Crooners and Swing

Crooners and Swing

Wall Street Crash in 1929

In the autumn of 1929 came the catastrophe which so few had anticipated but which in retrospect seems inevitable–prices broke on the New York Stock Exchange, dragging down with them in their fall, first the economy of the United States itself, subsequently that of Europe and the rest of the world. Financial losses of such magnitude had never before been known in the history of capitalist society, and the ensuing depression was also unprecedented in scope.

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Bing Crosby’s Sweet Music for Poor America

Bing Crosby was the King of Crooners and one of the best examples of great singing! His voice is still heard everyday around the world. At the opening of the twentieth century the decisive influence of the ragtime pianists fell on white audiences tiring of the minstrel show and willing to pay to hear black performers. At the same time the American band was being heard everywhere, promoted by John Philip Sousa, the most successful musician of his time, and testifying among other things to pugnacious nationalism. Both phenomena would modulate into dance bands playing vigorous dance music.

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Radio Music at Home and Wartime Dance Halls

A boom in social dancing began during the second decade of the twentieth century, along with the first recognition of music called jazz. Nat Shapiro quotes Variety as estimating that in the mid-1920s there were 60,000 dance bands playing on the dance floors of jazz age America. Beginning in 1920, radio broadcasting brought recorded and live music into homes, posing an economic challenge to pianos and combining with the Depression in 1929 to decimate record and phonograph sales.

The music that America absorbed through these media came mostly from New York, from Tin Pan Alley publishing houses and from the flourishing Broadway stage, reproduced also in vaudeville houses across the country. When in the middle of the 1920s recording engineers developed microphones to replace recording horns, a new softer “crooning” performance became possible and stylish on records and over the radio.

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V for Victory

A slogan devised in 1941 by the British propaganda offices as a rallying cry for the citizens of European countries which had been occupied by German troops during World War II. It was represented by three distinctive symbols: the capital letter V of the Roman alphabet; three dots and a dash (… -), the signal for the letter V in Morse telegraphic code, known and used internationally; and the opening bar of the first movement of Beethoven Fifth Symphony, which resembles the Morse signal rhythmically.

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