With the patriotic pageantry, fireworks, barbecues and neighborhood gatherings that come with the 4th of July just around the corner, Rock Hall staff crafted the ultimate playlist as the soundtrack to all things Americana and celebrations of summertime fun.
The 50-song list covers a lot of musical territory, from 50s to today, blues, pop, punk, R&B, jazz and some classic rockers, of course. Inductees feature prominently – Alice Cooper, Sly and the Family Stone, Young Rascals, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Ramones, among many others – but so do other artists who've made their mark with sunny revelations: Kool and the Gang, Chicago, the Undertones, the Surfaris, Lovin' Spoonful, Billy Idol, Afrojack and, yes, Katy Perry.
Get the Rock Hall's Ultimate 4th of July playlist via Spotify.
In the meantime, here are three tracks that are so routinely misinterpreted – and we included some deliberately in our list! – we just had to give the backstory.
Arguably the most misappropriated song in rock and roll history, "Born in the USA" has been the anthemic backdrop to countless episodes of fist-pumping demonstrations. Anti-Muslim protestors chanted the chorus while picketing the site ...
This month, the harrowing story of the deeply troubled life and wildly creative musical mind of Brian Wilson comes to the silver screen, in Love & Mercy. An ambitious undertaking, the film is directed by Bill Pohlad who tidily splits the entire narrative arc into two distinct epochs: the musically fertile period in the 60s that produced Pet Sounds (with Wilson played by Paul Dano) and the fraught psychosis of the 80s-era rebound (with John Cusack as Wilson).
It's a fascinating glimpse into a well-documented life, and the troubled man who gave rise to among the most memorable and celebrated rock and roll of the past 50 years. So musically speaking, what is Brian Wilson most proud of?
The leader of the Boys has cited the opening bars of "California Girls" as his proudest achievement: "['California Girls'] is something I’m very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys' really greatest record production we’ve ever made."
Released the summer of 1965, the track's intro is stately, almost lethargic, as it blends muted horns and keyboards before slipping into perky-pop song mode. It was also reportedly conceived during among Wilson's first acid trips.
"Everything you guys do is punk rock in the sense that you’ve never gone the easy route, the obvious route, the safe route," said Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz inducting Green Day. "You’ve never repeated yourselves, you’ve never done anything to please the suits… Like Queen, the Who or the Clash, the best bands go on to defy and define the labels they get saddled with…the best bands are legend on record and onstage.
"This is a band that’s so in tune with their audience that they let a random kid onstage and play in the band, in arenas" added Wentz. "They literally fulfill that improbable daydream every kid has playing onstage with their favorite band."
A confessed diehard fan, Fall Out Boy singer and guitarist Patrick Stump said: "Billie Joe’s signature snarl and strong, sarcastic lyrics, that eternally youthful voice, those bright, open chord structures. The way a silhouette of him playing guitar would be as recognizable a posture to any punk rock kid as Michael Jordan's mid-air dunk is to sports fans."
After accepting their Inductee honors, the guys from Green Day – Tré Cool, Mike Dirnt and Billie Joe Armstrong ...
The studio and live LPs released during the last seven years of 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Stevie Ray Vaughan's life ensured his place in Stratocaster immortality and influenced the next generation of blues guitarists. With Double Trouble bandmates Tommy Shannon on bass, Chris Layton on drums and Reese Wynans on keyboards, the Texas-born blues-rock powerhouse forged a sound that influenced and inspired countless players around the globe.
“Love Struck Baby”
The first song on the debut album from Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Texas Flood, released on June 13, 1983 – it was also the first single from the album. But don’t be fooled if it sounds too good to be a new band; Stevie Ray formed the band in 1978, and the final lineup had come together in 1980 consisting of SRV, Tommy Shannon (bass), and Chris Layton (drums).
“Pride and Joy”
This song is a great example of a Texas Shuffle (in which the guitar plays a triplet pattern over the quadruple meter of the band). Listen to how in the opening Stevie Ray plays all the off beats with an upstroke on the guitar to emphasize them. It makes for a great ...
In a recording career that lasted only 15 years, but left a lasting legacy, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Withers mastered the vocabularies of the acoustic singer-songwriter, R&B, disco and even mainstream jazz, while maintaining a distinctive personality as a composer and vocalist. Here are my picks for essential Bill Withers songs.
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
A breakthrough hit from Just As I Am (produced by Hall of Fame Inductee Booker T. Jones), “Ain’t No Sunshine” set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct, no-frills lyric and in the pocket groove. It was also a bona fide hit, reaching Number Three on the Billboard 100 in 1971.
“I was one of those kids who was smaller than all the girls. I stuttered. I had asthma. So I had some issues," recalled Bill Withers. "My grandmother was that one person who would always say that I was going to be OK. … When you're a weaker kid, whoever champions you becomes very important to you." This song is a tribute to those healing hands.
“Who Is He (and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone ...
As both a member of The Velvet Underground and a solo artist, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Lou Reed transformed music forever with his uncompromised and daring artistic vision that has influenced artists for decades, from David Bowie to U2 to Arcade Fire. Here are my picks for Lou Reed essential tracks.
“Walk on the Wild Side”
Off 1972's Transformer (produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson), “Walk on the Wild Side” was Reed’s first hit after the Velvet Underground broke up and remains his most well know tune till this day. The lyrics of the song told the story of people Reed knew from the Andy Warhol/Factory days, while the iconic bass line has been sampled numerous times in everything from hip-hop to electronica.
“Satellite of Love”
This song was originally demoed by the Velvet Underground in 1970 as a possible track for the Loaded album but was eventually rejected. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a man who is watching a space launch on TV and simultaneously reflecting on his unfaithful girlfriend. The end of the song features a fantastic vocal arrangement performed by Reed and David Bowie ...
2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Joan Jett and the Blackhearts created a potent mix of hard rock, glam, punk, metal and garage rock that sounds fresh and relevant in any era. The group's biggest hit, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Number One in 1982) is a rock classic – a pure and simple a statement about the music’s power. The honesty and power of their records make you believe that rock and roll can change the world. Here are my picks for essential songs that do just that.
“Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”
This song is a cover of glam rocker Gary Glitter’s 1973 hit, delivered with the authoritative punch as only Joan Jett and the Blackhearts can.
“I Love Rock ‘N Roll”
Joan Jett's version of this Arrows song was ranked Number 89 in the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs" by Rolling Stone magazine, and was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts first Number One.
“Crimson and Clover”
This reworking of the Tommy James and the Shondells classic reached Number Seven, wonderfully capturing the Jett and company's ability to do tender and tough will equal aplomb.
“I Love You Love Me Love ...
Building on the trail blazed by the Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Green Day are the perennial punk adolescents, true to the ethos of every basement and garage-rock band that preceded them. Here are my picks for essential Green Day listening.
Pitchfork said of this early Green Day outing: “It's raw stuff, but even at this point Green Day's records were at least halfway decently recorded, unlike most of their peers' tin-can-and-twine set-ups.” This 1990 recording – although technically rough around the edges – showcases the group's knack for revved-up melodies.
“2000 Light Years Away”
“2000 Light Years Away” kicks off the 1992 album Kerplunk, Green Day’s last album on the indie Lookout! Records and the group’s first with drummer Tré Cool. The explosive blast of punk energy comes with a fantastic sing-along chorus and lyrics about genuine adolescent longing.
“Longview” was Green Day’s breakout hit, the first single released from their 1994 major label debut Dookie. PopMatters said: "This song didn’t become an instant classic of its genre merely because Armstrong said the word "masturbation" on the radio — it's all ...