Why is it called “rock n’ roll?” What does the “roll” mean?

Is “Rocket ‘88″ by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats the very first rock and roll record? The question has inspired debate among musicologists for years.  Another equally contentious question: Where does the term rock and roll come from?

Rock is derived from the Old English roccain, related to the Old Nordic rykkja meaning, “to pull, tear, move.” The earliest recorded use of the term in literature can be found in the lullaby “Rock-a-bye Baby” from 1805.

Roll is derived from the Latin rotula meaning, “small wheel.” The phrase “rocking and rolling,” a metaphor used by seamen to describe the motion of a ship, dates from the 17th century. Similar metaphors slipped into popular discourse, but one in particular became the inspiration for the genre’s moniker. By the 1920s, “rocking and rolling” became a popular double entendre referring to either dancing or sex. Trixie Smith’s 1922 blues ballad, “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” may be the first use of the phrase in song.

Alan Freed, a disc jockey in Cleveland, Ohio used the phrase, “The Rock and Roll Session” to describe the amalgamation of rhythm and blues and country music he played during his show. As his radio show gained popularity, so too did the phrase. And why is the “and” sometimes written as ‘n? That’s called an apocopation – the omission of the final sound of a word.

What does Shakespeare have to do with punk rock? Find out here.

Do you have word questions related to other musical styles or artists? Let us know.

Midsection makeover: training your abs and lower back will give you a tighter, stronger middle.(Home Work)

Muscle & Fitness/Hers March 1, 2003 | Lyons, Kim for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Most of us know this quote as Newton’s third law of motion, but did you also know that every major muscle group has an opposite muscle group? Although their actions don’t really compete against each other, the abs and the lower back are perfect examples of opposing muscle groups.

Most of us know exactly when we last did crunches, but when was the last time you worked your lower back? Training one but not the other leads to an imbalance, which you may not even recognize because you adapt to these changes over time. If you feel lower back pain, you’ll likely reach for some Tylenol, but the long-term solution could simply be a more balanced workout. Lower back and ab training aren’t only essential for a beautiful midsection but they’re crucial in maintaining proper posture and helping to prevent lower-back injury. lowerbackexercisesnow.net lower back exercises

The next time you’re watching TV or just have a few minutes for a quick workout, give these basic ab and lower back exercises a try. They may seem simple, but they’ll result in better posture, a stronger core and a midsection you’ll be proud to show off. Before and after your workout, take a few minutes to stretch the appropriate muscle groups.

ab stabilizer This is one of my favorite ab exercises. Although the abs aren’t the main movers, they work very hard to hold you still. The goal is to keep your torso motionless. Lie faceup on the floor and flatten your lower back into the floor or maintain a neutral spine, whichever is more comfortable. The key is to choose one position and maintain it throughout the exercise. With your arms crossed over your chest and your hips and knees bent 90 degrees, simultaneously extend one leg straight out and lift your crossed arms overhead. Return to the start position before switching legs. Do as many reps as you can, maintaining good form, for at least a minute.

tip: If you can’t maintain proper form throughout the movement, try keeping the extended leg higher.

lower back stabilizer As with the ab stabilizer above, in this exercise you keep your torso motionless as you move your arms and legs. Get down on your hands and knees and set your spine in the neutral position (don’t allow your midsection to drop toward the floor). Lift your opposite arm and leg so they’re in line with your spine. Hold for a full second and slowly lower. Switch sides without noticeably shifting your weight onto your other knee–make the switch smoothly. Do as many reps as you can with good form for at least one minute.

tip: Don’t lift your leg and arm too high, which will cause your back to arch excessively. Keep your head, arm and leg in line with your spine.

combination stabilizer This unique exercise requires the use of both the lower back and ab muscles. Lie facedown on the floor, resting on your elbows with your arms tight at your sides and palms facing up. Place your left toes on top of your right heel and, using your abdominal and back muscles, push through your hips to lift your torso off the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can (at least a minute) before returning to the start. Switch feet and repeat, maintaining good form. this web site lower back exercises

tip: To start, place your elbows in a line directly below your shoulders.

bent-knee V-up Working both the upper and lower abdominal regions, this exercise requires balance and good core stabilization. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, knees bent and feet on the floor. Simultaneously lift your knees toward your chest and crunch your upper body forward. Lower back to the start, keeping your heels and shoulder blades off the floor, and do three sets of 10 reps.

tip: Focus your eyes above your knees to keep your chin off your chest.

superman One of the safest and most effective back exercises, the superman is excellent for gaining lower-back strength. Lie facedown with your arms extended out in front, elbows slightly bent. Using your lower-back muscles, lift your chest off the floor, keeping your neck and arms in line with your spine.

tip: Avoid lifting your legs and chest simultaneously. This can put too much pressure on the discs in the back.

