#1 Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five “Saturday Night Fish Fry” (1949) R&B and Jump Blues
The song reflects the genre of R&B and Jump Blues through it’s sing-speak style and narrative way of telling a story. it uses lead rhythm piano, heavy on the high hat drums, jazz guitar, walking bass, accenting tenor saxophone, trumpet, and alto saxophone. The tempo and beat was smooth and fast-paced. The audience for the song would have appealed to teenagers due to it’s danceable beat and boogie-woogie arrangement.The attitude is that of the rebellious youth and defiance against authority. The song is a narrative of the conditions faced by the black community in New Orleans and supports their perception of their life.
#2 Hank Williams, Drifting Cowboys “Your Cheatin’ Heart” (1953) Country
The song reflects the genre of country with an emotional, mournful vocal style with inflection, and it’s subject matter of a person who has fallen out of love or been cheated on. It uses twangy lead and rhythm guitars, slow country fiddle, distinctive pedal steel guitar, and country bass. The tempo and beat is a slow, smooth time. The theme of a broken heart would have appealed to its audience of teens and young adults, who would have begun to experience what that was like. Its slow style helped to communicate the sadness of the song and the feeling of the teenagers listening. The attitude is that of someone who has recently had their heart broken. The song isn’t changing any perceptions or beliefs, but rather plays to the common idea of a broken heart.
#3 Bill Haley & His Comets “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” (1954) Rockabilly
The song reflects the genre of rockabilly with its fast, energized pop vocal style. The lyrics don’t communicate any specific message but rather are used to be a backing for dancing. The tempo and beat are fast-paced and are made for dancing. The instruments were a mixed sound of a fast piano, thumping bass,fast-picked electric guitar with solos that sped up the song, smooth steel guitar, and belting alto saxophone It would have appealed to its audience of teenagers with its fast vocals and musical style that encouraged dancing, as well as it’s play on words, counting time like a clock. The lyrics did not contain any specific message but were more used as a background for dancing, with its lyrics fun to dance to. Over time, the song became a favorite for rebellious youth in the 1950s.
#4 Big Joe Turner “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” (1954) Hokum Blues
The song reflects the genre of R&B with its raspy, bluesy, slow vocals. The lyrics seem harmless but are meant to portray sex and a man flirting with a woman. The instruments were a smooth, growling tenor sax with a solo, a boogie-woogie piano, striking snare drums, and low tuba. The song is a call-and-response, with the tempo and beat smooth and laid-back. The song appealed to its teenage audience because those in the know would recognize that the song was about flirting and sex, and would have sounded good to rebellious teens. The attitude was a rebellious one because it underhandedly is singing about sexual themes. The song challenged the beliefs of white parents, who feared their children were listening to inappropriate music
#5 Fats Domino “ Ain’t That a Shame” (1955) R&B, Pop
The song reflects the genre with a vocal style that is relaxed and warm, the lyrics give the song the feel of someone who is mourning someone who has left them, with the song sounding both smooth and fast between the sax and the piano at the same time. The song begins and has intermittent periods of a hard beat done twice before returning to the usual rhythm. The instruments used are a fast-paced piano, a slow guitar, thumping bass, and smooth sax with a solo. The tempo and beat change between a fast-paced movement to a slow double beat The song would have appealed to its teenage audience due to its subject matter, and the common feeling of having your heart broken. The attitude of the song is mournful because the person the song is referring to has been left by somebody they left. The song does not change any perceptions or beliefs but rather plays to a common feeling.
#6 Fats Domino “I’m Walkin” (1957) R&B
The song reflects the genre with it’s upbeat, fast-paced, quickly cut off vocal style. The subject matter is upbeat, with the subject of the song hoping the person he loves will come back to him. The instruments are a hurrying piano, a fast-paced and smooth sax with a solo, a slow, thumping bass,and a fast-picked guitar. The song also incorporates handclaps that move the song along. The beat and tempo is fast, and increases in speed with the duration of the song, specifically the sax solo. The song appealed to it’s teenage audience due to it’s upbeat feel and the theme of getting someone you love back. The attitude is one of confidence and hope, because the subject knows he’s going to get the other person back. The song does not seek to change any perceptions or beliefs, but the hope of getting the person you love back is a universal idea.
#7 Chuck Berry “Sweet Little Sixteen” (1957) Rock and Roll
The song reflects the genre through it’s upbeat, excitable and with brief pauses style of vocals. The lyrics are about fans and convey the excitement of going to concerts. The instruments are a smooth, fast, and intermittent guitar, a high-pitched and fast-paced piano with a solo, and soft pounding drums. The tempo and beat are fast-paced and quick. The song appealed to audiences due to its focus on the point of view of fans, and the excitement of seeing different concerts. The attitude of the song is upbeat and energized, conveying the energy the fans feel. The song isn’t challenging any beliefs or perceptions but is written for the fan perspective.
