I've sometimes wondered what is the most pivotal year in the history of rock and I've concluded there are a number of worthy contenders.

Among the several years I would consider is 1942.

What? 1942? Not only was rock 'n' roll not on the charts, it wasn't even around. Ruling the charts in 1942 were artists such as Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, who held down the #1 spot several times that year, with songs such as "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "String of Pearls" and "(I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo."

The biggest hit in 1942? Bing Crosby's recording of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," which held onto the #1 spot from Oct. 31 through Dec. 26.

So what does that have to do with considering 1942 as one of the most important years in rock music history?

Before I relate the reason for my opinion, let's look at some other years deserving of consideration as the most important year in rock.

Some might consider 1955, when Chuck Berry hit with "Maybellene"and Little Richard scored with "Tutti Frutti," while much of the rest of the charts were filed with middle of the road artists such as "Cerezo Rosa (Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White)" by Perez Prado  and Mitch Miller's orchestra and chorus rendition of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

Others might name 1956, the year Elvis Presley scored with his first hits with RCA Victor, hitting it big with "Heartbreak Hotel" and his double-sided hit, "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel," opening the floodgates for other rock 'n' roll artists.

Jumping into the next decade, one might cite 1964, the year The Beatles stormed the U.S., performing on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and at one point holding down the top five chart positions on the Billboard Hot 100, opening the way for the many other British bands that followed in their wake.

A case could be mounted for 1965, when a number of artists hit the charts, ranging from solo artists such as Bob Dylan with "Like a Rolling Stone" to Welsh singer Tom Jones. The Rolling Stones scored one of their biggest hits ever with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." The Beatles had five #1 hits, including "Ticket to Ride and Yesterday;" The Byrds had their #1 version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and The Yardbirds had hits with "For Your Love" and "Heart Full of Soul."Motown artists had a slew of hits, including the Four Tops'  "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.)" The Supremes scored #1 hits with "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Back in My Arms Again."

As rock music become more album-oriented, three of what are of the greatest albums ever were released in 1966, taking rock music to a whole new level: "Pet Sounds" by the Beach Boys; "Revolver" by The Beatles and Dylan's double album, "Blonde on Blonde."

New bands releasing their fist albums in 1966, including Cream's "Fresh Cream." The Stones released their album "Aftermath" that year, prompting jokester Ringo Starr to quip that The Beatles should have named their new album  "After Geography."

The next year, 1967, saw the release of The Beatles masterpiece "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Cub Band," along with the debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

A case could be made for any of several years in the early 1970s, when the era of the singer/songwriter came to the fore.

Some might push for 1977, the year the Sex Pistols gave punk rock a big boost with "God Save the Queen" and their album "Never Mind the Bollocks."

The following year, 1978, saw the Bee Gees continuing to hit the charts, this time as disco artists with several songs from the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, including "Stayin' Alive," "Too Much Heaven" and "Night Fever."

The 1980s saw the rise of groups such as Ireland's U2 and American bands such as Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses.

Public Enemy opened the doors for all types of rap artists, scoring their first hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "The Enemy Strikes Back."

How about the 1990s, when Seattle gave birth to the grunge movement, led by Nirvana. Or what about continued rise of boy bands, such as the Backstreet Boys and New Kids On the Block? And on to the 2000s, up to today.

Yes, a plausible argument could be mounted for any number of years as the most pivotal in rock music history, but I maintain there's a year that's been overlooked by many, which leads me back to 1942. Yes, as World War II raged, 1942 should be considered one of the most influential years in rock music history because of the babies who were born that year — who would grow up to produce some of the most groundbreaking and memorable rock music ever.

Here's a partial list of future rockers  born in 1942:

• Clarence Clemons, born on Jan. 11. Can you even imagine those early years of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band without the big man, Clarence Clemons by his side, on saxophone? He not only helped Springsteen's music to soar, he became a major component of the E Street Band's live shows. That's Clemons doing the sax solo on "Born to Run" and numerous other recordings by the group.

• Marty Balin, Jan. 30. Jefferson Airplane's male vocalist is often not given as much attention as his female counterpart, Grace Slick, but he also helped the group take flight. He also sang lead vocals on "Miracles," the huge hit by that Jefferson Airplane offshoot, Jefferson Starship.

• Graham Nash, Feb. 2. From his vocals with The Hollies, to his later collaborations with Crosby, Stills and Nash and CSN&Young and his solo work, Nash is still touring, recording and releasing new albums today.

• Carole King, Feb. 9. One of rock's premier singers and songwriters, King not only wrote any number of rock anthems, she also recorded one of the most successful albums of all time with "Tapestry."

• Peter Tork, Feb. 28. One of the best musicians in The Monkees, who still have not received their rightful place in the rock pantheon.

• Lou Reed, March 2. From his work with the Velvet Underground to his brooding solo albums such as "Berlin" Reed continues to influence rock music.

• Mark Lindsay, March 9. Vocalist with Paul Revere and the Raiders, who hit with songs such as "Kicks."

• Jerry Jeff Walker, March 16. While Willie and Waylon are given lots of credit for the so-called outlaw country music of the 1970s, Jerry Jeff, the writer of "Mr. Bojangles," was right there with them.

• Aretha Franklin, March 25. Aretha. "Respect." Enough said.

• Leon Russell, April 2. In the 1970s, Tulsa's own Leon Russell performed alongside artists such as George Harrison and Dylan as an equal, in addition to recording his own top albums. In later years, he recorded a comeback album with Elton John, called "The Union."

• Allan Clarke, April 5. Joining vocals with Graham Nash on those early hits by the Hollies, Clarke led the band to hits such as "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" and "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" after Nash left the group to sing with Stephen Stills and David Crosby.

• Barbara Streisand, April 24. OK, she's not a rocker, but still a pretty impressive vocalist.

• Paul McCartney, June 18. Considered by many the most successful musician ever for his solo albums, his work with Wings and that little ole band from Liverpool.

• Brian Wilson, June 20. Founding member of the Beach Boys, also known his singing, songwriting and recording production skills.

• Roger McGuinn, July 13. Singer/songwriter and a founding member of The Byrds.

• Jerry Garcia, Aug. 1. One of the most adventuresome lead guitarists ever and de facto leader of the Grateful Dead and his own Jerry Garcia Band. He and lyricist Robert Hunter made up one of the best songwriting teams ever.

• Al Jardine, Sept. 3. Another member of the Beach Boys, Jardine still tours and performs alongside Brian Wilson today. That's him singing lead on "Help Me Rhonda."

• Jimi Hendrix, Nov. 27. Jimi Hendrix, plus Fender Stratocaster equals rock immortality.

•  Felix Cavaliere, Nov. 29. Keyboardist with the Young Rascals, later shortened to  The Rascals, that's Cavaliere singing lead on "Groovin' " and "It's a Beautiful Morning." 

• Dec. 30, Michael Nesmith. The immensely talented singer and songwriter with The Monkees, the First National Band and the Second National Band, as well as a solo artist and music video pioneer. 

Based on all of the aforementioned artists as well as a number of other, I maintain that the year they were born — 1942 — was indeed a very good year for rock music in its many forms and offshoots.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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