Many songs pay homage to rock and roll by naming the words in the title. Here are some favorites.
“Rock and Roll Music” by Chuck Berry, covers by the Beatles and the Beach Boys
Chuck Berry was a seminal figure in rock and roll. His guitar style and the topics he chose for his lyrics have been emulated by countless musicians. “Rock & Roll Music” directly mentions the new genre he was so influential in developing, as does some of his other songs such as “School Day” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” Many artists have covered “Rock & Roll Music,” most notably the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
“(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets
Although this wasn’t the first rock and roll song, it is the song given credit for launching the rock era in music when it became the first rock and roll song to hit number one in July 1955.
“Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
This was one of the songs that helped solidify Elvis Presley’s status as the “King of Rock and Roll.” In 1957 it became his eighth number one song. Elvis had a lot of two-sided hits at the time, and “Treat Me Nice,” an outstanding track in itself, was on the flip side.
“Rock With You” by Michael Jackson
The 1979-80 smash was one of Michael’s 13 number one songs as a solo artist, to go along with four as the lead singer of the Jackson Five. It was a track on the “Off the Wall” album, his first collaboration with producer Quincy Jones. And it was just the appetizer for the monster “Thriller” album Jackson and Jones would deliver about three years later.
“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
This was one of those affirming anthems for rock and roll fans. It was number one for seven weeks in 1982 and is one of the main reasons Jett has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” by Billy Joel
For all those folks in the late 1970s claiming music was now dance, new wave, punk, or funk, Joel simply said, “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me.” In the spring of 1980 it became his first number one song.
“Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats
The Stray Cats did a real throwback song with “Rock This Town,” a top 10 hit from 1982.
“Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker
When Hall and Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, they mentioned they were the only performers from Philadelphia in the Hall. Another one from Philly who should be in the RRHOF is Chubby Checker. “Limbo Rock” is one of Chubby’s major contributions to dance and rock and roll music, going to number two in 1962.
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
In both instrumentation and lyrics, Elton John returned to the roots of rock and roll for “Crocodile Rock.” His reward in 1973 was his first number one song.
“Rock ‘n Me” by Steve Miller Band
Miller travels to a lot of places in this rocker, visiting Phoenix, Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Northern California. The song has a true rock quality of wanderlust. “Rock’n Me” became Miller’s second number one song.
“We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” by Queen
With “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions,” the rock band Queen probably unleashed the greatest chants and anthems featured at sporting events.
“The Heart of Rock & Roll” by Huey Lewis & the News
Yes, the heart of rock and roll is the beat, as Huey Lewis pointed out in his top 10 song from 1984.
“Rock On” by David Essex
“Hey kid, rock and roll, rock on,” Essex encouraged in this number five hit from 1974. Essex was a one-hit wonder.
“Roll With It” by Steve Winwood
Let’s give a couple to the “roll” crowd. Winwood took “Roll With It” to number one on the “Billboard Hot 100,” mainstream rock and adult contemporary charts in 1988.
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations.
By the early 1970s Motown was giving us realistic and sobering lyrics like the words to this number one song from 1972, about an irresponsible man who spends his time chasing women and drinking. The man also has more than one wife and does little to provide for his family or families. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” was a very hard-hitting, uncompromising song with an amazing bass line. It had a long instrumental intro and then the Temptations worked their magic on it with an outstanding vocal performance.
“Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 1995
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003