Is Rock And Roll Dead?
As we go deeper into the new millennium, time is inevitably catching up with the progenitors of the music that radio disc jockey Alan Freed dubbed "rock and roll". Just this year the man that many credit as being the father of rock and roll, passed away. Chuck Berry died at the age of 90 on March 18th. On May 27th, we lost one of the founders of Southern rock. Greg Allman was 69.
Another rock pioneer that died this year is lesser known, but no less influential. Allan Holdsworth was 70 years old when he passed on April 15th. Holdsworth was an early proponent of the SynthAxe, a synthesized guitar for which he would become famous for playing. At the time of his death eulogies were presented on social media from guitar legends Eddie Van Halen, Neil Schon, Peter Frampton, and others who counted Holdsworth as an inspiration.
Holdsworth's passing is notable in another sense in that it presages the future of guitar-driven music.
Make no mistake, rock and roll is not dead. There is still great rock music being produced by legendary bands like Metallica and Green Day, along with newcomers like Highly Suspect and Royal Blood. But rock is no longer preferred by those in the younger generation who are the primary consumers of popular music. Their music of choice is now electronic dance music, or EDM for short.
Holdsworth's death comes at a time when electric guitars have become passe. Annual sales of the instrument have dropped precipitously from 1.5 million ten years ago, to just over a million today. Gibson and Fender are in debt, and PRS is cutting staff.
Seems that kids don't want to become the next guitar god. Which is unfathomable to me. How many times as a teenager did I preen in the front of the mirror playing air guitar on my tennis racket while listening to Eddie Van Halen two-hand tap his guitar, or Neil Schon execute one of his operatic solos?
Ah, but time marches on. Kids will always rebel against the music that their parents grew up on, thus the rise of EDM. Who knows? In a couple of generations guitar-driven rock and roll might become rebellious again. I hope I'm around to witness its rebirth.