Declarations of independence: by the founding fathers of rock.

We freedom-loving Americans always like to return to the historical roots of our nation, rediscover its revolutionary fervor, and celebrate the glory of its early achievements—especially the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution (given their obviously divine origins).

Unfortunately, as often becomes evident during our political campaigns, few have actually read these documents. But as one who has studied them in their original Hebrew and Greek, I can assure you that much has been lost in translation. (And don't forget that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison usually conversed in Aramaic, which further obscures original intent.)

And what does this have to do with rock & roll?

Well, I wish more of us would return to the historical roots of our national music (rock & roll of course), rediscover its revolutionary fervor, and celebrate the glory of its early achievements.

How many are aware of the amazing run of original songs by Little Richard and Chuck Berry, the groundbreaking recording sessions of Elvis and Jerry Lee, or their raucous tv debuts that generated a storm of national controversy?

The original intent of these Founding Fathers is clear: to break the bonds of conformity and free the human spirit. 'A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-bam' speaks pretty well for itself.

This is a good time of year to revisit these original declarations of independence, which continue to shape our art, culture, and commerce.

Here's one of our founding fathers, setting a new standard for musical freedom.

[A video of Jerry Lee Lewis singing "Tutti Frutti" was deleted by the internet police, so I've replaced it with the author of the same song.]

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  1. What a show Jerry Lee put on! I had no idea he was that good. Why wasn't he more successful??? Claudia

  2. Claudia: Jerry Lee made some questionable marital choices. After being twice divorced he married his 13-year-old cousin. American audiences in the 1950s didn't look too kindly on that. He was called a pervert—and worse. Folks stopped buying his records. Of course if he were running for US President in 2011, he'd fit right in.

  3. Bo Diddley was my favorite but all these guys were fantastic ... Except for Elvis they were all exceptional musicians and songwriters.

  4. Bo was a real innovator, especially with his rhythm chops. Most people don't know he built his own guitars and amplifiers with some pretty advanced gadgetry.

    Let's not underestimate Elvis's effect on the scene. He blew open the door for everyone who came after. And he was a superb rock singer and performer. Here's "That's Alright Mama" from the legendary Sun recording session on July 5, 1954 - a year and a half before he hit it big with "Heartbreak Hotel."

  5. Unlike rock 'n roll, in today's political landscape we don't know what we are rebelling against. Our founding fathers did so that is why they were appear to have so much enlightenment... but it created a vacuum and you know how nature hates that...

    ... same with our politics... we have seen several unimaginative administrations with ideological ties to the elite class... only one side can obfuscate the obvious a little better...

    ... and have you not notice that music has shown the same tendency? Nothing really innovative or creative... although every thing is derivative, the scene now is more reminiscent of scenes from Blade Runner, where entertainment furthers the dulling of the senses...

    It's late and I am out of ramble juice... just dropping off my two cents!!

  6. Yeah, there was a LOT to react to in the 50s & 60s — and some GREAT artists emerged from the crucible of that social revolution. (And the most business-savvy of them made profitable careers from it.) That's probably why we haven't had the same degree of musical innovation in recent decades. Which means: if the economy tanks we might be in for a rock & roll renaissance.

    Thanks for the 2 cents.

  7. us constitution in hebrew and greek? i want what your smoking, jack ... but wop bop a loo bop is a universal tongue ... don't forget charles hardin holley was one of the revolutionaries.

  8. Yeah, most Americans don't appreciate that these holy books have gone through multiple translations over the last 2000 years. And sections of the Constitution go back to Moses.

    Hey, it's "a-wop-bop-a-loo-MOP" not "a-wop-bop-a-loo-BOP." Yeesh! This is NOT a blog for rock & roll illiterates. But we'll overlook it this one time.

    I've long suspected that Little Richard was speaking in tongues on that one, so that ALL nations could understand the universal message of Tutti Frutti. They did in France, as seen on this clip:

    Yes, Buddy Holly (Charles Holley's DBA) was absolutely one of the Founding Fathers of Rock.

  9. The more I think about it, what Buddy Holly accomplished in his 18-month recording career is unmatched by any other rock & roller. What a repertoire: Not Fade Away, That'll Be the Day, Everyday, Peggy Sue, Maybe Baby, Words of Love, Oh Boy!, Rave On, Love's Made a Fool of You, Well Alright, I'm Gonna Love You Too. Definitely one of the greats. And my #1 favorite as a kid (along with Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones).

  10. Being in the right place at the right time sure helps!!

    I hereby declare Alia an independent band!!

  11. That's right, Nick. Don't knock Timing & Location.

    Watching Boston's 4th of July fireworks on TV just now, I loved hearing Chuck Berry's "Rock & Roll Music" (sung by the Beatles) as background music. A nice acknowledgment of Chuck AND the Beatles in the context of freedom & independence. (Earlier, Martina McBride did a great job performing live with the Boston Pops—as a last minute replacement for Lionel Richie. I guess they didn't know I was available.)

  12. I'm afraid I get a bit uppity when people say that music today (whenever today is) has become tired and isn't as exciting as the olden days (whenever you consider them to be).

    I suspect you simply aren't looking.

    Try some bands like Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Amiina, Efterklang, Horrors, Portico Quartet.. I could carry on. There are new records due from Damon Albarn and Bjork that'll blow you away. Dave Alvin has been around the block a few times and just released a stunner.

    Or alternatively, you could just wait for the next Beyonce or Coldplay record and carry on with the self-reinforcing impression that music's gotten tired. It's not music that's tired, folks...

  13. Mark: I assume you're referring to Big Mark's comment. My point (aside from lampooning a certain US politician) is that we forget where R&R comes from. Too many of the early greats — especially Chuck Berry & Little Richard — are lost to younger audiences. In the past I've made the point that the naked SIMPLICITY of early rock (including the swing of it —the "roll") is missing in most but not all modern rock, where production effects obscure the lack of basics (especially a hot rhythm track). The bands you listed all have their considerable strengths (especially Efterklang IMHO) but they make my point. Rock & roll isn't for everyone. And these bands have other priorities. Apples & oranges. (Dave Alvin, of course, is a different case.)

    A great R&R feel will always get my attention. (EVERY ONE of Berry’s & Richard’s early hits had that.) If there's a strong lyric & melody on top of that I’m REALLY sold. And it’s still a great formula for commercial success in the world of popular music.

  14. This song gives me chills and the jumps every single time I hear it.

    I'd like to point to this video as a response to the old bass-player joke: "How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb? Aww, just have the keyboard player do it with his left hand!"

    3-piece band, and one of 'ems a nice old Fender bass. Jerry knew, oh yes he did.

    Origins. Forget them at your peril. I know rock guitar players who've never heard of Chet Atkins. Well, until they meet me.

    Your trajectory is calculated based on your current position and your point of origin. Without the latter, you're just wandering.

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