#8 Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode” (1957) Pop
The song reflects the genre through its fast, call-and-response vocal style, and the continuing use of riffs and a simple melody and easy-to-understand subject matter. The instruments used are a double-stopped boogie-woogie electric guitar with riffs and solos, a full-range and fast-paced piano with a solo, a steady bass, and a fast, soft drum to keep the beat. The tempo and beat is fast-paced and upbeat, with quick starts and stops The song would have appealed to its teenage audiences due to its upbeat and fast-paced sound, as well as its unique riffs. The attitude of the song is joyful and full of energy. The song isn’t trying to change any perceptions or beliefs but is rather a fun, simple song for teenage audiences.
#9 Bo Diddley “ Bo Diddley” (1955) R&B
The song reflects the genre of R&B with it’s intermittent and up-and-down vocal style. The subject matter is similar to “Hush Little Baby” but with more mature lyrics. The song draws on and is also very similar to “Hambone”, the African music style of using the hands as instruments. The instruments used are smooth, consistent electric guitar, and soothing maracas in combination with a steady drum keeping beat. The tempo and beat is a slow, steady sound The song would have appealed to it’s teenage audience because of its simple, powerful sound that was easy to remember due to its repetition. The uniqueness of the maracas also provides a draw for the teenage audience. The song’s attitude is calm and relaxed, and while it does not try to change any perceptions or beliefs, the song’s intense nature would have drawn in its audience.
#10 Little Richard “Tutti Frutti” (1957) R&B, Soul, Pop
The song reflects the genres through it’s fast-paced and improvisational sing-speak vocal style, subject matter of flirting with women, it’s usage of low, growling sax, aggressive piano, and beat-keeping drum and bass. The tempo and beat are strong, fast-paced and energetic. The song would have appealed to its teenage audience due to it’s fast-paced and unique spoken and lyrical content. Little Richard sings about all of the many women he flirts with and this would have endeared him to audiences that liked a more rebellious song. The attitude of the song is very tongue-in-cheek and has a comical feel to it. The song doesn’t change any perceptions or beliefs but would have enjoyed to its rebellious audience.
#11 Little Richard “Good Golly Miss Molly” (1958) Jump Blues
The song reflects the genre with its raw, wailing vocal style, and it’s subject matter of a double entendre of dancing and sex. The instruments used are a steady, fast guitar, and an intermittent wild, riffing piano and sax. The tempo and beat are fast-paced and has frequent starts and stops. The song would have appealed to its teenage audience with its fast pace and wild style. The lyrics also would have been a draw for rebellious youth due to its inappropriate content. The song’s attitude is cheerful and bright, with raw and powerful sound. The song isn’t trying to change any perceptions or beliefs but is entertaining due to its unique manic energy.
#12 Jerry Lee Lewis “ Whole Lotta’ Shakin’ Goin’ On” (1957) Pop
The song reflects the genre through it’s sing-spoken and smooth with a high range vocal style, and it’s subject matter of dancing. The song uses a steady, fast guitar with a solo that suddenly increases the intensity and a wild, scale-sliding piano with a solo. The beat and tempo frequently speed up and slow down, especially when the song transitions to a solo. The song would have appealed to it’s teenage audience due to its energy and spoken parts. Lewis speaks several times during the song and it adds a more intense and natural dynamic to the music. The attitude of the song is upbeat and cheerful. The song would have been considered inappropriate by many, especially from a white person like Lewis. It was unique for a white artist to be so risque and challenged the idea of the clean, respectful songs that white people were encouraged to listen to.
#13 Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire” (1957) Rockabilly, Country
This song reflects the genre through its wild and excitable vocal style in stop time with comical spoken words mixed in. The subject matter is improvisational, which enhances the song’s uniqueness. The song utilized a fast-paced and scaled-sliding piano, steady thumping drums, and a consistently-strummed acoustic bass that repeats a riff. The tempo and beat are fast-paced and haphazard, switching from high to low range throughout the song The song would have appealed to it’s teenage audience through its comic but also the universal theme of loving somebody. The attitude of the song is excitable and wild, with the subject of the song being a person in love. The song continues Lewis’ theme of manic and sexual elements in his songs, which was unusual for a white artist.
