Music in America

By | September 27, 2022

Facts about Music in the USA

Category: Culture
Music Styles: Jazz, Rock, Rap, Country&Western, Blues, Colonial
Well-known Style: Jazz

Music in America

When you listen to contemporary music, whether it be heavy metal from Scandinavia or a nice light pop tune that is reminiscent of the Spanish coasts: it can all be traced back to the history of American music.

Covering all genres, all greats and all influences here would make for a lengthy history book. And the undersigned a mouse arm. This site is therefore intended to give a very global overview of American music and the most important influences and to give the reader an idea of ​​what music can be heard (and seen) when traveling to the other side of the lake..

The fact remains that it is not surprising that precisely this country, so varied in cultures and historical events, is the most productive and influential for modern music. And it all started with a European with a violin and an African in captivity.

Jazz

Jazz music is the first quintessentially American genre that influenced music all over the world. There is a clear link from funk to disco, even to house. All these genres hook up with each other and are unmistakably regressive to jazz.

In her neighbourhood, jazz is influenced by many types of music: ragtime (conjuring on the piano), gospel choirs and, as mentioned, (rythm ‘n’) blues. New Orleans is a symbol of the early days of jazz: the city had a large black population and was open enough to the influences of Caribbean and Mexican sounds. This was followed by Chicago, as musicians from New Orleans moved north in the early 1920s due to the closing of many clubs at home.

New York is the birthplace of many jazz varieties, not least because the city was the center of the music publishing industry. In the 1920s, an orchestra band emerged in New York that would greatly influence the history of jazz: the Cotton Club band. Supplemented by Louis Armstrong from Chicago, this band would usher in the swing era.

But it wasn’t just in these cities that jazz music emerged: from west to north to east to west, jazz was heard everywhere – Swing or Big Bands, often with prominent singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Fats Waller, were everywhere. find. It was therefore not long before whites were influenced by the infectious black music.

Country & Western

According to AllCityPopulation, in the beginning, “Country” and “Western” were two distinctly different genres. “Country” originated in the south of the East Coast and was a derivative of Irish folk, with banjos and violins. “Western” was the music of cowboys from the West – with steel guitars and many musicians.

The two regional styles met in the 1920s, when recorded material became more widely distributed. Until then, southern folk music had remained unknown to the rest of the world. Although the genres were highly developed, rural music was considered subpar in the larger cities. However, with the invention of the radio, music spread at lightning speed. During the Second World War, musicians from different parts of America eventually met each other in person and the genres were definitively linked.

Today’s Country & Western musicians are influenced by black blues and gospel, but they and their audiences are still predominantly white. The most famous performers are Jimmy Rodgers, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks. A must for the country & western enthusiast is the Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. In the sixties and seventies, country & western music will influence the development of rock & roll.

Blues

One of the most important influences for contemporary music movements arose when the African coast disappeared on the horizon for the first slave ship… the blues. For the prisoners shipped to the Americas to be enslaved, music was a way of preserving their culture, sharing their concerns, expressing their faith, and transmitting secret messages.

Once in the Americas, the slaves were taken away from their African drums for fear of the possible code language they could communicate with it. But the beat of the stamping of their feet and clapping of their hands replaced the drums and was accompanied by lyrics about hard work, love and faith. Slave songs were pre-eminently a way of communicating: you could hear that from the form alone. Typical of the music of that time was a ‘dialogue song’ in which one slave asked a question or posited something and the other answered a little further away. Meanwhile, the white farmers and pioneers had not been idle either. (colonial)

It was only after slavery ended that blues music took shape as we know it today and took on more of a soloistic character. Instead of waiting for a response from another as the slaves did, the blues singer now answered himself, hence the typical self-reflection we hear so often in blues music! The blues came of age in America’s major cities. Taken by freed slaves who tried their luck elsewhere, far away from the plantations and church communities. In this new world, blues got rid of its religious character and answered the call for entertainment. And see here: the birth of Jazz.

One of the must visit places in the history of blues music is Dockery Farms in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Will Dockery was a good boss to the workers on his plantation. He was known for paying fairly — about 50 cents a day — and not making a habit of mistreating his employees. Drawn to this, Bill Patton and his rather large family ended up here in 1897.

Bill Patton’s son Charley, is one of the most influential blues musicians. He played with the Chatmon family, Henry Sloan. Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, Jake Martin, Jack Hicks, Dick Bankston, Mott Willis, Cap Holmes, Fiddlin’ Joe Martin, Jimmy Holloway, and later, Pops Staples, Howlin’ Wolf, and Son House.

