English – the language of Rock

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Aside from those of your country, can you name at least five successful and talented artists/bands that don’t sing songs in English? It is very difficult, isn’t it? Especially if we are talking about Rock’n roll.

There are two main reasons why this is true, and one of them is because of the Rock origins. Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll or rock ‘n’ roll) is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of predominantly African-American genres such as blues, jazz, and others, together with Western swing and country music.

Soon, the rebellious tone and image of US rock and roll and blues musicians became popular with British youth. Then, in the mid-1960s, a phenomenon called The British Invasion occurred. Rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom, as well as other aspects of British culture, became popular in the United States, and significant to the rising “counterculture” on both sides of the Atlantic. Pop and rock groups such as the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones were at the forefront of the invasion.

So, with both its origins and the most important aspects of its development occurring in very influential English speaking countries, it’s no surprise how important the language is for the genre.

For leading German commentator Alan Posener, that’s surely one of the reasons.

There are many reasons for its dominance, the heritage of the British Empire, and the post-world-war economic hegemony and cultural influence – ranging from Mickey Mouse and Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley and Snoop Dogg – of the United States.

But there’s more than that. There is another reason for the dominance of English in the Rock’n Roll culture that is just as, if not more important than only its origins: English sells well, nobody will question that. It does in English speaking countries, but also in other countries.

The main reason is the elasticity of the language and the broad-mindedness it communicates. If English grammar is rudimentary, the linguistic equivalent of rock’ n’ roll, the English vocabulary is huge. There are very few things that can’t be expressed in English, and if it can’t be said in English then a word is lifted from another language – like “kindergarten,” for example. If it doesn’t exist in English and a word isn’t lifted from another language it’s because what it represents doesn’t make sense to thinking shaped by the English language.

Posener’s explanation goes deep into how the shape of the language works well with the essence of Rock. English is simple, but rich; you can get a message that touches deep into people’s hearts by saying just the right simple words.

And so Rock’n Roll could shape a generation and change the world. It had some unique tools: the right language, guitars, stylish hairs and quite the attitude.