Now that classic rock covers over 50 years of popular music, there are a wide range of styles and sounds that changed with the times and technology. From singers who wailed to guitarists who tapped impossible solos, classic rock is now a study in how artists advanced the state-of-the-art in pop and rock music.
The obvious place to start is with vocalists. While the Beatles had distinctive harmonies and led the world away from Elvis and Chuck Berry, this English quartet not only wrote their own material (an absolute game-changer for many artists) but found ways to gather around just a few mics and craft instantly memorable hooks and choruses without the computer-assisted precision we see in many of today's releases.
The Bee Gees were also coming to the fore at this time, and distinguished themselves from bands like the Rolling Stones and The Doors with impeccable harmonies over classic choruses. While they became more associated with the later disco movement of the late 70s, the Bee Gees were one of the pioneering bands in being able to execute flawless, harmony-laden choruses all while gathering around one vocal mic.
While Roger Daltry and Jim Morrison began to introduce edgier vocals punctuated by the rock and roll roar, it wasn't until Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant blasted from record players on 'Communication Breakdown' that a male vocalist actually started to encroach on territory previously dominated by the tuneful shrieks of Janis Joplin. Just a few years later, the insane vocal ranges of Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Rush's Geddy Lee and Boston's Brad Delp would create a new benchmark for what male vocalists could do and were expected to do.
By the 80s, stratospheric rock singers were the norm. 70s holdovers like David Coverdale, Ian Gillian and Brad Delp were still bringing some soul to the affair, but a fleet of Sunset Strip, spandex-clad glam-singers started to homogenize most of the hair-metal that came out of the 80s scene. Offset by monster singers like Foreigner's Lou Gramm, the Police's Sting and Journey's Steve Perry, advances in recording techniques and technology now allowed bands like Def Leppard to layer dozens of vocals to create some of the coolest rock vocal choruses anyone had heard to that point.
Over the nearly 50 years that classic rock now catalogs, pop and rock vocal sounds and techniques have continued to evolve and give us a very diverse set of performances and memorable moments in pop music. Only time will tell what the next 50 years hold.
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