Now we’re asking the important questions. Is it called Rock because it moves or because it’s as heavy as one? 

Probably our most prominent shower thought yet, understanding the meaning behind it could give us rock lovers a new perspective on the music.

What to Expect

Our purpose in this article is to provide you with a list of possible theories and let you make up your own mind.

In our search for a possible answer, we’ve collected interesting snippets (because everyone loves snippets) of information from the Internet and we will be presenting these in an objective, unbiased fashion, while shamelessly plugging our own theories. Mainly because that rocks our boat.

Let’s start with some facts – but first, you and I haven’t been communicating properly in the past few articles. Almost like there’s a screen between us. So to make this a bit more personal we decided to call you by name. Of course, we don’t know your real name – that would be weird – so we’ve decided to call you Alex. It’s a nice, short unisex name that would fit pretty much everyone.

The Facts – what do we know about rock?

So, Alex, here are the facts:

  • The word rock is derived from the Old English cocaine roccain, which means to pull, tear or move and is related the Old Norse word 
    rykkja, where it could have originally been borrowed from.
  • The earliest recorded use of the term in literature can be found in the lullaby “Rock-a-bye Baby” from 1805.
  • Rock and Roll first appeared in the US in 50’s as a mixture of several other genres. Read more about the origins of rock music in our previous article.
  • Among the first ever rock songs to be recorded is Rock 88. The tune was recorded in 1951 by Chess Records and was credited to Jackie Brenston. Take the classification of Rock 88 into the rock genre with a pinch of salt, though, as the song has very little in common with Rock music as we understand it today.

The Theories – where did rock come from?

So now that we have some facts to work with, I think we can start theorising – what do you say, Alex?

Below you’ll find a few theories which may or may not be linked.

Theory 1: Rock Comes From the Rock-a-bye Baby Lullaby

How does that make you feel, Alex? It makes us feel like we haven’t grown past the infant stage and the Oedipus complex is slowly starting to creep in.  But somehow this theory made its way to us through the crevices of the Internet, so it was at least deserving of a mention.

It seems a bit far-fetched but consider the following: When a word is popularised, that increases the chances of it being used in a different way. It may just be that we jumped from rocking babies to rocking stages.

Theory 2: Rock Comes From Boats

You know what else rocks apart from babies and stages, Alex? Boats.

Rocking the boat is an idiom that became quite popular since the beginning of the 1900’s.

The expression usually has a negative meaning, because a good experience boating is on calm and steady waters. So, a rocking the boat became equivalent to stirring up trouble. A person rocking the boat was therefore considered a troublemaker. Rock has been associated many times with a troublemaking, rebel ideology. Whether against the government, army or pressing societal issues, the genre has always been known for its proclivity to upset the status quo. It appeals to the troublemaker, so Rock could mean Rocking the boat.

Theory 3: Rock Comes From Viking Invasions

We know now that the word rock comes from the old English roccainAnd we also know that roccain has Viking roots.

So, Alex, the logic we’re building here is the following: Historical events have irrevocably shaped the present and made it into what it is. So, if the Vikings didn’t have their wars with the English, would we still refer to Rock music as rock?

rykkja > roccain > rock

What if, the genre’s name is actually the result of bloody battles, raids, and burning churches? We’re ok with that. 

Theory 4: Because it’s ♫ Hard as a Rock ♫

Extra points if you read the heading and thought of AC/DC.

Maybe we collectively decided to call it rock because it’s hard as a rock. It’s pointy, the riffs are heavy and overdrive always reminds us of a rough surface for some reason. And then you have metal, which is generally heavier than rock – both the music and the material. 

We do like this particular naming conversion and we would love it if all music genres would follow this logic.

 Theory 5: All of the Above

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. In real life, things are never the result of one single event. Without invoking the infinity of space-time and the happy chain of random events which made life, and ultimately rock music possible, all theories above have probably added to Rock music being called rock. Or at least cemented the genre’s name in our minds. But the beauty of critical thinking is that you can choose to believe all, some, or none of this.  

Conclusion: What do you think?

What do you make of this Alex? Oh by the way – does it bother you we’ve been calling you Alex throughout this article? Not too much, we hope. You see, sometimes we try to be funny but we end up being awkward instead. If this is one of those times, do let us know in the comments and we’ll find a more suitable name for you next time.

Do you have another theory to add? Let us know in the comments below!


Hey! Got a question for us? Drop us a line in the box below and we'll get back to you.


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