The Heart of Music

Apple pie isn’t the only sweet American treat. Heartland rock and in fact all rock and roll music got its start deep in the heart of America! With the help of pioneers like Elvis, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, rock ‘n roll not only branched out across the world but into different styles of the music as well. There are endless amounts of rock genres (punk, British, arena, metal, glam, etc.) but only one genre was truly made for the American people. The blue-collar, middle class, small town American bands are a part of the Heartland and brought the sound to a worldwide stage. Let’s go deep into the Heartland of Rock to learn a little more about an almost extinct musical genre.

heartland rock

Apple pie isn’t the only sweet American treat.

What is Heartland Rock?

A rock ‘n roll style of music focusing on a sound and lyrical direction that appeals to blue-collared life. The music is more than entertainment in this genre, the lyrics have a purpose and message behind their catchy tunes. The songs tell a story narrating a life of hard times, small-towns and nostalgia. There can be some undertones of country music in the melodies of a Heartland Rock song.

Where did it come from?

Largely influenced by the folk sound of Bob Dylan, garage rock bands like the Rolling Stones, and Southern Rock harmonies from Creedence Clearwater Revival of the 60s & 70s gave room for the Heartland Rock artists to surface. Originally only used to describe Midwestern bands like Kansas, REO Speedwagon and Styx, however, these bands had more of an arena-rock influence and did not reflect the folk/country/rock mix that had become essential to the Heartland Rock sound.

Heartland Rock

Heartland Rock appeals to blue-collared life.

When did it start?

This Midwest musical genre moved to the east in 70s but the genre was not given the official name of “Heartland Rock” until the 80’s. The heartland of the country lies between the Midwest and the East Coast and includes states like Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma. These states hold some of the hometowns of the genres influencers allowing the name “Heartland” to be a natural fit. The 80’s provided commercial success and attention thanks to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album. These new east coast artists quickly became household names with lyrics that were easily to relate to for the majority of American people.

Who are the big Heartland acts?

The artist who paved the way and was the first to reach a large success was Bruce Springsteen with his “Born in the USA” album. Following “the Boss” were fellow singer/songwriters John Mellencamp and Tom Petty who also became household and worldwide known names.  Bob Seger’s sound was a little more traditional than his peers but made his mark in the Heartland Hall of Fame just as well as the others.

What happened to the sub-genre?

The 1990s brought an end to Heartland Rock with the grunge rock and hip-hop movements that were gaining in popularity with the youth. Although the major artists of the genre still record and are popular today, they do not define themselves as Heartland Rockers any longer. The rock stars of today Billy Joel, Kid Rock and the Killers have cited these “All-American” artists as influences but their works will never be considered Heartland songs. The Heartland Rock’s name and legacy will only be associated with the originals who provided it with the short lived success it had and deserved.

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