Rock n’ Roll: Origins of the Phrase

Rock n' Roll Instruments

Some Tools of Rock n' Roll

It is the case that this phrase developed at different times in history within a different context. In the beginning, the phrase was used to describe the movement of ships at sea but with respect to music it really described the kinds of movements you would see from a gospel choir singing and experiencing a spiritual rapture. A prime example of this is found on a 1904 phonograph recording by the Haydn Quartet that contained the words “We’ve been rockin’ an’ rolling in your arms/ In the arms of Moses”. Later, the words “rock” and “roll” began to take on more of a sexual meaning in music (which had been around for quite some time as seen in the phrase “a roll in the hay”). Throughout the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s it popped up in many recordings and referred to either the motion of the dance or was sexual in nature. It enjoyed more widespread use in the 40’s when in 1942 the term “rock and roll” was used by Maurie Orodenker to describe certain albums in his reviews in a Billboard magazine column. Perhaps better known for the popularization of the phrase is Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed who used the phrase when playing and promoting this genre of music on his radio show in 1951.

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