The Cuban Roots Of Rock And Roll

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You can access the NPR podcast by Felix Contreras here.

If you submitted the DNA of rock and roll to one of those ancestry outfits, you’d get traces of just about every kind of music that developed in the U.S. Spirituals, folk, blues, country and western music have all have contributed to that early 1950s explosion of what became known as rock and roll.

But listen closely and you can hear influences from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, specifically Cuba. Can you hear the cha-cha-cha in The Rolling Stones‘ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”? Or the mambo in Ray Charles‘ “What I’d Say”? Or the Afro Cuban clave beat in “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley?

This week we put on our lab coats for a deeper dive into that DNA with two experts: Bobby Sanabria, a multi Grammy-nominated musician/educator and Lauren Onkey, the Senior Director of NPR Music and a walking encyclopedia on the history of rock and roll.

Like our country itself, rock and roll is an alchemy of distinct cultural expressions that exist side by side. They come together to create a hybrid beauty that shook the world.

Music Heard In This Show

  • Bo Diddley, “Bo Diddley”

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  • Johnny Otis, “Willie and the Hand Jive”

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  • The Rolling Stones, “Not Fade Away”

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  • Rene Touzet, “El Loco Cha Cha Cha”

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  • Richard Berry, “Louie Louie”

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  • Tito Rodriguez, “Los Marcianos Cha Cha Cha”

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  • The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

    YouTube
  • The Drifters, “Under The Boardwalk”

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  • Perez Prado, “Mambo #5”

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  • Dave Bartholomew, “Shrimp and Gumbo”

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  • Tito Puente, “Mambo Gozon”

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  • Ray Charles, “What I’d Say Pts. 1 and 2”

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  • Dizzy Gillespie, “Con Alma”

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  • Chuck Berry, “Havana Moon”

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  • Santana, “Havana Moon”

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  • Celia Cruz, “Guantanamera”

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  • Eric Burdon and War, “Spill the Wine”

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  • The Grateful Dead, “Not Fade Away”

    YouTube

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