#14 Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes” (1956) Rockabilly
This song reflects the genre of rockabilly with it’s mellow, relaxed vocal style. The song’s subject matter makes it easy to dance to, referencing “blue suede shoes”, something the youth of the 1950s would have recognized. The song uses a fast-strummed electric guitar with a solo backed by a smooth acoustic guitar, a steady, low-thumping bass, and a pounding drum to keep the beat. Its tempo and beat is smooth and calm, speeding up in places with solos. The song would have appealed to audiences due to its distinctive fast-changing rhythm and riffing as well as its lyrics about “blue suede shoes”. Many teens would associate the song with dancing, adding to its popularity. The song’s attitude is smooth and still energetic. The song does not challenge any perceptions or beliefs but rather folds into what is considered acceptably clean music.
#15 Elvis Presley “That’s All Right (Mama)” (1954) Rockabilly
The song reflects the genre with its mournful, wailing vocal style. The subject matter is a man telling the person he loves he is leaving, so it has a more melancholy meaning. The song uses a smooth, softly-strummed electric guitar with a solo that increased its intensity, a steady acoustic guitar and trotting bass. The beat and tempo is slow throughout, with its country two-step feel. The song would have appealed to its teen audience through its lyrical content about love, which many teens identified with. The song’s attitude is melancholy and smooth, with a sadder meaning but still having energy in some places. The song is not changing any perceptions but rather appeals to a common feeling that anyone can identify with.
#16 Elvis Presley “ Hound Dog” (1956) Rockabilly
The song reflects the genre with it’s rough and sliding vocal style, its simple lyrics about a “hound dog” or a person with no class. The instruments utilized are handclaps, smooth background vocals, twangy and bright guitar, smooth bass, high-pitched and excitable piano, and pounding, linear drums. The song would have appealed to its audience through its simple lyrics talking about a Hound Dog, a person with “no class” and would have appealed to the rebellious youth culture of the time. The attitude of the song is excitable and energized. The song doesn’t try to change any perceptions or ideas but rather was liked by rebellious teens in the 1950’s.
#17 Elvis Presley “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) Rockabilly
The song reflects the genre through its raw, energized vocal style. The lyrical content is rebellious, being about a jailhouse. The song uses a slamming drum that keeps the beat, a smooth, thumping bass, a high-pitched piano, and a rock guitar that moves up and down the scale with a solo. The tempo and beat is intense and steady, keeping a steady beat until the solos. The song would have appealed to teens because of its raw style and lyrical content, with the song being about a jailhouse and it’s inmates. The song’s attitude is an intense and raw one, with great energy. The song isn’t trying to change any perceptions or beliefs, but it would have captured the interest of teens with its hard sound and jailhouse theme.
#18 Buddy Holly, the Crickets “ That’ll Be The Day” (1957) Pop
The song reflects the genre of pop with it’s excitable and clean vocal style. Holly also drops in pitch and include musical hiccups to add to the vocals. The simple subject matter of someone leaving is also indicative of what was popular at the time. The instruments include a launched into the beginning, energized, fast-picked electric guitar with a solo, a smooth bass that moves up and down in pitch, a relaxed drum that carries the beat, and soothing background vocals. The beat and tempo is a medium pace, moving at a steady pace throughout. The song would have appealed to its teenage audience because of its simple subject matter of not wanting someone you love to leave. The lyrics were clean and didn’t upset any of the listeners. The song’s attitude is upbeat and happy, hoping that the person they love will stay with them. The song doesn’t change any perceptions or belief, but rather plays to the acceptable standards of the time.
#19 Cadillacs “Speedo” R&B, Soul
The song reflects the genre with its bright, open, and smooth vocal style. The song’s lyrics are comedic, talking about a man called “Speedo.” The instruments used are a belting sax, fast-beat drums, a low and swift piano, thumping bass, and excitable blues background vocals. The tempo and beat is breakneck speed and energized. The song appealed to its teenage audience through its whimsical and comedic lyrics and upbeat instrumentation. The song’s attitude is lively and excitable. The song’s lyrics could be considered inappropriate and so would have challenged what white parents wanted their children to listen to.
#20 The Drifters “Save the Last Dance For Me” (1960) Pop, R&B
The song reflects the genre though it’s open and smooth vocals. The subject matter is a person telling their loved one to stay true to them. The song uses an even, relaxed acoustic guitar, a fast-paced piano, and intermittent high-reaching violins. The tempo and beat stay smooth and consistent throughout the song. The song would have appealed to its young adult audience with its theme of asking the person you love to stay true to you. The song uses interesting instrumentation, specifically the violin, to draw viewers in. The song’s attitude is melancholy, with the artist seeming to try to convince the other person to stay. The song isn’t changing any perceptions or beliefs, but rather playing off a common feeling or idea.