Fitness competitor Kim Lyons is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer.

Lyons, Kim


  1. Richard Whitehead -  June 13, 2016 - 3:11 am

    I was told that the term “Rock n Roll” was a Second World War military slang word for an S&M/Hazing type practice that was used on raw recruits to “toughen them up”. Also known as the “Huey” or “Huey Bar”..Which lead to the U.S military helicopter the Bell Iroquois being christened the Huey by Vietnam troops because of its rough and scary ride that reminded them of the Huey practice that had been used on them as recruits.

  2. MikeW -  September 7, 2015 - 2:30 pm

    It probably has nothing to do with term of rock and roll, but when dancing Swing person rocks one direction, and then the other direction, and then rolls the hip back taking a back step..and then forward to start the next rock. Swing was popular with early rock and roll music. This simple explanation makes sense to me.

    • faizan -  March 6, 2016 - 2:52 am

      can u send me a simple definition of rock n roll and how it is different from rock music because my topic of research is rock music n how it is fuse with pure eastern classical music.

      • qqqwqeee -  May 24, 2016 - 6:54 pm

        rock and roll and rock are used interchangeably, a lot. But here is the difference. Rock music is any music with 4/4 beat and a back beat at 2 usally a snare. So any kind of music that applies to this criteria could be considered as simply rock music. Most of today’s rap, hip hop, disco music of the 70′s are rock music. Rock n roll is the rock music that didn’t change it’s style. for example, disco music is the same as rock and roll but is a little faster.

  3. Sean -  October 19, 2013 - 2:57 am

    It has something to do with what instruments are used.. i.e drum, bass, rhythum, and lead with vocals

    that’s what the term rock and roll covers which is why rock and roll has such different tempos involved within the genre

  4. QDUDE -  November 16, 2011 - 3:29 pm

    there should be a chuck norris section on this site

  5. reflektor -  September 30, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    words have several meaning but when you hear or read them in a given context you have to catch the right meaning. rock and roll is very sexual and explicit inTrixie Smith’s 1922 blues ballad, “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll) just listen to it carefully and replace the rock and roll words with some nasty ones fit there. I can imagine in other songs it might have different meaning, in a third song yet another one as well. words, contexts and their relationships are important elements in our communications.

    • Don -  May 30, 2015 - 7:27 am

      Thank you for posting this. This is what I heard also.

  6. ÑÑÑ -  September 6, 2011 - 7:00 pm

    when I was a kid I used to think that the name came from rolling a rock

  7. Dark Friday -  September 5, 2011 - 10:56 am

    I hate to disappoint you folks who believe that Rock ‘n’ Roll has to do with sexual intercourse. It doesn’t. The “Rock” part is suggestive of hardness (“hard as a rock”). We have what can be referred to as soft music, the type of music that induces relaxation. In contrast to soft music, Rock (hard) music tends to arouse energy and create in the listener a desire to move about. For example by snapping their fingers, patting their foot on the floor, clapping their hands, or nodding their head up and down in time with the beat. The “Roll” part refers to the swaying back and forth that will inevitably happen if the person happens to be standing. Indeed, if you can sit or stand completely still while listening to Rock ‘n’ Roll music then you are in serious need of a body bag, a toe tag, and an undertaker.

  8. Egglebeggle -  September 3, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    I read the post that said that the English language is an evolving thing, where slurred words become the standard in as little as 50 years. I believe Rock ‘N’ Roll is the same, it grows and it changes. Ike Turner singing Rocket 88 is a far cry from the new RHCP album. One of the earlier questions in this thread was about the Blues. In the beginning there was Gospel, and it was a soulful music that raised the spirits toward heaven. I heard once from an old blues singer that “the Blues brings you down into the dust in the same way”. It was the music sung by the black slaves and the chain gangs as they worked under their white masters and wardens. As I heard it, the Blues refers to the way the human eyes sees light in near darkness; the rod photoreceptors translate the low level of photons into the color blue. Thus, if you try to see light in darkeness, all you’ll see is the blues. Very fitting considering the social horrors of that time.

