My music class at Glendale Community College will be over mid-May, at which point I need to know the difference between Doo Wop and Bebop. I find this class immensely enjoyable although I don’t plan to take another course that has classes on Friday. Never realized when I signed up how that could destroy my weekend.
The blues started as a way for slaves to musically provide comfort while dealing with problems and feelings. It developed in the Mississippi Delta region. Secular by nature, it deals with the human experience and continues today as a favored form of music.
Although swing and the big bands died down at the end of World War II, many of the singers in the bands, such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, continued as pop singers. At that time jazz was considered intellectual and hip. Around the 1950’s, it splintered in different directions into Bebop – fast and furious; Cool – slower and softer; as well as hard bop and soul jazz. Small combos instead of large bands had an emphasis on improvisation that included experimentation with harmony or cord changes.
|From my CD collection: Coltrane, Davis, Big Bands with Sammy Kaye and The Rippingtons.|
I’m still listening to jazz, but I can’t say I enjoy much of John Coltrane on saxophone or Miles Davis on trumpet. Both musicians are noted for excellence in their field of free, experimental, or fusion jazz, but I have a hard time with improvisation, and I’m not alone. Jazz eventually lost a great deal of its fan base. Personally, I prefer the smooth tones of The Rippingtons (the group I’m listening to while I write this).
From jazz we went into the birth of rock and roll by way of rhythm and blues. A big part of R & B music is tongue-in-cheek and has sexual overtones. Can you guess what rock and roll stands for? What about Rock Around the Clock or Shake, Rattle and Roll? The lyrics in rock and roll songs had to be “cleaned” for the general public and that’s where covers came in. Tutti Fruti, by Little Richard is a whole lot different from the cover version by Pat Boone. Check out the differences between them on YouTube.
The term Rhythm and Blues was coined by Billboard in 1948 to encompass what had been considered “race music.” Originally it was produced by and for the black community, but it gained popularity thanks to radio. Whites began to enjoy the different sound of “Fats” Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. As opposed to what songs were popular then – Button’s and Bows by Dinah Shore or How much is that Doggie in the Window by Patti Page.
A gradual change in films took place in the 50’s with Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones.” Both “Blackboard Jungle” and “Rebel Without a Cause” also came out with rebellious teenage themes. Were they forecasting the future or reflecting the present climate? Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets was featured in “The Blackboard Jungle.”
Sam Phillips, who created the Sun Record Label, was looking for a white male who could duplicate the R & B sounds. He found him in Elvis Presley. Sam hooked him up with Scotty Moore on electric guitar and Bill Black on upright bass while Elvis played acoustic guitar. They were jamming That’s alright Mama after a not so great session. Sam liked that sound, had them play it again and recorded that variation. Although Rolling Stone magazine considered this song the first rock-and-roll record, it’s actually rockabilly, a fusion of white and black music. At first audiences were confused, even put off by this new sound. But a star was born.
I have an essay due this Friday where I pick a specific date and describe what was happening along with what music was popular. I chose August 14, 1945 the end of WW II and the demise of the swing era.
It’s been fun. Have I hit on any of your favorites?
Note: The references to blacks and whites and race may be politically incorrect today, but the information is based on what was actually described during the relevant times.