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,'' The Rolling Stones

Formed in 1962 in London, England, this band was appropriately named after a blues song by the great Muddy Waters called ''Rollin' Stone.''

As a teen in the late 1960s, you would be familiar with the similarities and differences between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Both were inspired by the blues of the United States, music that mainly originated in the African American experience of the southern states.

The Rolling Stones stayed close to their blues roots, yet created their own sound.
The Rolling Stones on stage

The Rolling Stones sent shockwaves into America with each album's arrival. Their initial focus on covering blues songs became their own sound, captured in original songs like ''You Can't Always Get What You Want'' and ''Jumpin' Jack Flash.''

Ultimately, the Rolling Stones would prove to have unmatched longevity, still touring in 2015 after only some breaks during their career as a group.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Purple haze, all in my brain

Lately things they don't seem the same

Actin' funny, but I don't know why

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky

- ''Purple Haze,'' Jimi Hendrix

An American guitarist and songwriter who paired up with British musicians Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell in 1966, Jimi Hendrix is known for his completely unique sound and beyond-impressive guitar talent. He's also credited with establishing a hard rock sound that stole the attention of many rock fans. As you consider albums in the music store, you recognize three major albums, Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland.

Like the Rolling Stones and many other rock groups of the time, Hendrix came from a rhythm and blues tradition that he turned into something completely new. Accompanied by drums and bass, Hendrix performed vocals and guitar in a demanding whirlwind of a career. His psychedelic sounds captured the spirit of the times, including experimentation with altered states of consciousness.

Jimi Hendrix was able to demonstrate the essence of the times through his guitar.
An image of Jimi Hendrix

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