Why the Black Crowes are America’s last great rock band

Michael Singer, Contributing Writer

The Black Crowes created a new era of rock producing grunge sounds and making its way to be one of the most memorable bands. (Ceedub13/Wikimedia Commons)

As the 1980s came to a close, the hair metal scene became something of the past. The loud, drowning sound of 1990s grunge became “the sound” of rock and kicked metal out of the spotlight.

Yet, in that period between rock genres there was one band that was able to revive the classic rock of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and produce a long-forgotten yet new sound of their own. That band was The Black Crowes.

The period of excess metal in the ‘80s produced great bands like Guns N’ Roses and Poison. But in the time between the rock genres of the ‘80s and ‘90s, The Black Crowes cemented itself as the last great American band. Yes, better than Pearl Jam, and even better than Nirvana.

In 1990, The Black Crowes stormed onto the scene with their debut record “Shake Your Money Maker” which was carried by three songs, “Twice As Hard,” the Otis Redding cover of “Hard to Handle” and smash hit ballad “She Talks to Angels.”

The band’s stripped-down, classic rock vibe was needed as the glam rock scene began to age and grunge rock wasn’t quite ready to make a worldwide impact.

By April 1991, The Black Crowes’ debut record peaked all the way to the number four position on the Billboard charts and the Crowes began to fly high.

Quickly after the band’s debut, The Black Crowes released its sophomore record, “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” on May 12, 1992, which reached the number one position before the year expired.

Six studio records later, multiple lineup changes, breakups and one giant reunion later, the Crowes are still flying high breathing life into the rock world.

But, what made The Black Crowes so different?

The band’s look certainly helped. It had a classic rock and roll look that was certainly different from the get-up acts like Mötley Crüe and Cinderella were wearing. No high heels and no hair spray. The Crowes were, in contrast to the bands mentioned before, stripped down to the roots.

In all honesty, The Crowes had the look that was needed at the right time. The metal scene was getting old and so were the bands that made a living on that music.

The Crowes wore jeans, boots, a T-shirt and a jacket that made its members look like rock and roll superstars. Within Rolling Stone magazine and other publications, The Crowes received great reviews and eventually graced the covers of music magazines. The members looked like the part they were supposed to play.

The second and obvious reason why The Crowes were so different is its sound.

Before The Crowes, music was loud, in your face and all over the place. Bands before the Crowes would record mediocre songs but try to have a great music video to try and strengthen their music.

The Black Crowes took the opposite approach and in fact, produced strong songs to support its strong musical style. No matter what version of the band you listen to, the main members of The Black Crowes — lead singer Chris Robinson, his brother, guitarist Rich Robinson and drummer Steve Gorman — are absolutely brilliant songwriters.

If you listen to different versions of The Black Crowes, you can tell how strong and diverse the band’s music is. “Shake Your Money Maker” and “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” are straight-ahead rock and roll records, but records like “Three Snakes and One Charm” and “Lions” are psychedelic rock and are more off the beaten path of Black Crowes rock and roll.

What makes The Crowes’ music so different from the drowning, depressing grunge sound (can you tell that I don’t like grunge?) is that the members sang about happy subjects like having fun, love and heartbreak – subjects that everyone can relate to.

Just listen to songs like “Wiser Time,” “Remedy” and “Ozone Mama.” These are three different songs from three different records over the course of The Black Crowes’ career that carry different emotions and invoke different feelings within each listener.

That’s what separates a “good” band from a “great” band – if you’re able to make your listener feel multiple emotions throughout one record then you’re able to keep them hooked then expand to a broader audience. This is why The Black Crowes was able to become so popular so fast.

The chances of becoming a successful musician are basically slim to none, but to be considered America’s last greatest rock band is another thing. The Black Crowes have been flying high since 1990 keeping true rock and roll alive.