Formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990, no rock bands list can be complete without including the legendary Pearl Jam, who are known for being aggressively against popular music, the practice of making music videos, and even giving interviews. Pearl Jam first broke into the mainstream music scene with its 1991 debut album “Ten” and helped popularize grunge music in the early ’90s.
The band, which consists of founding members Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass), and Matt Cameron (drums), is widely considered to be one of the most influential of all time. Pearl Jam’s music has been described as “modern rock radio’s most influential stylists – the workman-like midtempo chug of songs like “Alive” and “Even Flow” are just melodic enough to get moshers singing along.” The band is also known for often tackling tough topics such as the environment, foreign policy, and world hunger.
Recommended Listening: With an intensely wide array of songs spanning multiple genres, it would be hard to choose even three songs as a recommended entry to the band’s musical library. From the somber and heart-wrenching “Black” to the beautiful melodies of “Even Flow,” this is one band that you really want to invest yourself fully in.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, also known simply as CSN (and later CSNY), was a vocal rock group from Los Angeles that used complex vocal harmonies. The band was comprised of American singer and songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills, as well as English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. CSN was often at the center of various political activism topics, especially the Vietnam War, and had a lasting influence on American culture and music. The group was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The key members, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, were also inducted for other side musical projects. The group has been on hiatus as of 2019. Just another one of their various breaks, which sometimes lasted over years at a time, caused by conflicts within the group. When asked about the possibility of the group returning for another album, one member said: "I think CSNY has every chance of getting together again. I'm not against it. There's been a lot of bad things happen[ing] among us, and many things have to be settled. But that's what brothers and families are all about. We'll see what happens. I'm open. I don't think I'm a major obstacle."
Recommended Listening: CSNY's famous "Wooden Ships," tells the captivating tale of survival in a nuclear holocaust. Written at the height of the Vietnam War and during the nuclear arms race between the United States and Soviet Russia, the song describes the consequence of an apocalyptic nuclear war. The song was co-written with Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kanter, who said that they "imagined [them]selves as the few survivors, escaping on a boat to create a new civilization" when writing the song.
Also from Los Angeles, the Byrds were a psychedelic pop, rock, and folk band that was popular for their blend of harmonious singing and McGuinn's 12-string guitar. The band is known for pioneering folk-rock in the mid-’60s by combining the influences of the Beatles with other traditional folk counterparts. The band underwent many frequent changes in its lineup of members, with only Roger McGuinn staying from the start until the band's disbandment in 1973.
The Byrds' final album was released in 1973, and many of the band's former members went on to have their own successful careers in other musical ventures. The band was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, leading to the band's last ever live performance together.
Recommended Listening: The Byrds' last hit song was considered both ahead of its time and extremely confusing. "Eight Miles High" is a complex psychedelic jazz journey through highs and lows.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Our next band originated in Florida and formed back in 1976. The band was led by Tom Petty, one of the finest and most accomplished songwriters to walk this earth. What most characterizes his writing style is a strong sense of authenticity and the relatability he brings to each song. Some of the band's greatest hits include "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "American Girl," "Learning to Fly," and many more.
You can safely regard it as Southern rock, the same as Bruce Springsteen’s musical style. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers went on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have been in constant fights with record companies throughout most of the band's existence.
Recommended Listening: Although the song “American Born” was initially regarded as a commercial and critical failure, it went on to receive an acclaimed status in American culture. It has been consistently rated as Tom Petty’s best song and one of the best rock songs of all time and has been called "more than a classic rock standard — it's practically part of the American literary canon." So yeah, it’s worth giving this one a listen.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Despite having their humble beginnings in California, Creedence Clearwater Revival came to the scene just in time, when rock music was beginning to slow down and lose what made it so appealing in the first place. The band's synthesis of rockabilly, swamp pop, R&B, and country was easy to listen to and made you feel like life is sweet as a breeze.
The band was fronted by lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter John Fogerty. Notable achievements for the band include being added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performing in Woodstock.
Recommended Listening: Arguably, the band’s most influential song, “Proud Mary / Born on the Bayou,” came together the day John Fogerty was discharged from the US army. Though not their most popular song, it is undoubtedly their most moving one. We recommend everyone give it a try.