5 Groundbreaking Moments in Classic Rock

Classic Rock is full of big moments with big names boasting big personalities. It’s a musical style unafraid of makeup, pyrotechnics, demolition, and boisterous bravado. But what are the genre’s most memorable and impacting flashpoints? When did the lights get so big that it became part of world history, not just music history? Find the genre’s most groundbreaking moments below.

Videos by American Songwriter

[RELATED: 6 Times Dolly Parton Absolutely Slayed on Stage]

1. Bob Dylan Goes Electric

When Bob Dylan took the stage for his electric set at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, the world of music changed. Known for his acoustic-driven songs (often written as social protest), Dylan was the darling of the folk community, from Pete Seeger to Dave Van Ronk. But when Dylan walked into Newport with a leather jacket and a Fender Strat, many in the crowd were uneasy and then angry. How could their folk hero betray their musical sensibilities? Not long after, while on tour in the U.K., an electrified Dylan was even called “Judas!” by an irked fan. Well, with the style change, Dylan helped usher in the popularity of blues rock, which itself helped create the foundation for classic rock. Seems like it worked out! Check out his performance of “Like A Rolling Stone” from Newport below.

2. Woodstock 1969

In 1969 rock ‘n’ roll was introduced to the entire world thanks to the Woodstock music festival in Upstate New York. The festival that would pave the way for modern musical fests like Coachella and Burning Man, Woodstock took place in the summer of 1969 from August 15-18 and it featured many of the biggest names in music, including Santana, Janis Joplin, and The Who, just to name three. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll never seemed so good as in this buzzy fest during the summer of love. Check out Santana’s performance below.

3. The Beatles Play The Ed Sullivan Show

When the Mop Tops played the famed program, The Ed Sullivan Show in the U.S. on February 9, 1964, The Beatles instantly became the biggest thing in popular music. They’d arrived, both on U.S. soil and in the world’s sonic vernacular. Playing bubblegum pop songs, the showcase set the groundwork for a career that would span rudimentary rock to experimental, groundbreaking tunes. Check out the band’s appearance on the television show below.

4. Jimi Hendrix Lights Up His Guitar

On March 31, 1967, Jimi Hendrix lost himself in spectacle and fire. Performing at the Astoria Theatre in London, the Seattle-born guitar god set his electric six-string alight for the first time to the great amazement of the crowd. The imagery from the moment has been featured on countless posters in countless college dorms and band rehearsal rooms. Hendrix became a fire god, not just a guitar one with the psychedelic moment. A beacon of risk and reward. (And there was risk involved, as Hendrix went to the hospital that night for minor burns).

5. Queen Wows at Live Aid

Queen frontman Freddie Mercury exploded into song in front of 70,000-plus fans, performing a 20-minute set at the Live Aid music festival on July 13, 1985. The event, which took place at the famed Wembley Stadium in London, England, has become part of rock lore ever since. Live Aid, a charitable festival meant to assuage hunger in places like Ethiopia, has featured big-name performances in the past. But none more than the mustached Mercury and his British-born band. Check out the live rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” here below.

Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Newgrass Newbie? Here Are 6 Contemporary Bluegrass Bands to Know

Ray Fulcher Announces 2023 Lyric Contest Grand Prize Winner