Does the banjo have any place in rock and roll? A conversation I had with a friend elicited quite a debate which, as a stubborn musician, I was hell bent on winning. As a musician with many professional banjo credits to his name, I took great offense to the argument that banjo couldn’t rock and quickly rattled off a couple rock songs that feature banjo in a lovely and wonderful way. This pleased my friend who only brought up the topic to get a rise out of me and to gain fuel for her argument, which was pro banjo.
Today, I present to you a handful of rock songs with banjo. Some of them are very well known, others are not. I am not including bands like Dropkick Murphy’s or Mumford and Sons because, although they rock, they are playing folk music designed for banjo. That’d be like making a case for pedal steel guitar in country, it’s redundant. Please enjoy this banjo treat!
This first video is from a little known band in America but one of my favorite bands. They are Canadian band, Moxy Fruvous and the song (which features banjo and a vaguely hip-hop beat) is called Michigan Militia. They distort the banjo for a very unique sound but it still counts because they’re playing it in the manner appropriate for the instrument.
Now, onto Elton John. The song is Social Disease which is one of my favorite songs from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. Of course, with the country twang in this song, it is understandable why he used the banjo but there are some great guitars and a rockin’ piano in this song so I think this counts as a rock tune. I really love this song.
There are few bands more highly regarded for “rockin” than The Who. And, as luck would have it, this quintessential rock band used banjo in one of their biggest hits. In fact, it’s the solo!
The Eagles have a ton of hits. They are a little bit rock and a little bit country but one of their biggest hits, Take it Easy, features a little bit of banjo. Actually, listening to it right after Squeeze Box reveals how similar these songs are…I mean, really similar.
I think I’ve made my point…but I’m going to continue anyway. Does anyone rock harder than Led Zeppelin? Nope, probably not. And, guess what?!?! Gallows Pole features not only banjo but mandolin too!
In conclusion, the banjo rocks. That is all.