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
More Song Writing

Comments: 3

  • Dave from Greer, ScCool 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
  • Bruce Pollock from Fairfield, Ct.Tool is a good choice but I chose mr. Jones because it's popularity helped dismantle the top 40 system.
  • Jim from Mobile, AlI 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.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Ian Astbury of The CultSongwriter Interviews

The Cult frontman tells who the "Fire Woman" is, and talks about performing with the new version of The Doors.

Little RichardFact or Fiction

Was Long Tall Sally a cross-dresser? Did he really set his piano on fire? See if you know the real stories about one of rock's greatest innovators.

Michael W. SmithSongwriter Interviews

Smith breaks down some of his worship tracks as well as his mainstream hits, including "I Will Be Here For You" and "A Place In This World."

Cheerleaders In Music VideosSong Writing

It started with a bouncy MTV classic. Nirvana and MCR made them scary, then Gwen, Avril and Madonna put on the pom poms.

Best Band LogosSong Writing

Queen, Phish and The Stones are among our picks for the best band logos. Here are their histories and a design analysis from an expert.