Gentle men: The softer side of rock flourishes again


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In the 1970s, it was America and Bread with the wispy vocals and gentle guitars. Now, Fleet Foxes and James Blunt have rediscovered soft rock.

Like it or not, the last few years have seen a return to the warm, gentle sounds of soft rock, the overly earnest musical subgenre that rose in the early 1970s and thrived throughout the decade.


Though the distance of time separates the new breed from its spiritual ancestors, the characteristics most associated with the sound are the same — emotionally available men with gentle guitars, wispy vocals, plaid shirts, (usually) beards and a love of nature — even if the context is different. For example, punk rock rose, in part, as a reaction to the platitudes often associated with soft rock. But to a new group of songwriters reared on Hot Topic punk and the ubiquity of distorted guitar, the most rebellious thing a young musician can do is go quiet and return to nature. Below, a brief history lesson.

--Compiled by Randall Roberts, Todd Martens and August Brown-

Top images: Christopher Cross (Los Angeles Times); Destroyer (Ted Bois) and James Blunt (Los Angeles Times)