Rock and soul music (and their precursors) were the dominant styles of pop music from the mid-1950s at least through the early 1980s, creating a strong sense of historical continuity in the music and among music fans and critics. In retrospect, it makes sense to refer to these years as the Age of Rock and Soul or the Rock and Soul Era.

To be sure, both rock and soul music took flight in many new directions during the 1970s, including hard rock, glam, punk, funk, reggae, and disco. But even into the early 1980s, as hip-hop and MTV began to foreshadow a changing scene, I was still enjoying the music of The Clash, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Springsteen on the rock side, and Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Prince on the soul side, as much as ever. My story line from past through present was still intact.

But the tide had turned big time by the end of the decade. "Classic" rock had been positioned and re-branded into a niche radio market, and "old school" R&B was suffering a similar marginalization. Older rockers like Neil Young, Lou Reed, and Bonnie Raitt were still making great music, but hip-hop was now leading the pack, having entered its golden age. The Rock and Soul Era I had grown up with was over.

At the same time, I went through a related personal change in the mid-1980s when I began a music critic gig specializing in CD reissues of analog recordings. This new focus affected what I listened to (less current music). And it affected how I listened (always comparing sound quality). I'll never know if I would have had a different take on the end of the Age of Rock and Soul if I'd never done the reissues gig.

That's my story. I'm more than curious about other people's experience because I'd love to know what, if anything, can be said about the end of the Rock and Soul Era that most fellow travelers would agree with.

How about you? What's your take on when the era ended? Or do you see the whole "era" thing differently? Does your time frame start when you first tuned into pop music? (When was that?) What were the key moments or experiences that determined how your music listening history unfolded?