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'American Idol': Finalists salute Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songs that 'shaped' music

April 7, 2011 |  8:03 am


Rock 'n' roll remains one of those tent-pole theme nights on “American Idol,” one that that aging competition would never get rid of -- and for good reason. 

Birthed out of a combination of blues, country, jazz, soul, folk and gospel -- rock 'n' roll, for a lack of better phrasing, is arguably the foundation of American music. 

When a show like “Idol” takes a page from the ole school of rock textbook, it often relegates the contestants to narrowed focuses like artist-specific nights (Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond) or sub-genres such as classic or country rock where hopefuls get awkward leather and lace makeovers as they attempt to imitate rock royalty like Aerosmith, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

For a second time, the show leaned on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for source material. This time the contestants sang songs from a list of 500 the institution deemed as records that “shaped rock and roll.” 

Based on the permanent exhibit by the same name, the tracks were selected by Rock hall curatorial staff along with rock critics and historians and are pegged as “some of rock and roll’s most popular and influential recordings.” 

Zeroing in on a semi-expansive list of songs that shaped the way we know and appreciate rock offered all of the finalists nothing but high praise from the judges.  

With a breadth of artists that have their names cemented in the house that rock built -– judge Steven Tyler earned his spot 10 years ago -– the night was further evidence that the show has no immediate plans on reneging on their promise that contestants wouldn't be forced to veer from their comfort zones stylistically.  

There was blues-rock: Creedence Clearwater Revival (Casey Abrams) and Janis Joplin (Hayley Reinhart); soul: Michael Jackson (Jacob Lusk), Aretha Franklin (Lauren Alaina), Tina Turner (Pia Toscano) and Percy Sledge (Stefano Langone). Even rockabilly kings Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash got some shine courtesy of Scotty McCreery and Paul McDonald, respectively. 

For history buffs at home wondering why recent inductees Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love and Tom Waits got overlooked by the contestants, neither Diamond nor Love have tracks that made it into the list of 500 essential tracks. But Diamond remains the only one of the new class to have his own "Idol" night.

Just in time for its "Idol" boost, the Rock Hall is set to debut its first-ever iPad and iPhone app for the songs that shaped rock. The app will allow users to discover the songs and artists that defined rock 'n' roll. The app will allow you to explore the history of the artists on the list, and listen and download your favorite tracks from the app to iTunes. 


Live from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: Tom Waits, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond celebrate in New York

Idol Notes: Pop & Hiss lends an ear to the tunes that play out on "American Idol"

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Twitter.com / gerrickkennedy

Photos, from left: Haley Reinhart, Paul McDonald and Lauren Alaina perform in front of the judges. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox