Online course: History of Rock, Part One

Dates: any time

Duration: 13 hours

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 out of 941 ratings (see top rating courses here)

Participating countries: any country

Apply hereApplication form

Organizer: University of Rochester at Coursera


  • FREE
  • $49 with sharable certificate

History of Rock

This is a survey of modern history from a global perspective. Part Two begins early in the twentieth century, as older ways of doing things and habits of thought give way. What follows is an era of cataclysmic struggles over what ideas and institutions will take their place. The course concludes in the present day, as communities everywhere are transitioning into a new era of world history. Again we work hard to grasp what is happening and ask: Why? Again we are drawn to pivotal choices made at key moments by individuals and communities.



WEEK 1: 1 hour to complete


Grading and Logistics
Music Fundamentals
Listening Guides

2 hours to complete

The World Before Rock and Roll (1900-1955)

The Role of Tin Pan Alley in mainstream pop, the formation of a national audience through radio and the rise of television, the pre-rock pop of Frank Sinatra, Patti Page, and Les Paul and Mary Ford; rhythm and blues in the years before rock and roll; country and western and the rise of Nashville.

The Music Business in the First Half of the 20th Century
Radio and Regional vs National Audiences
The Stars of Pop Music Before Rock and Roll
Les Paul, Inventor – The Role of Technology
Origins of Country & Western (pre WWII)
The Rise of Nashville
Rhythm and Blues (Pre 1945)
Rhythm & Blues (Post 1945)
Regional R&B Radio in the 1950s
Doo Wop and Gospel
Hokum Blues and Sexual Lyrics

WEEK 2: 2 hours to complete

The Birth and First Flourishing of Rock and Roll (1955-59)

Chart crossover and cover versions, the first hits of Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Little Richard, the rise of Elvis Presley, the music of Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly, the rise of American Bandstand, the payola scandal and the “death of rock and roll.”

The Rise of Youth Culture in the 1950s
Radio and Records
Crossovers and Covers
The First Rock and Rollers Cross Over
The Rise of Elvis Presley
Sam Phillips Selling Elvis Contract
Rockabilly in the Wake of Elvis
The Day the Music Died

The World Before Rock and Roll and The Birth and First Flourishing of Rock and Roll

WEEK 3: 1 hour to complete

The Demise of Rock and the Promise of Soul (1959-63)

Was this era the dark ages for rock music or was it a golden era cut short by the British invasion? The music of teen idols, the folk revival, early surf music, sweet soul, rockabilly pop, and girl groups. The Brill Building songwriters and the rise of the producer. Playlets and splatter platters.Audience

s and Marketing – The Search for the Next Elvis
The Brill Building Approach to Pop
Teen Idols
Producers and Girl Groups
Sweet Soul
TV, Movies, and Dance Crazes
The Folk Revival
Rockabilly Popsters
Surf Music

WEEK 4: 2 hours to complete

The Beatles and the British Invasion (1964-66)

The Beatles transform the UK music scene and then invade America. Other Beatles-type British bands. The London blues scene and the Rolling Stones. Other Stones-type bands. The Who and the Kinks.

The Early 1960s in the US & UK
The Rise of the Beatles
Beatles as Students of American Pop Music
Beatles From Craftsmen to Artists
Blues in the UK
The Rolling Stones Emerge
The Stones in The States
Other British Bands
The Kinks and the Who

The Demise of Rock and the Promise of Soul (1959-63) and The Beatles and the British Invasion (16964-66)30m

WEEK 5: 1 hour to complete

American Responses (1965-67)

Dylan, the Byrds and folk rock. Garage bands in the northwest. Sonny and Cher and the legacy of Phil Spector. TV rock, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Monkees. Music in New York and Los Angeles.

Dylan as the New American Songwriter
Dylan Goes Electric
Folk Rock and the Byrds
The Phil Spector Legacy
Meanwhile, Back East
Garage Bands
TV Rock1

WEEK 6: 2 hours to complete

Motown Pop and Southern Soul (1960-69)

Berry Gordy and the rise and first flourishing of Motown. Atlantic, Stax, and southern soul (Memphis, Muscle Shoals, New York). Parallels between Motown and Stax. James Brown and the roots of funk.

Hitsville, USA: Motown
The Motown Performers
Soulsville, USA: Stax and Southern Soul (7:25)
The Stax Performers (12:06)
Motown, Stax, the British Invasion, and the American Response (6:37)
James Brown (12:44)1
American Responses and Motown Pop and Southern Soul

WEEK 7: 2 hours to complete

Psychedelia (1966-69)

How can music be psychedelic? Underground psychedelic scenes in San Francisco and London. Psychedelia in LA. The Summer of Love and the rise of hippie culture. The birth of FM rock and rock magazines. Woodstock and Altamont.

LSD, Music, and the Trip
The Beginnings of the Hippie Aesthetic
Pushing the Envelope Beatles and Beach Boys
Psychedelia in San Francisco – Subculture
Psychedelia in San Francisco – Important Groups
Psychedelia in London and Underground Favs
Psychedelia in London – Mainstream Stars
Los Angeles and Elsewhere
A Hippie Nation

WEEK 8: 1 hour to complete

Final Exam