Tuesday, April 12, 2016

More on My Music Class by Marion Ekholm





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.



20 comments:

  1. This is a post my husband would enjoy reading. He has a passion for music; I favor art and literature.

    Best wishes with your essay, Marion. I bet it will be an enjoyable and informative read.

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    1. The essay is completed and I need to control myself to keep it within limits. I tend to continue to add and add while everyone else is struggling to get 500 words.

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  2. I'm really enjoying your music class, Marion! We went to Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago last week and the band took us from the 40s (Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy) to the mid-60s (British Invasion and beyond; not sure what last song was). I feel like you took us on another tour--and I'll probably have That's All Right, Mama in my head all day.

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    1. I don’t think there’s a single person outside of me and my teacher over 20 years-old in the class. I’m familiar with so much of the music because it came out when I was a teenager. I remember Elvis and all the hype but I doubt if my classmates have any idea what a phenomenon he was during his youth.

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  3. Love this, Marion. Thanks for helping me learn a little while you obviously absorbed so much. Rock Around the Clock was the first record I bought for myself at about 12 or 13. (Remember when you could go into a booth in the music store and try out the record?) I did a paper on Jazz in high school (far, FAR less informed than yours will be) and was surprised to learn about all its facets, and that it was born right here. Thanks for taking us to class with you.

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    1. This class got me back to my guitar. I took out my books from when I took the guitar class, and I’m starting from scratch. So far I’m spending most of my time trying to get it in tune.

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    2. Will expect to see you in Billboard soon! (Does that still exist?)

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  4. What a fun class, Marion. I'm with you on the Jazz...not a fan. I love music from the 50's and 60's. Good luck with your paper. I'm sure you'll nail it.

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    1. I went to my first (and only) jazz concert when Gerry Mulligan came to RISD back when I was going for my degree. It didn’t make me an enthusiast then but when I took the jazz class here, I found there are so many variations. I’m not a fan of improvisation but I find the smooth jazz by the Rippingtons especially nice.

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  5. I'm so glad you took this class--I've learned so much! I can remember when Elvis first came on the scene...I had my picture taken at the first house he bought for his parents. And I'm with your on improvisation. :-)

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    1. I’ve pretty much exhausted the music history classes I can take here, so I’m back to reading about it in the library.

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  6. Marion, I loved Coltrane and Davis, but not too many jazz artists after they passed on. We used to go downtown in K.C. where on weekends they had jazz artists playing. It was a lot of fun, sitting at the outdoor tables and having a drink while being entertained for free. I like most music except I'm not a huge fan of Rap.

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    1. If only we could all go to see Hamilton!

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    2. I'm not into Rap at all and I enjoy a few things by Coltrane, especially his "A Love Supreme."

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  7. I grew up listening to those old classics, especially Sinatra, Crosby, and Nat King Cole. Funny how hearing those now takes you right back in time. Still prefer this type of music to a lot of current stuff. :) Thanks so much for this post, Marion! I'm going to have to go digging through our old albums now!

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    1. For my essay I looked up the Nat King Cole Trio that played around 1945. It's really beautiful.

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  8. LOVE 'swing' music! Your post made me want to fire up the ol' stereo and listen to a few tunes. Thanks for starting my day on a happy musical note, Marion! Hope you're enjoying a terrific Tuesday!

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    1. My in-laws loved swing music. They danced so perfectly together, however, they didn’t do the acrobatics that’s often associated with the dance. At least not when I was watching.

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  9. Sounds like a great, fun class, Marion. I love listening to Frank Sinatra.

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    1. When I was in college, a friend had Sinatra records and I listened to them all the time.

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