Is 2017 the Year That Rock & Roll Died?

While not exactly going away completely anytime soon, has rock & roll become culturally irrelevant?

Recently when Tom Petty passed away I was ruminating on the fact that there were pretty much only two musical acts universally revered by fans of all modern music – Tom Petty & AC/DC. Even dedicated hip hop fans were exposed to these artists through samples and added to the genres musical lexicon.

And then not long after that, Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitarist, songwriter and backbone of AC/DC passed away. And even though he had not been playing with the band for a few years due to declining health, his absence will be felt, and there will never be one of his thunderous riffs powering a new track again.

With the loss of those two musical entities the connective tissue that brought together fans of music as disparate as country, heavy metal, rap and punk is now no longer. Which gave me pause to reflect on the state of my first love in life – rock music.

Nothing lasts forever. Rock music will not, either. While it is not ready to die any time soon, I suspect it has peaked.

It will unlikely ever produce artists as universally loved throughout entire cultures again, like Tom Petty and AC/DC.

Without the ability to act as a central cultural force, it will never be as relevant as it was. It will never have the power to create widespread social change. It will not unite disparate individuals and groups. It will not be the voice of youth.

As Jane’s Addiction already announced years ago – Nothing’s Shocking.

And to top it off, this was also the first year in which hip hop music became more popular than rock music.

When future musicologists look back to the time when rock music began its decline, they will almost undoubtedly point to 2017 as the year it happened.

5 thoughts on “Is 2017 the Year That Rock & Roll Died?

  1. Everybody thinks that rock & roll died whenever *their* favorite artists died. Me, I didn’t even know about Petty and was barely aware of AC/DC.

    I think the evidence suggests that rock & roll might have peaked in the 60s, but feeling generous, let’s say the early 80s. Technology pretty much destroyed the river of money going to rock stars as soon as tape recorders were around, and by the time that digital copies were just as good as the orginal, everybody should have realized that the end of rock & roll was nigh. The only way musicians can make money when copies are dirt cheap or downright free is on live acts, and that’s good news for the average musician, but bad news for the concept of some big unifying thread going all through modern music. You need seriously big stars for that, and the time of seriously big stars is definitely over.


    1. Neither of these artists were even in my top 100. But i recognize their importance on a cultural scale. And the ability to be important and universal in such a way as a rock star now seems behind us. This is why I think rock is now dead, not because I lost my pet rock heroes, but because it now seems like the baseball of popular music. A once iconic cultural artifact that now exists mostly as a concession to tradition.


      1. Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones are all far more culturally significant than AC/DC or Tom Petty, and all are still around and touring.


  2. Well… I think it died earlier… I don’t know of any good RnR album after 2013. And then, they weren’t release by any new band. I don’t know of any good new RnR band after, probably, the second half of the 2010s… But none of them were that relevant… The last relevant band was Nirvana… I think grunge killed RnR… It was rock in form but not in substance… But including or excluding them, grunge was the last relevant scene: they either killed RnR by homicide or they killed RnR suicide. The 2000s bands were just emos or a mix of post-punk rock with danceable rhythms. There were some good bands but none that eclipsed those of the last century. The last great pure RnR in form and spirit was Guns’n’Roses (Appetite era and not that Axl Rose simulacrum); they were long gone by the 21st Century… The only thing we can know for sure is that by the 2010s RnR was really dead…


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