THE HISTORY OFRock & Roll 1900 - 1950
Introduction In the world today, it would be extremely rare to find a person who has not been exposed to, or even saturated with, rock and roll during most of their life.
Rock and roll somehow connects all of these cultures, which are very different from each other. What does rock and roll offer that so many other musical ‘languages’ don’t? • For Eastern Europeans, rock & roll offers a way to unify with the youth of the West. • For Third World countries, it give a taste of the lifestyle enjoyed by the teenagers of First World Europe and America. • To Western Europeans, it is a unifying element of youth culture.
In general, rock is associated with young people who live in the fast lane, people who want to remain teenagers forever. Rock and roll is also controversial. From its beginnings, rock has been the expression of adolescent rebellion. Rock and roll could never have come from anywhere else except the United States. Throughout this course, we will look at how rock and roll was born and grew into what we know it as today.
What is Popular Music? How can we define the term ‘popular music’? • Songs that are widely heard • Last for a long time • Show the feelings of an era, and fade from memory as the era passes into history. "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" - Edward Madden (1909) is an example of what was pop music in the early 1900's.
Popular music is meant to be enjoyed and entertaining. Songs usually have lyrics that are very shallow and don’t require a lot of thinking from the listener. Occasionally, there will be a popular song which has a much deeper meaning, and may be linked to some historical event. One example of this is "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan. However, these songs tend to fade as well once the event they reflect pass into history.
Minstrel Shows Beginning around 1840, a new type of entertainment began to emerge in the States. The Minstrel show was a variety production featuring comic scenes, monologues, as well as solo and group songs of a comedic nature. This was all presented in black-face makeup and a fake negro accent.
Minstrel songs can be classified into two distinct groups. • Lively pieces suited to group performances “Camptown Races” – Stephen Foster (1849) • Sentimental solo songs “Beautiful Dreamer” – Stephen Foster (1864)
In the late 1890's, a new type of music rose to popularity. Ragtime is generally a style of music for piano. It incorporates a march-like feel of a steady beat, but with a lot of syncopation (playing off of the beat). One of the most famous composers of Ragtime music is… Scott Joplin. • “The Entertainer” – Scott Joplin (1902)
Operettas and Musicals Operettas were the equivalent of Broadway shows today. One of the most influential and important musicals of all time, Showboat, was written by Jerome Kern in this time (1927). This work would change how musicals were written from this time forward. • Eliminated dancing girls and the variety show structure • Focused more on character development and plot • Addressed the inequities of racial prejudice.
Another of the most influential composers of musicals were the duo of Richard Rodgers (composer) and Oscar Hammerstein (lyricist). • Oklahoma! • South Pacific • Carousel • The Sound of Music "Bali Hai" from South Pacific – written in 5 minutes over a cup of coffee.
Music in the home At the beginning of the century, the market for popular songs was in sheet music. Many people could play enough piano that they were able to play the latest songs at home. If you weren't that good at the piano, you could buy a player piano and get piano rolls of your favourite songs. By the late 20's microphones came into general use, which made recording music much easier, and of a much higher quality.
Early radios also left much to be desired. The first radios used earphones, so only one person could listen at a time. Eventually, families could sit around the radio and listen to their favourite programs together – but only on calm nights, as all sets were tuned to AM frequencies and thunderstorms would cause bursts of static.
By 1930, you could buy decent quality recordings, or listen to live performances on the radio. • Paul Whiteman band – New York • Louis Armstrong Hot Five – Chicago • Casa Loma Orchestra – Toronto. Some groups had regular weekly shows that fans tuned in for on a regular basis.
Jazz & the Swing Band By the1930’s, Benny Goodman's band launched a new era of music, the swing era. This new style was the favourite of people until the middle of the 1950's. • Glenn Miller • Benny Goodman • Duke Ellington • Count Basie These musicians fronted some of the most solid jazz bands, and can be used to describe a classic era of popular music. Benny Goodman – Sing, Sing, Sing (1937) Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean a Thing (1931)
Ragtime style of piano playing transitions into stride piano. • Similar to ragtime, but the piano was not played as harshly. • This style became the standard for informal, popular piano playing. Before long, stride piano gave way to a new rage of piano playing, boogie-woogie. • Rhythmic • Blues based • Driving This new edgy style was found irresistible by young people. Count Basie – Basie Boogie (1941)
The high point of the swing era came in 1940 and 1941, just before World War II. The bands of this time not only played show tunes and popular songs, but also special songs that were associated with one particular band. • The Glenn Miller Orchestra had such songs as "Moonlight Serenade", "In the Mood" and "Pennsylvania 6-5000". Glenn Miller – In the Mood (1939) Once the war started, the development of popular music was put on hold and many musicians joined the services, either as soldiers or musicians. When groups tried to restart at the end of the war, the popular music boom was over, and bands started to look for a new sound that would catch on. What was needed was a new type of popular music.....