Purpose This article is an overview of scholarly monographs on rock music from 1980 to the present. It provides an overview to the literature for practical purposes of collections development as well as giving the reader insight into key issues and trends related to a interdisciplinary topic that attracts scholars from many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.
Design/methodology/approach This bibliographic essay, focusing on works related to American culture and of a general nature, includes an overview and historical background; a discussion of how music and ethnomusiciological scholars approach the topic; geographic approaches; literature on four key icons (Elvis, Dylan, Springsteen, and Madonna); American studies; subcultures and genres; other methodologies; and concludes by discussing notable recent works.
Findings The scholarly literature on rock incorporates a wide variety of approaches and methodologies. Many music-related scholars appropriate methodology from other disciplines and some non-music-related scholars use the formalistic analysis of music scholars. Authenticity is a major theme in the literature on rock.
Originality/value This essay covers the widest range of monographs on the topic, providing insight into not only the key scholars but also the diversity of approaches to the topic. The historical approach to the literature gives the reader a sense of how the academic discourse on rock has evolved. This essay is of interest to librarians, scholars of rock music, and others concerned with how American scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences has grown since the advent of cultural studies.