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The First (And Last) Annual "America's Rock Songs" Awards

by Bruce Pollock

With most rock awards given to artists, albums, or singles, the premise of my new book, America's Songs: Rock, is the power of the individual song, to shape careers, start movements, move mountains, and remain relevant long after its original release.

The awards bestowed here are to singles and album cuts, in-concert favorites, cult classics, classic B-sides and rarities, underground gems. Recipients are songs that defined their genre or created a new one, defined the artist and the songwriter, if only for that one shining minute or three. As rock is notable for its inexhaustible capacity for categorization (anyone for "screamo"?), I have tried to limit my choices to the most obvious and enduring labels.

Obviously, I failed, as I was unable to whittle my list below 45. That said, given the title of the book, I have all but eliminated songs from Great Britain, where 90% of the heavy metal of the '70s was born in the moors of Blackpool. As a concession to America's fondness for the sounds from across the pond (where the singles scene is so much more vibrant than it is here), I have included a song apiece from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but nothing by Herman's Hermits, the Rolling Stones, or Adele.

Also of note may be my critical opinion that the Rock Era ended in 1994, with the death of Kurt Cobain and the utter domination of hip-hop (I've been unable to come up with a song to define hip-hop, as most authorities equate it with rap). The definition of hip-hop, as well as my theories about the current relevance of rock, may be up for debate, especially among ardent fans of today's music (I assume there are some). I look forward to being proven wrong. Meanwhile, I humbly offer the largesse of the Internet (mostly YouTube) for anyone who wants to obtain a quick study in the history of rock 'n' roll by getting reacquainted with some or all of these songs.


March 14, 2017.
Bruce Pollock writes the column They're Playing My Song. He is the author of many books on music, the latest of which is America's Songs V. III: Rock! His FAQ edition on Bob Dylan will be out in May.

    About the Author:

    Bruce PollockBruce Pollock ("The Next to Last of the Rock Journalists") is the Deems Taylor Award winning author of 11 books on music, including Working Musicians: Defining Moments from the Road and The Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs of Rock and Roll History. Visit Bruce at brucepollockthewriter.comMore from Bruce Pollock
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Comments: 3

Cool list. Only problem I see is that you picked the slowest of Metallica's thrash songs for "defining thrash"

I think I would've went with either Creeping Death or Master of Puppets
Dave from Greer, Sc
Tool is a good choice but I chose mr. Jones because it's popularity helped dismantle the top 40 system.Bruce Pollock from Fairfield, Ct.
I would say the last song of the rock 'n' roll era would be something by Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. Like Black Hole Sun or No Excuses. or you could go out two years and add Stinkfist by Tool.Jim from Mobile, Al
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