Pop/Rock  •  Rock & Roll/Roots

Heartland Rock

During the late '70s, a certain strand of American rock & roll emerged that was later dubbed Heartland Rock in the '80s. At its core, heartland rock was straightforward rock & roll infused with Americana -- more streamlined than garage rock, but not as traditionalist as roots rock. Ironically for a style so distinctly American, the Rolling Stones was a clear influence on most of the rough & tumble rockers. But the Stones weren't the only main influence -- so were the Byrds, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and '60s garage rock. The result was a frequently exciting hybrid of melody, rhythm, and message. Although heartland rock wasn't solely political -- almost every heartland artist had a pile-driving, good-time rocker -- it all was united by the attitude that music should be about something. Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, and Bob Seger epitomized heartland, but they were hardly the only heartland rockers. There were critically-acclaimed rockers of the late '70s and early '90s, like Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes and Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers. In the '80s, the genre also encompassed such singer/songwriters as Bruce Hornsby, whose music didn't really rock, but certainly shared a similar aesthetic to Springsteen's quieter moments. During the '90s, the genre faded somewhat, as many bands that would have been a heartland outfit at the beginning of the '80s chose to follow an Americana route, but there were still pockets where the faithful kept the flame burning.