It has been more than 25 years since the death of Kurt Cobain, the last rock iconoclast that had a major impact on popular music before the rise of hip-hop. That is a generation ago and since then, Classic Rock as we understood the genre in the last forty years has declined to insignificance as a cultural force.
Historically, the term Classic Rock began life as a radio format in the 1980s featuring mainly songs from the 1960s and the 1970s, focusing on the blues rock and hard rock sub-genres. I believe that is a good starting point to re-define Classic Rock as a music cultural movement that began with Elvis Presley (in 1955) and ended with the demise of Cobain in 1994.
There is no doubt that as far as contemporary pop culture is concerned, Classic Rock is no longer significant with hip-hop and EDM being the dominant music genres of modern times. Sure, there exist certain anomalies and the early 2000s saw – with the post-punk revival – one last gasp at rock relevance but certainly nobody can seriously argue with this harsh truth in 2020.
On a personal level, I turn 60 in February 2021, and perhaps for music listeners half my age – the millennials – there is a faint remembrance of Classic Rock being heard from their childhoods but for future music listeners like my grand-children (who are all under 5 years old), it’s hard to imagine Classic Rock having any relevance in their lives a decade from now.
Who cares? Thinking about why anyone should care about Classic Rock in 2020 and beyond is as banal as someone asking why we should continue to care about Bach, Beethoven, Van Gogh, Picasso et al? It’s really a question concerning the value of art. If in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, we are still not able to articulate the value of art to human society, then mankind does not deserve to survive one more generation.
… still there’s more …