Music & Beats from the Forties
Music, in a real and philosophical sense, reverberates throughout the generations of mankind. In every phase of human history, music is the base component of a social structure and cultural diversity. Music reflects the social situation of every culture. The period of the 1940s was a time of reempowerment and rejuvenation, this can clearly be heard from the jazz lyrics and quick beats of the time.
Hal Leonard’s Songs of the 1940s; A Decade Series allows the reader to have a first-hand conception of the music from the era by direct lyrics and music from the time. This book is a compilation of songs that were the greatest hits from major artists of the time, in their respective mainstreams. The main focus of the book is almost always The Big Band phenomenon, a time when mass orchestra groups with all the components of a successful music piece would perform, and would alternate with emphasis on the greatest musical composers and organizers of the date. The first emphasis on individual superstardom is attributed by to artists like Frank Sinatra, one the greatest individual vocal acts of the 1940s, along with other greats such as Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. This portion of the book also integrates in detail the greatest hits of individual artists by presenting full lyrics to individual songs and by doing so setting a feel for the type of atmosphere of 40s society. Bing Crosby helped in defining the music of the 1940s as well as much of the heavily lyricized music of today. Most famous for his rendition of “White Christmas,” Crosby was a great musical talent during his day and musicians continued to be influenced for several decades, including Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. Crosby was also a prominent entertainer in the field of improving troop morale during the war as he appeared several times to perform for them. Crosby instilled the idea into popular music that a performer could be a genuine artist rather than becoming a novelty act. Crosby opened the door for future artists to have a well-rounded persona with lyrics that had significance. “Crosbian popularity” continued throughout the 1940s and he also appeared in several movies while he aided in the soundtrack of the film along with taking part in legitimate acting roles. Crosby was the largest box office draw in the world during the 1944-1949 eras in the world and his legacy continues to this day.
The rise of mass instrumental ensembles and their flight to prominence comprises the majority of the second quarter of the book. This portion of the book was a compilation of famous whole orchestra pieces of the time. War orchestras and marching bands were largely inclusive and their purposes for their rhythm and beats were explained. The beat and rhythm of the music were filled with an anticipating energy of sorts; this was the result of the occurrences in Europe at the time. Pre-war American instrumental ensemble music was comprised heavily of trumpets and percussions with a loud and fast sound, directly reflecting a bolstering, vivacious, and war hungry America. The music tended to be upbeat and consisted mainly of trumpets as the dominant sound, the usually is the sign of a society at war. The constant propaganda that was berated at a war-savvy America was quickly molding the typical American to the usual patriotic expectation. This sort of hype at the time influenced all, including musicians and artists, as music doubled up as propaganda. Paul Beard, a leader of the BBC symphony, composed marching music for parades and rallies. Beard was just one of multiple ensemble leaders to compose marching music, as American music inspired its people for The Second World War.
The Big Band Phenomenon was a musical style that originated in 1920s America and carried on throughout the war, energizing an entire America. This was a time when a single musical group was composed of all sorts of musicians, a sort of expanded ensemble. The ensemble is associated with maximalism as the setting of era. The average Big Band consisted of 25 musicians and was made up of violins and other string instruments, and rhythm section. The rhythm section was arguably the most important section of the entire ensemble and consisted of guitars, piano, double bass, vibes, drums, and percussion instruments. The Big Band was a follow up to the typical energy of the time period going asking with the concept of mass collaborations. Attempts such as the Big Band were a direct reflection of the social vibe of mass unity being matched with the musical vibe. The Dorsey Brothers are also synonymous with the big band style of the 1940s Jimmy Dorsey was an accomplished musician who was talented in playing the clarinet and saxophone. Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra was one of the first musical acts to sell millions of albums containing their performances. Tommy Dorsey was a prominent jazz trombonist who also led his own orchestra. Tommy Dorsey’s act accounted for over 130 hits on the Billboard Charts and, like Calloway, his orchestra included some of the most popular musicians of the era. Dorsey (Tommy) was also known to be the guy that gave Frank Sinatra his start in the entertainment industry. After World War II, there was a shift in musical tastes in the country and Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra disbanded, only to be put back together with his estranged brother Jimmy Dorsey to form the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. The Dorsey Brothers died shortly thereafter, but their legacy continues to be an excellent demonstration of music from the 1940s era as an example of how massive orchestra groups attracted massive attentions and caused their philosophy to be a parallel reflection onto America’s psyche.
Though every decade has its unique characteristics in the way of musical styles, the 1940s was enduring one of the biggest wars in the history of the country. World War II was taking its toll on the people in the United States and abroad due to the constant news of death and destruction, but the performers continued to keep their upbeat styles to help America take their mind off of the news. Mainstream musicians not only continued to make fun music, but many of them also took their talents to the troops to keep them entertained and improve their morale. The 1940s positive musical styles helped to give way to the rock ‘n’ roll styles of the decade that was to come. That unexpected performance at the Apollo helped set Ella Fitzgerald's career in motion. Fitzgerald soon met bandleader and drummer Chick Webb and eventually joined his group as a singer. In 1935 Fitzgerald recorded "Love and Kisses" with Webb. Working with Webb, Fitzgerald found herself playing regularly at one of Harlem's hottest clubs, the Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald put out her first number-one hit, 1938's "A-Tisket A-Tasket," which she co-wrote. Later that year Ella Fitzgerald recorded her second hit, "I Found My Yellow Basket." Fitzgerald’s major contribution to the war effort was her role as a booster for soldier morale. In Fitzgerald’s scat recording of “Flying Home”, she gave the soldier’s something to look forward to. Musicians who made pieces mainly for the purpose of soldier morale had this similarity; a goal for the soldier’s to fight for and something to look forward to when they got home.
