Rock and roll musicians have not been merely musicians — they have been harbingers of change; in fact, they have often been the change itself. Whether we speak of fashion, clothing, daily life or attitudes, rock and roll musicians have spearheaded several abiding changes, often being the spokespersons of the change themselves.
To take the field of fashion; from the earliest times, apparel styles for the youth were dictated by the legendary rock and roll musicians. Whether it was the early rock and roll musicians like Gene Vincent, who had an entire generation of youth across the world clamoring to wear leather jackets, or The Beatles who saw millions of teens in mop-top haircuts, Beatles boots and collarless blazers; wearing what one’s favorite rock and roll musicians wore became a mark of loyalty and faithful following, producing a fashion cult.
A very powerful theme for rock and roll musicians was love and peace. In the 1960s and the 1970s, rock and roll musicians used their own creations as a call for social change, usually to bring political appeasement and a withdrawal of arms. Nowhere is this more manifest, perhaps, than in the agitation against the Vietnam War. Whether Bob Dylan, or Woody Guthrie, or Peter, Paul and Mary; all the rock and roll musicians of the time called for a cessation of hostilities, often even going so far as combat the establishment head on. Prominent among the rock and roll musicians who were brutal in their call for peace were John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Apart for peace call, rock and roll musicians have also raised large amounts of money through concerts for various charitable causes and relief works. Whether George Harrison’s epic Concert for Bangladesh or Michael Jackson’s fundraisers for Africa, rock and roll musicians have amply demonstrated their commitment to social issues and their willingness to bring about the change.
Even in the field of religion, rock and roll musicians had a strong influence. A large number of rock and roll musicians even went so far as to criticize Christianity, so much so that the Church accused them of being Satanists. Some of these rock and roll musicians are Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Slayer, King Diamond, and Alice Cooper. The lyrics of the most famous Eagles song, Hotel California, is said to have several references to the Church of Satan.
All said and done, it is more than evident that rock and roll musicians were not making just music; they were spearheading revolution. Whether in the field of fashion, or in the use of alcohol and drugs, or in social mores and even religion, they were speaking for an entire generation. There is no doubt whatever that rock and roll musicians were more powerful and more lasting in their impact on society than musicians of any other kind. Their impact on society and people has been and will continue to be the subject of study for time to come.