rock-and-rollThe alliterative phrase rocking and rolling was originally used by mariners at least as early as the 17th century, to describe the combined rocking (fore and aft) and rolling (side to side) motion of a ship on the ocean. Examples include an 1821 reference, “…prevent her from rocking and rolling…” (Richard Franck), and an 1835 reference to a ship “…rocking and rolling on both beam-ends” (The United Service Journal). As the term referred to movement forwards, backwards and from side to side, it acquired sexual connotations from early on; the sea shanty “Johnny Bowker” (or “Boker”), probably from the early nineteenth century, contains the lines “Oh do, my Johnny Bowker/ Come rock and roll me over”.

The hymn “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep”, with words written in the 1830s by Emma Willard and tune by Joseph Philip Knight, was recorded several times around the start of the twentieth century, by the Original Bison City Quartet before 1894, the Standard Quartette in 1895, John W. Myers and Gus Reed in 1908. By that time, the specific phrase “rocking and rolling” was also used by African Americans in spirituals with a religious connotation.

The earliest known recording of the phrase in use was on a 1904 Victor phonograph record, “The Camp Meeting Jubilee” by the Haydn Quartet, with the words “We’ve been rockin’ an’ rolling in your arms/ Rockin’ and rolling in your arms/ Rockin’ and rolling in your arms/ In the arms of Moses.”

By the early twentieth century the words were increasingly used together in secular black slang with a double meaning, ostensibly referring to dancing and partying, but often with the subtextual meaning of sex.

In 1922, blues singer Trixie Smith recorded “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)”, first featuring the two words in a secular context. Although it was played with a backbeat and was one of the first “around the clock” lyrics, this slow minor-key blues was by no means “rock and roll” in the later sense.

However, the terms “rocking”, and “rocking and rolling”, were increasingly used through the 1920s and 1930s, especially but not exclusively by black secular musicians, to refer to either dancing or sex, or both. In 1932, the phrase “rock and roll” was heard in the Hal Roach film “Asleep in the Feet”. Other notable recordings using the words, both released in 1938, were “Rock It For Me” by Chick Webb, a swing number with Ella Fitzgerald on vocals featuring the lyrics “…Won’t you satisfy my soul, With the rock and roll?”; and “Rock Me” by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gospel song originally written by Thomas Dorsey as “Hide Me In Thy Bosom”.

The following year, Western swing musician Buddy Jones recorded “Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama”, which drew on the term’s original meaning – “Waves on the ocean, waves in the sea/ But that gal of mine rolls just right for me/ Rockin’ rollin’ mama, I love the way you rock and roll”. In August 1939, Irene Castle devised a new dance called “The Castle Rock and Roll”, described as “an easy swing step”, which she performed at the Dancing Masters of America convention at the Hotel Astor.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an early use of the word “rock” in describing a style of music was in a review in Metronome magazine on July 21, 1938, which stated that “Harry James’ “Lullaby in Rhythm” really rocks.” In 1939, a review of “Ciribiribin” and “Yodelin’ Jive” by the Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby, in the journal The Musician, stated that the songs “…rock and roll with unleashed enthusiasm tempered to strict four-four time”.

Source: Wikipedia

Categories: Stories of songs

4 Responses so far.

  1. Alexyoung says:

    Really nice story for rock and roll music

  2. Alexyoung says:

    nice presentation and history of rock and roll music provided in this post…

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