I’ve sometimes wondered what was the most pivotal year in rock history and concluded that there were a number of worthy contenders.
Among the many years I would consider is 1942.
What? 1942? Not only was rock ‘n’ roll off the charts, it wasn’t even there. In 1942 artists such as Glenn Miller and his orchestra topped the charts, which held the top spot several times that year, with songs such as “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “String of Pearls” and “(I ‘ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.”
The biggest hit of 1942? Bing Crosby’s recording of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” which held the top spot from October 31 through December 26.
So what does this have to do with considering 1942 one of the most important years in rock music history?
Before I tell the reason for my opinion, let’s look at a few other years that deserve to be considered the most important year in rock.
Some might consider 1955, when Chuck Berry hit with “Maybellene” and Little Richard scored with “Tutti Frutti”, while much of the rest of the charts were ranked with mid-road artists such as “Cerezo Rosa (Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White)” by Perez Prado and orchestra and chorus rendition of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” by Mitch Miller.
Others might name 1956 as the year Elvis Presley scored with his first hits with RCA Victor, hitting hard with “Heartbreak Hotel” and his double-sided hit, “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” opening the floodgates for other rock’n’roll artists.
Jumping into the next decade, one could cite 1964, the year the Beatles took the United States by storm, performing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and at one point retaining the top five positions on the charts. Billboard Hot 100, paving the way for many other British bands to follow in their wake.
A case could be made for 1965, when a number of artists hit the charts, ranging from solo artists such as Bob Dylan with “Like a Rolling Stone” to Welsh singer Tom Jones. The Rolling Stones scored one of their biggest hits with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The Beatles had five No. 1 hits, including “Ticket to Ride and Yesterday”; The Byrds had their #1 version of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and the Yardbirds had hits with “For Your Love” and “Heart Full of Soul”. ‘t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.)” The Supremes scored No. 1 hits with “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again”.
As rock music moved more towards albums, three of the greatest albums of all time were released in 1966, taking rock music to a whole new level: “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys; “Revolver” by the Beatles and Dylan’s double album, “Blonde on Blonde”.
New bands released their first albums in 1966, including Cream’s “Fresh Cream”. The Stones released their album “Aftermath” that year, prompting prankster Ringo Starr to say that the Beatles should have named their new album “After Geography.”
The following year, 1967, saw the release of the Beatles masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Cub Band”, as well as the debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
A case could be made for any of several years in the early 1970s when the singer-songwriter era came to the fore.
Some might push for 1977, the year the Sex Pistols gave punk rock a big boost with “God Save the Queen” and their album “Never Mind the Bollocks.”
The following year, 1978, the Bee Gees continued to hit the charts, this time as disco artists with several songs from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, including “Stayin’ Alive”, “Too Much Heaven and “Night Fever”. “
The 1980s saw the rise of bands such as U2 in Ireland and American bands such as Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses.
Public Enemy opened doors for all types of rap artists, scoring their first hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including “The Enemy Strikes Back.”
How about the 1990s, when Seattle gave birth to the grunge movement, led by Nirvana. Or what about the continued rise of boy bands, such as the Backstreet Boys and New Kids On the Block? And in the 2000s, until today.
Yes, a plausible argument could be made for a number of years as the most pivotal in rock music history, but I maintain that there is a year that has been overlooked by many, which brings me back to 1942. Yes, as World War II raged, 1942 should be considered one of the most influential years in rock music history because of the babies who were born that year – who would grow up to produce some of the most groundbreaking and memorable rock music of all time.
Here is a partial list of future rockers born in 1942:
• Clarence Clemons, born on January 11th. Can you even imagine those early years of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band without the big man, Clarence Clemons, by his side on saxophone? He not only helped Springsteen’s music skyrocket, he became a major component of the E Street Band’s live shows. It was Clemons who did the sax solo on “Born to Run” and many of the band’s other recordings.
• Marty Balin, January 30. The male vocalist of Jefferson Airplane often doesn’t get as much attention as his female counterpart, Grace Slick, but he’s also helped the band take off. He also sang lead vocals on “Miracles,” Jefferson Airplane’s huge hit, Jefferson Starship.
• Graham Nash, February 2. From his vocals with The Hollies to his later collaborations with Crosby, Stills and Nash and CSN&Young and his solo work, Nash continues to tour, record and release new albums today.
• Carole King, February 9. One of rock’s foremost singers and songwriters, King not only wrote a number of rock anthems, but she also recorded one of the most successful albums of all time with “Tapestry.”
• Peter Tork, February 28. One of The Monkees’ finest musicians, who has yet to receive his rightful place in the rock pantheon.
• Lou Reed, March 2. From his work with the Velvet Underground to his brooding solo albums like “Berlin”, Reed continues to influence rock music.
• Mark Lindsay, March 9. Singer with Paul Revere and the Raiders, who hit with songs such as “Kicks”.
• Jerry Jeff Walker, March 16. While Willie and Waylon are widely credited for the so-called outlaw country music of the 1970s, “Mr. Bojangles” author Jerry Jeff was right there with them.
• Aretha Franklin, March 25. Aretha. “Respect.” Enough said.
• Leon Russell, 2 April. In the 1970s, Tulsa’s Leon Russell performed alongside artists such as George Harrison and Dylan on equal footing, in addition to recording his own best albums. He later recorded a comeback album with Elton John, titled “The Union”.
• Allan Clarke, April 5. Joining vocals with Graham Nash on those early Hollies hits, Clarke steered the band to hits such as “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” after Nash left the band. to sing with Stephen Stills and David Crosby.
• Barbara Streisand, 24 April. OK, she’s not a rocker, but she’s still a pretty impressive singer.
• Paul McCartney, June 18. Considered by many to be the most successful musician of all time for his solo albums, his work with the Wings and that little band from Liverpool.
• Brian Wilson, June 20. Founding member of the Beach Boys, also known for his talents as a singer, songwriter and record producer.
• Roger McGuinn, July 13. Singer-songwriter and founding member of The Byrds.
• Jerry Garcia, August 1st. One of the most adventurous guitarists of all time and the de facto leader of the Grateful Dead and his own Jerry Garcia Band. He and lyricist Robert Hunter were one of the greatest songwriting teams of all time.
• Al Jardine, 3 September. Another member of the Beach Boys, Jardine continues to tour and perform alongside Brian Wilson today. He is the one who sings in “Help Me Rhonda”.
• Jimi Hendrix, 27 November. Jimi Hendrix plus Fender Stratocaster equals rock immortality.
• Felix Cavaliere, 29 November. Keyboardist of the Young Rascals, later abbreviated to The Rascals, Cavaliere sings on “Groovin'” and “It’s a Beautiful Morning.”
• December 30, Michael Nesmith. The immensely talented singer and songwriter with The Monkees, First National Band and Second National Band, as well as a solo artist and music video pioneer.
Based on all of the aforementioned artists as well as a number of others, I maintain that the year of their birth – 1942 – was indeed a very good year for rock music in its many forms and offshoots.