    I think that the one defining characteristic of Rock ‘N’ Roll is the electric guitar, and that instrument was born from blues music. It was called the amplified music, or the electric blues, made famous by the Chicago musicians of that time and later perfected by Muddy Waters. If you look back at the influences cited by The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, its always blues artists. The blues gave birth to R’N'R.

    As far as alternative music, this is my take. I noticed around 1980, a lot of hard rock and metal bands released a “satatnic” album (Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast”, Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil”). I noticed as I looked back, that everytime the “rebel” music became accepted by the mainstream, the musicians would try and do something shocking to take over the “rebel” mantle. Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” so fast that Pat Boone had a hard time “De-colorizing” it. Charlie Parker’s free-styling “Be-bop” took jazz back to its roots. When Rock became mainstream, then came hard rock. People like KISS and Alice Cooper painted their faces to look dead or like demons. Bands like black Sabbath created lyrics straight out of horror movie that were popular at the time. Suddenly Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were on the oldies stations, even if it was the same three songs. Metal, Thrash, Punk, Garage Bands, Grunge, all of them became mainstream and suddenly, Maddona’s on the TV in a pointy bra and tu-tu; Britney Spears is in her underwear. I think the term “Underground” is the mainstream media’s idea of selling “keepin’ it real” to the kids and the hipsters. They want to be different from the “sold out” music of their parents.

  9. rlcesq -  August 24, 2011 - 7:02 pm

    All words are sacred in their time and of value to someone, in their time, do not mess with them, they take little room, but serve a bigger purpose when called by the thought that needs them.

  10. Tito -  August 24, 2011 - 11:56 am

    Rock ‘n roll died the day Buddy Holly bought the farm. Don’t ever call that trash that came afterwards as Rock ‘n Roll. Nobody after 1960 deserves to be in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Let them have another hall of fame for those like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Stink (sorry, I meant Sting) and the noisemakers of today.

    • Snafudle -  February 1, 2016 - 4:17 pm


  11. Carlitos -  August 21, 2011 - 8:25 am

    My questions have been answered.

  12. Archon -  August 17, 2011 - 8:34 pm

    @ Carlitos

    Wow! Profiled by the sociopath. That’s very Criminal Minds, but it’s my prediction about you having to return to the scene that is valid. Other than mine above, there’s been one post on this thread in a week, and that’s where you hide yours, so no-one can see. It’s even strange that I decided to go back three topics. It’s even less likely that you will return here to see this, so we’ll wait for a new thread for me to discuss your new incorrect assumptions.

  13. Carlitos -  August 15, 2011 - 7:19 am


    @Archon on August 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm
    “@ Lefty

    Glad you do. Carlitos hates my guts. He keeps making unproven claims and I kept pointing out his errors. He took it as a contest and finally claimed to have given up. Not to worry, he and his outrageous opinions will be back soon”

    Yes, I’m back. And I don’t hate your guts because you have none. Just your annoying “holier-than-thou” attitude. Surely you don’t go through your life correcting everyone and then implying that they’re ignorant in person; this is all you do on this blog. You bring nothing to anyone except shallow amusement to yourself which leads me to believe you have low self esteem and lack caring friends.

  14. DDT -  August 14, 2011 - 9:53 pm

    @Gur: That’s a nice try at defining “alternative,” but I think the distinction is simply one of marketing and sales–you were in the ballpark when you suggested that alternative diverges from pop. First, let’s ask: “Alternative” to what? Alternative to the mainstream, with “mainstream” denoting significant sales, media exposure, and general recognition by even casual listeners.

    The style or genre doesn’t matter, although in the ’80s and ’90s “alternative” was often used to describe non-mainstream hard rock and punk/hardcore. Two quick examples: Nirvana was an “alternative” band when it was releasing records on Sub Pop, but then it graduated to the mainstream when it signed with a major label, Geffen. Casual listeners might think that _Nevermind_ was the band’s first album when in fact it had been recording for years before that release.