Genres and styles of the period were all different but at the same time similar due to the sound of jazz that was pungent in the music of most artists. The dominant genre was a reflection of the social climate at the time was Jazz. Jazz was the base genre from which many of the major subgenres at the time were inspired. Jazz heavily relied on the use of the trumpet and other quick paced instruments to give of a sort of smooth and vivacious sound. The evolution of jazz was a major factor which the author wished to emphasize. Jazz originated in the 1920’s roaring era and was adapted to the times, eventually becoming 40s jazz. One of the innovators of the 1940s musical style was Dizzy Gillespie. Known for his trademark puffy cheeks formed from being a prominent jazz trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie was one of the prominent band leaders of the day. Gillespie also helped to create the “bebop” style of music, which consisted of a fast-tempo style of jazz combined with scat singing. Scat singing was a phenomenon that came to prominence during this era and it consisted of several nonsense but rhythmical syllables strung together to fit with the music. Dizzy Gillespie also helped to create the Afro-Cuban music trend that enjoyed popularity during the following years. This style combined musical aspects from both Latin and African influences. Dizzy Gillespie was also known for having a bent trumpet because it produced a unique sound that was characteristic of his particular sound.
Cab Calloway was another popular scat jazz singer that came to mass recognition in the 1940s. In fact, Cab Calloway was so well known in this field of music that he was often referred to as the “Hi De Ho” guy. One legend of how scat began tells of how Calloway forgot the words to a song during a performance and started improvising nonsense syllables to fit with the beat of the music. It was well-received by Calloway’s audience and a new musical styles was born. Calloway’s baritone voice was an excellent match for his style of jazz music, but he was also a very successful big band leader. The Calloway Orchestra included some of the most prominent musicians of the era, including the aforementioned Dizzy Gillespie. Calloway is also synonymous with the Betty Boop cartoon because his popular song “Minnie the Moocher” was used as the score for one of the episodes. Jazz joints come and jazz joints go—especially in New York City. From tightly packed bars downtown to spacious dinner clubs uptown, it’s a historic lineage. Much has changed over the years (Birdland’s smoky elegance in the ’50s would be impossible with Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on indoor smoking) and much has not, like set lengths, drink minimums and the apparent majority view that jazz sounds best in New York City one floor below street level (Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola notwithstanding).
One jazz rule seems immutable; before musicians can reach those grand uptown theaters or the big festival stages, they must first make it in the clubs of New York City. They are still the proving ground. It’s been that way since the ’20s. The nightclubs that follow are celebrated less for being the most popular in their day—many were not—and more for accurately representing the music and spirit of the time. Often they predicted sounds and societal shifts just around the corner.
It was a challenging process selecting one jazz from each decade. Some eras, like the ’40s when 52nd Street was in full swing, offered far too many choices: Every club on “The Street” (Three Deuces, Onyx Club) and, of course, Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem held the seeds of modern jazz. Also, to which decade does the Village Vanguard belong? It has consistently presented visionary music during its 71-year history. And what about those entire great neighborhood bars in Brooklyn? Prohibition is the clear answer to which reverberated in to 40s jazz and scat.
The thesis of the author is extremely lucid and argues that music from the 1940s was a direct reflection of the social vibe due to its fast-paced sounds. Frank Sinatra's famous line "would you like to swing on a star" was a direct reference to the dance craze of the period "swinging". Swinging was a fast paced dance style that required heavy gyrating of the hips this sort of music was played by energized young people who were flowing with enthusiasm. This story of enthusiasm was directed at the war effort on the home front as America went back to work and industry was reformulated. "Nobody knows but Jesus" said Louis Armstrong. The fruits were a period of religious resurgence and a reform to conservative confirmation. The Times were terrifying due to the war in Europe and people sought religious reformation. The music at the time also including jazz raised a hand out to God for comfort. The author uses direct lyrics to give of the vibe of the free period. The music has a pace to signify the pace of America where as the lyrics field of the coming conservative America.
The author believes in a direct retelling of the time. The author was born in the eighties, a period very similar to the forties. The conservatism of the 1980s we're a direct region of the 1940s and this have a duty of relatability for the author. This inspired the writer to make the connection between the conservatism and music of the period. Leonard's analysis of the nets and lyrics were helped on by his own musical experience. His expertise led to better understanding to the period through his knowledge of musical intonation.
The reviews for the book are generally positive. This is due to analysis to first-hand pieces of music from the period. The reviewer associated with the actual lyrics and pieces by reading actual lines from the pros and analyzing the notes that came with it. The wit associated the use of biography of actual composers, musicians and artists. The few complaints were the over-use of first hand evidence. Instead of balancing a version amount of facts with evidence the evidence heavily outnumbered the facts and made the book somewhat complacent.
Once the actual song lyrics have been played and heard one starts to understand where the stance of the author comes from. The best that you hear is paced to the society at the time; fast, industrial, and conservative. The author uses lyrical intonation and notes the dignify meaning of what occurred in society instead using the constant word choice. This intricacy in detail mass the thesis more lucid in the sense that the read more only had evidence but audio commentary to back the evidence.
Music in general has a higher purpose. Music is meant to be a regular for the human soul. It serves as an uncertain of human emotion through lyrics sound and beat. Music of a certain period is a direct personification of the social temperature of the time period through the arrangement and pace of the music itself. The author point merely restated the fact by specifying a certain instance where this has occurred. Music is an expression. It is an emotion. It is what runs the world for some people. It is an art, so one might need to also ask what the point of paintings, poetry, literature, and so to even it out. Music is an expression of culture. It is really hard to describe in words what music means, because it is an inexpressible action inside of one.
The author Hal Leonard's use of solid evidence in primary recourse serves as a clearly picture of music at the time. The music is simply telling the story of the times.