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History of Rock, Part Two

University of Rochester via Coursera


This course, part 2 of a 2-course sequence, examines the history of rock, primarily as it unfolded in the United States, from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. This course covers the music of Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Carole King, Bob Marley, the Sex Pistols, Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Metallica, Run-DMC, and Nirvana, and many more artists, with an emphasis both on cultural context and on the music itself. We will also explore how developments in the music business and in technology helped shape the ways in which styles developed.

Emerging out of the experimental and ambitious years of late-60s psychedelia, rock splintered into a variety of styles in the 1970s as the music business continued to expand. By the end of the decade, punk and disco had challenged the excesses of the hippie aesthetic, as rock became more commercially streamlined and radio friendly. The emergence and rise of MTV transformed pop music and propelled the careers of Michael jackson and Madonna, while heavy metal and hip hop dominated the late 1980s. Nirvana leads alt-rock's return to simplicity in the early 1990s.


  • Introduction
  • The Growing Rock Monster (1970-77)
    • A series of styles continue to develop the combinations of late-1960s psychedelia: blues-rock, southern rock, progressive rock, jazz-rock, theatrical rock, country rock, and singer-songwriters. Rock becomes increasingly ambitious. [Read Chapter 8 and work through listening guides for that chapter, viewing dedicated video.]
  • Black Pop, Reggae, and the Rise of Disco (1970-79)
    • Moving along a parallel but mostly separate path, black pop develops with the help of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. Motown continues, the rise of funk and Blaxploitation films. Bob Marley and reggae. The emergence of disco the reaction of rock fans. [Read Chapter 9 and work through listening guides for that chapter, viewing dedicated video.]

  • Mainstream Rock, Punk, and New Wave (1975-79)
    • Rock style from the early 70s are streamlined and labeled corporate rock, as the music business expands even further. The mega-album. Punk reacts with a return to simplicity. New wave develops the punk attitude. [Read Chapter 10 and work through listening guides and dedicated video.]
  • I Want My MTV (1980-89)
    • MTV emerges from a developing cable television industry. Michael Jackson and Thriller. The rise of Madonna, Prince, and Janet Jackson. Does MTV make music more visual than aural? Mainstream rockers continue thrive. [Read Chapter 11 and work through listening guides and dedicated video.]
  • Heavy Metal, Rap, and Indie Rock (1980-89)
    • Developing out of underground scenes of the late 1970s, heavy metal and hip hop become important mainstream styles in the late 1980s, aided by exposure on MTV. The rock reaction against rap. [Read Chapter 12 and work through listening guides and dedicated video.]
  • Alternative Rock, Rock Alternatives, and Widening Gaps (the 1990s)
    • The growth of "classic rock" and the development of the history-of-rock awareness. A survey of artists as they relate to earlier trends in the history of rock, including teen idols, hip-hop, 60s-influenced rock, female singer-songwriters, dance music, indie rock, and heavy metal. [Read Chapters 13 and 14 and work through listening guides and dedicated video.]

Taught by

John Covach


4.9 rating, based on 7 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 454 ratings

Start your review of History of Rock, Part Two

  • Anonymous
    The professor provides a very dynamic and interesting view of rhythm and blues, rock, pop, etc. He shares his wealth of knowledge with enormous enthusiasm. I've taken many, many online courses and he's by far, the best.
  • Lau Wei Lyn
    To big fans of Rock music, this course might seem to skim over a lot of precious material. However, it is an excellent introductory course to Rock music and the study of the history of music in general. As a beginner to Rock music, I thoroughly enjoyed the second part of the course - it was clear but interesting, simple yet insightful. Most of all, I learnt to see music as a cultural influence and product just as much as it is a form of art. Dr. Covach was a great instructor.
  • Aana
  • Alan Salsac

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