    But the idea of “alternative” is older than that. Pink Floyd was known as an “underground” band in the 1960s, and it had been releasing records for several years, on a major label, before it became commercially successful with _Dark Side of the Moon_. In fact, FM rock radio began in the 1960s as an alternative to Top 40 commercial AM radio; FM radio gave exposure to the “alternative” acts of the day, which helped them graduate to the mainstream. Also, keep in mind that FM radio was not always widely available–stock radios in American cars, for example, often featured only AM radio bands through the 1970s.

  15. Archon -  August 13, 2011 - 4:11 pm

    Watched a syndicated rerun of an old Cold Case TV show late last night. It was about a Marine missing off a ship bound for Korea in 1951. We saw him follow a girl into a club, and what’s playing on the record machine? Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats! What an anchor to this thread! To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never heard it. I was alive in ’51 but wasn’t listening to music on the radio, didn’t get TV ’til ’58.

  16. Em -  August 9, 2011 - 4:43 pm

    I forgot to mention that my teacher also noted that proof of this etymology is the fact that many early rock ‘n roll songs had lyrical euphemisms for sex. The songs seemed PG to the average listener, but those in the know knew that the songs were usually referencing the other two parts of the trinity; sex and drugs.

  17. Em -  August 9, 2011 - 4:41 pm

    My music teacher told us that she read that the phrase originated because of the association with that genre of music and sex-crazed black youth. The rocking and rolling was the rocking and rolling done in bed, a euphemism for sex :)

  18. Scott L. -  August 8, 2011 - 3:57 pm

    I like the term “Classic Alternative”, which is somewhat of an oxymoron. “Classic” has a mainstream-ish connotation while alternative does not. In spite of this, Classic Alternative on FIOS is one of my favorite stations to listen to while doing the dishes.

  19. wakener -  August 7, 2011 - 8:55 am

    Freed didn’t create the term; it was already in use. As others have noted, it referred to sex, but specifically to sex in the back seat of a car. You rock (the car) and then you roll (away). And on the radio, you play the music that your parents just don’t get, Daddy-o.

    Alternative music was music that was produced by acts not signed to any of the major labels. They were signed to *alternative* labels, smaller outfits which often dealt with counter-cultural acts, or in some cases, they were independent. Now, when many of the alternative acts have moved into the mainstream, it seems that the term “alternative label” doesn’t have the meaning it used to, so now we have “independent labels,” which originally meant labels not associated with a large corporation. That meaning too, is changing.

  20. Matilde -  August 7, 2011 - 8:48 am

    woops – grammatical not gramatical.

  21. Matilde -  August 7, 2011 - 8:42 am

    Gramatical correction: Change the word “nothing to “anything”. “I don’t think that rock and roll or rock’n roll has ANYTHING to do with….”

  22. Bob -  August 7, 2011 - 8:41 am

    @Jame “why lullaby pronounces as “Lalabay” ”

    It’s not. It’s pronounced more like: lull – uh – by.

  23. gladys:) -  August 7, 2011 - 5:21 am

    i love saying……rock ‘n roll…woahh thats all..

  24. steve blanchard -  August 6, 2011 - 10:31 pm

    wattabout; ‘keep on rockin’ in the free world’

  25. kimi -  August 6, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    Roll’n roll from my era (70′s 80′s) ment to me to party hard or to do whatever you are doing well and hard. Like to “Rock it right out.” To let loose, to do it well and have tons of fun doing it. Peace only

  26. Trevor -  August 6, 2011 - 4:01 pm

    When did “Indie” become synonymous with “Alternative”. Clearly “Indie” is an abbreviated form of the word Independent, owing to the fact that Indie bands and titles are aren’t supposed to have any ties to a publishing company. Alternative already has the suitable definition posted by @Harry C. When did it become common to use them interchangeably as a genre? Why so?

  27. CHENOITAXXX -  August 6, 2011 - 8:45 am

    I love rock ♥

  28. yamini -  August 6, 2011 - 3:59 am


  29. Archon -  August 5, 2011 - 10:23 pm

    @ Lefty

    Glad you do. Carlitos hates my guts. He keeps making unproven claims and I kept pointing out his errors. He took it as a contest and finally claimed to have given up. Not to worry, he and his outrageous opinions will be back soon.

  30. John McFarland -  August 5, 2011 - 12:16 pm

    Alan Freed is credited with creating the tern rock and roll with the music, he got the term from a record store owner in Cleveland.

