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American Music

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Thesis: During the 1920s and 50s new American music unified the country and especially its youth.

The invention of the radio was crucial to the success of jazz. Jazz was clearly the dominant style in the cities, but the radio made it possible to spread the music to more remote locations in the country. Jazz and Ragtime music both led to the formation of many new dance steps too that helped make them more popular.

Although jazz was becoming increasingly popular, it was not the most dominant dancing music of the 1920's. That role was reserved for ragtime music. Ragtime music eventually became more and more "jazzy," but this music rarely included the blues and rhythms that were signatures of the jazz scene.

Broadway flourished in the twenties, and musical theatre experienced lots of growth during this time. The show-tunes that accompanied these performances became popular to the music scene as well.
Pop music was actually the segway for Americans into Rock and Roll music. In the early fifties it was pop music that dominated the radios. Stars like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, and Patsy Cline were the featured artists of the beginning of the decade.

Rock & Roll
Although its development began in the 1940's, Rock and Roll reached its true form in the fifties. Like Jazz, it was started mostly by the African-American community. Because of the racism that was still present at this time, Rock music did not really take off until there was a white musician to really popularize it. This artist was Elvis Presley, and he not only led Rock and Roll music to its peak but quickly became the most successful musician that America has perhaps ever seen.

Country Music
The 1950's marked the rise of the "Nasheville Sound" in country music. "Honky Tonk" music became popular during this time too. The center of popularity for this music was in California, but its followers were mostly immigrants from Oklahoma that had moved to avoid the drought and high rates of unemployment. Stars like Buck Owens and Meryle Haggard helped to define this style.

The 1920s

During the 1020's, more than half of our population lived in cities. Music unified people within the cities and all over.

Jazz: "Devil's music" Jazz was different and rebellious, both factors that caused teens and college students to latch on to. It was something new and departed from the older generation's customs. Jazz brought the youth together and was very modern.

Origin: From the south originally; however, African-American musicians brought it to the north in the 20s.

How it spread: Jazz was not only a trend of the large cities, but was spread all over with phonograph records and radios. In 1927 more than 100 million records were sold for Americans to bring home the experience of the new music. Jazz music was played in dance halls, clubs, theaters and other public venues. Along with jazz came a new type of dance including moves like the shimmy, turkey trot, buzzard lope and more.

The Harlem Renaissance: At the end of the decade the Renaissance (revival of arts) was based in Harlem, New York and had deep roots in the Jazz movement.

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The Apollo Theater: Opened in 1914 and is still in use today. It was originally a burlesque house,
but transformed into one of the biggest symbols of the Renaissance. It housed many up and coming
performers like Ella Fitzgerald Gladys Knight and The Pips, Michael Jackson, James Brown and
more during its Amateur Night on Wednesdays.

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The Cotton Club: Opened in 1920. It was a popular night club of the time. Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong performed along with many others at the club. Although blacks were allowed to perform, they were not allowed in the audience, which set it apart from the integrated Apollo theater.
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington: Born on April 29th 1899, he was a composer, pianist, and band leader. He wove many genres together to make his unique sound. He wrote over 1,000 compositions. Ellington worked with orchestras, wrote movie and play scores, and went on world tours. He transformed jazz into an art comparable to other major genres of music of that time. Although he worked with jazz his music was different and he liked to call it "American Music".

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong: Born on August 4th 1901. He was from New Orleans and a jazz musician who played the trumpet and sang. He changed jazz into a solo genre instead of a group improv. He was a master of improv with his lyrics and through instruments and also sang scat. He was the first African-American to be noticed for his talent rather than degraded for his skin color. His first record was "My Heart" in November 12th 1925. Armstrong was politically neutral which was often disappointing to civil rights activists who wanted him to use his fame to protest. He blossomed in the 20s and continued to gain fame until his death in 1971 of a heart attack at the age of 69.

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Bessie Smith: Born on April 15th 1894. She was a blues singer referred to "The Empress of the Blues". Columbia Records signed her in 1923 and she began recording her first record "Cemetery Blues". She toured and performed in theaters and became the top paid black entertainer of her time. She was on broadway in 1929 in Pansy and was in her only movie, St. Louis Blues in the same year. Her recording was halted by the Great Depression, nevertheless she never stopped performing. Smith died in a car accident on September 26th 1937.

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Broadway: More than 50 musicals opened in one season to audience members who paid up to $3.50 for a seat. There were musical comedies among them Sally and No, No Nanette.

Sally was performed 570 times on broadway and was based of the 19th century show, Sally in our Alley.

No, No Nanette is based on Frank Mandel's play My Lady Friends which was on Broadway in 1919

The 1950s

Television: While the invention of the television led to a decline in the popularity of the radio, it did NOT lead to a decline in the popularity of music. In fact, music face new growth during this era that was partially due to the broadcasting of music on televions. Numerous teenagers enjoyed tuning in to American Bandstand on their new TVs. This popular show helped determine which songs and artists would become popular.

Rock and Roll: Although forms of rock and roll existed prior to the 1950's, the official term "Rock n' Roll" was coined in 1951. During the fifties, rock and roll dominated the general music scene in America. This music evolved from rhythm and blues, but it introduced several new instruments and sounds to the public. Electric guitars were the prominent instrument of rock and roll and the beats of the music were changed (R&R placed the emphasis on the off-beat of the music). Rock and Roll was more scandalous than previous music genres. Lyrics would talk about sexual intercourse, and the fact that their children were exposed to these provactive songs had parents concerned that their children woexternal image thumbnail.aspx?q=428037253062&id=cf82f95fea1e8923531ec9b44696b8a3&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.realbollywood.com%2fnews%2fup_images%2f11128032.jpguld rebel. One of the earliest forms of rock and roll was called "rockabilly" music. It blended jazz and country with traditional American folk music.

Elvis: The face of rock and roll in the 50's was undoubtably Elvis Presley. Elvis was born in Mississippi but his family moved to Memphis when he was 13. It was here that he was exposed to African-American music, and he was eager to share this sound with the world. His career boomed and he became a successful musician and also actor very early in his life. Teens were in love with Elvis and he was one of the first young stars that the music world had seen. His first song "Heartbreak Hotel" quickly rose to the top, becoming a number one hit in 1956.

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Country Music: Country music was experiencing its own growth during this time and the styles within the genre were shifting. Many classic songs, including "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer," arose from the country music scene at this time. "Honky Tonk" and "Nasheville Sound" became popular during this time. Many Southerners and Southwesterners particularly enjoyed this type of music. Hank Williams was one of the best known country singers of the fifties.

Pop Music: Pop music had its start in the fifties as well. It evolved out of the the sounds of Rock and Roll, and echoed the same electronic sounds. Pop music would go on to become more popular in later decades (especially the 80's) and it is still prevelant today.

Conclusion: Whether through jazz or rock 'n' roll the music of the 20s and 50s brought America together. The youth united in the rebellious music and the idea of the teenager was defined as they strayed away from their parents customs.

Similarities of the decades
-Music brought everyone together and united especially the youth
-African-American musicians responsible for the creation of the genre, but white artists had the upper hand
-immense impact on teenagers and young adults; instilled a sense of rebellion among young people

Differences of the decades
- The 20s were a time of Blues transforming into Jazz, and is known as the Jazz age.
- The 50s is known for Country, Rock 'n' Roll, R&B, Pop and many other genres.
- The 50s expanded on the 20s, bringing more types of music to the table.