Historically, what evidence has been cited in support of the claim that Rock 'n' Roll is the music of Devil? This notion exists in the popular culture, fueled by Footloose and half-remembered grade-school history, that there was some form of official religious condemnation of the rock-n-roll form. What's the real scoop?

On a related subject, was the interval of the tritone, the diminished fifth, really considered Devilish in the past?


5 Answers 5


Replying to Michael Thibodeau: I would love to see any reference to non-church music being called the devil's music during the medieval period that cites medieval sources. I've been working on medieval music history for quite some time and never seen any reference to any of this history. The reference to the tritone being the devil's interval can't be traced any further back than the 1700s. See F.J.Smith, "Some aspects of the tritone [...]: the non-emergence of the Diabolus in musica" Journal of Musicological Research, 1979 for a complete debunking of this false tradition.

The avoidance of the melodic tritone in medieval music was for melodic, not theological grounds. The practice of using tritones in melodic writing was actually freer in the late Middle Ages than later periods, with sonorities such as G-E-Bb with G in the bass considered as consonant as G-Eb-Bb or G-E-B.

  • Right, I was looking for the missing tritone in the answers, thanks for adding this in. Now it is complete. By the way if the tritone represents the devil in historic terms, consider Debussy and Ravel's use of the whole tone scale--it's got tritone city baby with every 4th scale degree !!!
    – filzilla
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 0:56
  • This looks like a reply, not an answer. The second paragraph is kind of an answer, but still.
    – user6164
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 13:16
  • to each his own. Commented May 12, 2016 at 16:51

It actually goes back to the Medieval period when music that was not church music nor followed the church's rules was the devil's music. Madrigals were considered the devil's music because they were mostly about sex. Ending a piece on a minor chord was also forbidden which gave us the Piccardi third (raising the third of the final chord of a piece in a minor so it cold end on a major). The tritone was also banned.

In modern and American terms, the blues was considered the devil's music by the African American religious community at the turn of the 20th century because of song content and that it was tied to drinking and dancing. This was true of jazz and carried over to rock and roll. The associations with drinking, dancing and sex were the original reasons. Voodoo New Orleans musicians didn't help the cause nor did the fears of middle American about their white kids listening to "black" music. Then there was Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath....

  • 4
    I like the thrust of this, but it could be improved with links back to references.
    – Dave
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 12:48
  • According to this link, the selection of Church modes was under Gregory I (ca. 600aD), based on the work of Boethius (ca. 450aD). This one goes much deeper into the Greek part. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 2:08

The first thing that comes to mind is «backmasked» messages (i. e. hidden by the means of recording it backwards) with sinister and supposedly satanic contents:

The best example of such message is the classic passage from reversed «Stairway to Heaven»:

"All yours, here's to my sweet satan, The one who's little path would make me sad, who's power is fake. He will give you, give you 666. There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad satan."

Listen to it: http://www.nauglefest.net/downloads/stairway_reverse.mp3


Overly-broad question that's dangerously close to off-topic, but I have to quote this famous song from a pioneer in Christian rock, Larry Norman (1947-2008). With lyrics.

The title quote, "Why should the Devil have all the good music"? has been attributed to none other than Martin Luther(1483-1546)


A key factor is that rock and roll made people move in ways that were not conducive to celibacy, ie they had fun concentrating on worldly things rather than spiritual.

Obviously this is the work of the devil. :-)

Nice screen grab, by the way.

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