  31. buggie bug 37 -  August 5, 2011 - 11:26 am

    coooooolio this is great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. buggie bug 37 -  August 5, 2011 - 11:25 am

    i think it is very stupid………………. just kidding its acually really cool to know all these odd things. i would never think to ask these kind of questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Chrisf -  August 5, 2011 - 2:39 am

    It is sad to me to see dictionary.com calling ‘n’ merely an apocopation. Clearly it is not only the ending letter and sound that are dropped. So too are the first letter and sound. Sure, it’s a truncated word. But that is not _all_ that it is. What about the A? Won’t somebody please think of the A?
    However, I was interested to learn about “apocope” and its forms. :-)

  34. S. J. Dunn -  August 4, 2011 - 8:37 pm

    “Rock ‘n roll” refers to the base instincts of sex and eating. E.g., “Rock me all night long” in “Let the Good Times Roll.” And, “roll by breakfast” in Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

  35. Waldo Pepper -  August 4, 2011 - 5:19 pm


  36. love the world -  August 4, 2011 - 4:14 pm

    do not become brainwashed with sublime lyrical messages!

  37. alittleguitar -  August 4, 2011 - 3:02 pm

    wow. that pedantic explanation sure took the fun out of rock ‘n’ roll.

    (but only briefly).

  38. Akimi -  August 4, 2011 - 2:08 pm

    In reference to the title: The question mark should be outside of the quotation marks since it isn’t part of the quoted material.

  39. Lefty -  August 4, 2011 - 1:15 pm

    Archon very well done! I gotta say love your witty style of research and presentation!

  40. #1 Skillet Fan -  August 4, 2011 - 1:15 pm

    What about heavy metal?

  41. Anon -  August 4, 2011 - 12:09 pm

    “The earliest recorded use of the term in literature can be found in the lullaby ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’ from 1805.”

    That’s not true. Shakespeare used “rock” in the same sense much earlier. Two examples:

    “Sleep rock thy brain” (Hamlet)

    “Then death rock me asleep, abridge my doleful days!” (Henry IV, Part II)

  42. Jessica -  August 4, 2011 - 11:03 am

    Alternative= radio station 103.9….its called Alternative Rock so just listen to that..

  43. Suldog -  August 4, 2011 - 7:36 am

    The article is informative. Even more so is the number of people who don’t know how to spell who felt the need to add their commentary to it. Yikes!

  44. S D MANGHNANI -  August 4, 2011 - 7:10 am


  45. JJRousseau -  August 4, 2011 - 5:43 am

    And turn your self around.

  46. Wolfmeister -  August 4, 2011 - 5:28 am

    ha, ha, ha …”Bob Didly and Chuck Berry among others, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis” pioneers? Very funny. Never heard of ‘Bob Didly’. Fiddlesticks! Bo Diddley, Berry and the boys were merely the first to record this sort of stuff. Some of you people seem to forget that they didn’t have a recording studio where everybody could just walk in at every street corner… Crap discussion. All a bit … pedestrian …

  47. john -  August 4, 2011 - 3:25 am


  48. Steph -  August 4, 2011 - 3:16 am

    Let’s ‘move’ like a ‘small wheel.’

  49. bluesman -  August 4, 2011 - 2:02 am

    I’d be surprised if the term came from anywhere else than the jazz era of 20′s 30′s USA. Much of what remains in common parlance originates from that time. Cool, hip, hang out, daddy-o, high, etc. to name but a few. I’m speculating here, but possibly these terms were coined for the purpose of excluding the white population from the black people’s conversation, thus providing them with a sense of empowerment over their oppressors. And, yes, rock and roll is surely a euphemism for sexual intercourse!

  50. someone -  August 3, 2011 - 11:31 pm


  51. SGofAurum -  August 3, 2011 - 9:58 pm


  52. Archon -  August 3, 2011 - 9:21 pm

    @ jame

    Who composed the Rock-a-bye Baby song?

    Somebody so long ago and so far away, that, like other “folk songs” and “folk tales,” we don’t know. Nobody wrote down the author’s name. Probably a desperate mother, repeating this soft little ditty, over and over, trying to calm a fussy child into sleep. It may have happened outside, because the words of the song actually refer to a pine, or other evergreen tree’s cone. “Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree-top.” Her little baby resembled the pine cone being rocked in its mother tree’s hold. “When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.” The gently curved pine bough resembled a child’s cradle, and the soft breeze caused the tree to rock back and forth. “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.” When the wind got strong and gustier, it could snap branches off the tree. “And down will come baby, cradle and all.” It’s a good thing we didn’t put our real baby up there!

    Why is lullaby pronounced as “Lalabay?” Probably because you wrote the question as, “why lullaby pronounces as “Lalabay”. It shows that English is not your first language, and you speak it with a strong accent. Cold and dirty, the answer is, because you say it wrong! Your English is much better than my Spanish but, if you have a question about a dispute between you and the language, doesn’t it seem obvious that it’s You who is incorrect?

    Where is lullaby derived from? I’ve done enough of your work. Get off your lazy ass and do what I did. I was sure that I knew already, but I went back to the Dictionary section and plugged it into the word look-up space, and clicked search. Really? You want somebody to come over to your house and feed you too?

  53. eNDril -  August 3, 2011 - 8:23 pm

    What about metal and heavy metal?

  54. D. knuckles -  August 3, 2011 - 8:11 pm

    @ JfromI
    He wasnt the first person to coin that. before it was even used on the radio it was used amongst those musicians and fans in the street.

  55. D. knuckles -  August 3, 2011 - 8:08 pm

    Rock n Roll means Chuck berry, little Richard, big momma thorton, ike and tina.
    before elvis , rolling stone and who ever else people may want to think. (the first songs elvis created where cover songs from artists like these) rock n roll comes from Rnb and before that radio show in Cleveland used the phrase, it was a term locally used in communities where they made that type of music.
    Blues, jazz, Rnb, Rock n Roll, hip hop……..

  56. tom -  August 3, 2011 - 6:09 pm

    I think the phrase rock n roll became popular in the 50s and 60s, when kids in there hot rods crused around town listing to rock music! Let’s Rock n Roll.

  57. John -  August 3, 2011 - 12:37 pm

    The Associated Press style book entry for the phrase is rock ‘n’ roll, so that’s why you will see it spelled that way in most AP-member news outlets.

  58. George -  August 3, 2011 - 12:02 pm

    “alternative” as the term for the genre of music is a product of it’s time when music of a certain type didn’t fit into any of the current established genres of the time. Alternative eventually became a bigger genre than the name of the genre itself implies.

  59. Rocky Jette -  August 3, 2011 - 10:43 am

    Well , Is Hokey Pokey really what it’s all about? Sincerely, Rock–and Roll Jett’e.

  60. Socrates -  August 3, 2011 - 10:11 am

    “the hot word” rocks!

    BTW, apocopate/apocopation from (ital.) apo (off) and copare or (fr.) couper (to cut).

  61. Scott Schultz -  August 3, 2011 - 9:17 am

    I’m not really sure what Alternative is supposed to mean these days – it’s a term that’s been co-opted and categorized.

    As @Gur suggests, in the 90′s and even the late 80′s, Alternative was a term the referred to music that defied categories. Eclectic, experimental, often cutting edge but in different directions than say Punk or other movements.

    In fact, what you could say about Alternative was that it was non-denominational. Punk and Grunge and similar were communities. They were movements within music of new styles. Alternative as a whole wasn’t about embracing one style and commercializing it. It was (is) about embracing a variety of styles for the sake of the variety and resultant innovation.

    KEZX radio in Seattle, back in the late 80′s, was one of the first really Alternative stations back before Alternative was really even a label. On any given day, you’d hear Pete Townsend doing what, at the time, was cutting edge material. You’d hear discordant, weird stuff like Chase the Dragon. You’d hear pseudo-folk like Reilly & Maloney and John McCutcheon. You’d hear instrumental stuff like Tingstad & Rumbel. Basically, you got all kinds of “fringe” music; not just what you’d call “Rock and Roll”.

    I suppose that these days people tend to think of Alternative as meaning “Alt Rock”, referring to anything post-grunge that isn’t (yet) mainstream but still has a recognizable rock sound. Some radio stations seem to think that “Adult Alternative” is this generation’s answer to our parents’ “Easy Listening” stations. *laugh*

    In the end, I suppose that it comes down to one commonality – “Alternative” is music that defies strict categorization, at least for as long as it takes for someone to come up with a category to pigeon-hole it into. Heh.

  62. Miss Trixie -  August 3, 2011 - 9:13 am

    “Bohemian lifestyle”. Funny, didn’t know all rockers were hippies. And it’s not such an enjoyable life, unless you’re so wealthy you can afford to complain about starving artists and where everyone else’s money should go.

    To me, Rock N Roll always had to do with the way the body moves when you dance… I’m a horrible dancer, but I can jitterbug pretty well, if you can believe it. You rock apart, then roll back together. Otherwise, if you don’t have a partner, you just move where the music takes you… Rock, then rollllllll! *HOWL!*

  63. JfromI -  August 3, 2011 - 8:02 am

    @ Maria: It’s “Bo Diddly” not “Bob Didly”.

    This is a very interesting Hot Word. I am proud that the first person who coined the term as it is used today was from Ohio, like myself.

    And the rest…
    …was history.

  64. paul -  August 3, 2011 - 7:36 am

    At one time, any music that was not in the main stream could be called “Alternative Music”. It really meant that it didn’t easily fit in to any of the standard genres.

    When the Grammys created an “alternative” category and R.E.M. won the award. The category became solidified into a certain kind of band or sound.

    The music industry incorperated the alternative movement into the mainstream and thereby reduced it to a narrower category than it had originally been.

  65. John Norbert -  August 3, 2011 - 7:12 am

    If the apostrophe replaces a missing letter, then the expression should be rock ‘n’ roll. The folks at Steak ‘n’ Shake have not yet heard that news. Nor the people at Eat ‘n’ Park. Nor, I am afraid, millions of others.

  66. Laurence -  August 3, 2011 - 7:00 am

    Only John and David were correct; Rock’n'roll means nothing more than fornication. It symbolizes the actions during intercourse.
    Some people try to make a ‘truth’ in attempts to be philosophical when the actual truth is so elementary. Education can be a beautiful yet ugly thing sometimes. But hey, I guess that’s part of being a descendant of one who partook of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.

  67. denteritivity -  August 3, 2011 - 5:51 am

    Awesome article xD Just had a question. Where did dubstep originate from and who and when??

  68. chrysso -  August 3, 2011 - 5:07 am

    i ve read many articles, explaining the term rock and where it came from, but at the end i was confused, does anyone know something more analytical?

  69. PwngPrsn -  August 3, 2011 - 3:49 am

    yay awesome

  70. Diddle -  August 3, 2011 - 3:41 am

    Quite interesting actually. Good on ya Hot Word!!

  71. phemi -  August 3, 2011 - 1:39 am

    it’s cool and lovely music…….

  72. JJRousseau -  August 3, 2011 - 12:47 am

    Rockin’ the Roll of the Poet, Musical or not. Politically it’s priceless,
    Religiously it’s the last best chance we got. Some belief systems forbid music.
    How on earth could that be. Categorically speaking.. All music is one key of middle C. –>>RLTR

  73. Ezekiel Rage -  August 2, 2011 - 11:35 pm

    A parishioner once asked his priest, “Is Rock n’ Roll godly?” to which the priest, after a few seconds of thought, replied:

    “Well, right now I’m standing on the Rock of Ages and my name is written in the Roll up yonder, so yes, I guess Rock n’ Roll is godly!”

  74. jerry chifimbo -  August 2, 2011 - 10:46 pm

    thats good hey

  75. Gur -  August 2, 2011 - 3:34 pm

    @ Harry C- My views- Alternative is a term which gained popularity during early ’90s. Any kind of music which had basic elements of rock- guitar, bass and drums- but was different from music pre-90s got the term alternative (it may even be divergent from pop music). It is a form of rock music alternative to classic rock (now classic rock too has many forms but for a general understanding I’d say Guns n’ Roses, or even Bon Jovi). For example- Grunge of 90s was a form of alternative rock. And alternative is different from metal. It’s not as heavy as metal. Consider Limp Bizkit. You wouldn’t call them alternative rock but rap metal or any other genre separate from rock. If this doesn’t address your question or you want greater explanation, please let me know.

  76. Arcanis -  August 2, 2011 - 1:01 pm

    now it’s just ROCK

  77. Darwin Christ Almighty! -  August 2, 2011 - 10:00 am


    I had posted a beautiful and topical song about rock and roll by R.C. and the Monkey-Junks, but it looks like dictionary.com removed it? Maybe it was deemed too offensive? I’ll “CORRECT” that.

    Here it is again (“CORRECTED”)…

    “Rock and Roll”
    by R.C. and the Monkey-Junks

    Rock and roll,
    Rock and roll
    Grandma and Grandpa like
    Rock and roll
    So rebellious, so
    FLIPPIN’ cool
    DEFECATING their pants and
    Dripping drool

    Punk, punk,
    Punk, punk
    Mommy and Daddy
    Love the punk
    Big record collection and
    Misfit tattoos
    Someday you’ll be
    Affluent too

  78. David Jones -  August 2, 2011 - 9:17 am

    The term rock & roll is all about sex. Take away that topic and you do not have rock & roll. Its no real mystery. Any attempt to dignify it by musicologists is blatantly and knowingly disingenuous.

  79. Cyberquill -  August 2, 2011 - 9:08 am

    Yes, I have a question related to musical artists:

    Speaking of rock’n'roll, how come nobody—and I mean NOBODY—in the U.S. knows Shakin’ Stevens? In the ’80s, this guy was the biggest selling British act in Europe, far bigger than Boy George and all the other Brits that made it across the Atlantic. How can an artist sell this many records and have this many Top-10 hits in Britain and be TOTALLY unknown in the U.S.?

  80. yayRay Shell :) -  August 2, 2011 - 7:56 am

    This is so cool! You are awesome dictionary.com <3

    Right now I can't figure out anything to answer your question.

    Maybe how did Lady Gaga got her name or Flo Rida or Fergie how they got it and its real meaning.

  81. smana -  August 2, 2011 - 6:54 am

    Thoroughly endyed reading the fascinating article.
    Thank you

  82. Carlitos -  August 2, 2011 - 6:48 am

    Time to face the change, ch-ch-ch-changes! Look out you rock-n-rollers!

    More importantly: These children who you spit on, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations; they’re quite aware of what they’re going through!

  83. paul c -  August 2, 2011 - 6:28 am

    …and why is Rock’n'Roll’s mother (q.v. Muddy Waters) called the ‘Blues’

  84. Liza with a Z -  August 2, 2011 - 6:22 am

    What is the difference between cool jazz and hot jazz or even bebop? How about Country v. Country & Western? Hip Hop and rap? Song examples would be best. Thanks!

  85. John -  August 2, 2011 - 5:56 am

    Half the terms in music are double entendres for sex. Rock and Roll, Jazz, Boogie and many others. It’s that Bohemian lifestyle musicians get to live. Lucky them.

  86. CHENOITAXXX -  August 2, 2011 - 5:42 am


  87. Maria -  August 2, 2011 - 5:39 am

    I don’t think that rock and roll or rock’n roll has nothing to do with white music as the pioneers are Bob Didly and Chuck Berry among others, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and all that band of early rockers just follow the trend, and made it famous but again, the beginnings are ‘black as night’.

  88. manjot singh -  August 2, 2011 - 4:34 am

    it’s one such hell of an information.
    all i gotta say is “rock n roll”.

  89. mickey mouse -  August 2, 2011 - 3:20 am

    No questions really. not ones related to musical styles n artists. But thanks for asking.

  90. abreham -  August 2, 2011 - 2:53 am

    nothing till now, where are you going

  91. Molly -  August 2, 2011 - 1:40 am

    wow! this is very interesting, aye?

  92. Harry C. -  August 2, 2011 - 1:37 am

    I am somewhat buffaloed by the ALTERNATIVE MUSIC genre.
    In Merriam Webster as well as the American Heritage alternative fits in this music has to be the meaning”unconventional,iconoclastic;defy the percepts of the mainstream trends”,thus defining the Alternative music to be a catagory that diverge,if not diametrically opposed,to the common cognizance of the principles of music.

    But are there any yardsticks or benchmarks that gauge whether a piece of melody is an ALTERNATIVE or not? In other words,any music falls on the lable of alternative appositely or embodies the exemplar of this genre?

  93. jame -  August 2, 2011 - 12:53 am

    party rock !!! yeah !!! :)

  94. jame -  August 2, 2011 - 12:52 am

    ,who composed the “Rock-a-bye Baby Song” ? why lullaby pronounces as “Lalabay” and where lullaby derived from ? :D


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