Colonial

So-called “Colonial Music” or “Early American Music” was taken to the American shores by the first white settlers.

Their music consisted of dance music, folk music, opera, psalms, operettas… you can’t imagine being played on every instrument that was available. Most music, of course, had its roots in old Europe. It was important for the settlers that they could express themselves and find a distraction from the hard existence: that is why dance music, theater music, church music and later military music were the most popular. There were no bands yet – the music was played by those who could and was available.

The violin was the main instrument in those days – just as it was in ancient Europe. The flute was also a popular instrument. Folk-like dance music was the result. One of the most popular and oldest dances was the Virginia Reel.

Women’s opportunities to make music were limited – it was quite important in those days to uphold your reputation, especially not to come across as immoral or “loose” and so the choice of instruments for women was limited. Funnily enough, a favorite and socially accepted instrument for women was the precursor to the guitar.

Rap

Rap comes from African peoples in general and specifically from black people born in the United States. The roots of the innovative music form can be found in West Africa, where chieftains held in high esteem “men of words”.

Later, when the slaves were brought to the New World, their descendants mixed American music with the beats handed down from their African ancestors. another root of rap is in Jamaica – the folk legends called “toasts”. These were narrative poems in a specific rhyme form, later used by Jamaican disc jockeys to talk records together.

Over a hundred years later, rap had evolved into a street art. Like doo-wop (rhythm ‘n’ blues-like polyphonic a cappella singing), rap as we know it today originated in schoolyards and on street corners in major cities in the 1970s. The first raps were boastful stories, and sneer at other rappers. This style of music slowly grew in popularity among black teenagers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. You can find this first rap at neighborhood parties in New York as early as 1974.

But it wasn’t until 1979 that major record labels discovered the new sound, when Sugar Hill Gang’s “rapper’s Delight” became a big hit. The audience that flocks to rap is growing enormously and even becoming infamous, with acts such as Public Enemy, NWA and Ice-T. Run-DMC became the first black rap group to break through on a large scale to a large white audience. Nearly 25 years later, rap continues to enjoy unprecedented popularity among people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

When you say rap, you think of hip-hop culture. At least, the two are definitely intertwined. As a result, many people do not see rap as a fully-fledged musical art form, but as a fad that arises from abuses in (American) society. Everyone has their own opinion, but it seems that rap is by no means a fad but at least a full-fledged music style – whether you like it or not.

In the 1970s, this hip-hop culture emerged in the Bronx neighborhood of New York; complete with grafitti, breakdancing and a certain attitude, ‘slang’ and dress code. The roots of this new sub-culture lie in the fact that in the 1950s the Bronx neighborhood deteriorated very quickly. In the late 1960s, gangs emerged – groups of young people who began to terrorize the neighborhood out of discontent and eventually quarreled with each other. Grafitti was initially used as an indication of meeting places, secret locations and other messages. The dress code was intended to distinguish one gang member from another, etc.

One of the members of the first New York gang, The Black Spades, was the American DJ Afrika Bambaataa. He became the representative of hip-hop culture with his “Zulu Nation”, trying to replace gang fights and drug dealing with rap music, break dance and hip-hop style.

Rock

Like blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll begins with the departure of future slaves from Africa. But it is far from enough to say that it stems from the black musical legacy of slave songs to ragtime, blues, jazz, gospel etc.

It’s more than that – that ‘more’ is in the addition of white America – both in the music and in the audience. In fact, you can say that only one legacy has produced rock ‘n’ roll: the meeting of two peoples. The roots are clearly in the blues and rhythm ‘n’ blues; however, unmistakable in the history of rock ‘n’ roll are the major influences of bluegrass, boogie woogie, gospel, jazz and rockabilly. Incidentally, rock ‘n’ roll would never have existed without the phenomenon of radio; if this unbiased, nationwide device hadn’t been in living rooms, the odds would have been immensely smaller that the music styles of white and black would have met…

Bluegrass

A subgenre of country music, with the addition of jazz, gospel and Celtic folk music. A modern example of bluegrass is the band String Cheese Incident from Colorado, very popular with young people from the ‘jam band scene’.

Boogie Woogie

A way of playing the piano, in which a very fast rhythm is used and many notes are used, especially with the left hand. Guitarists have also adopted this style, for example John Lee Hooker.

Rockabilly

The first characteristic start to rock ‘n’ roll – a direct fusion of (black) blues and (white) country. From Sam Phillip’s Sun Studios in Memphis. Characteristic were the striking of the double bass, a lead guitar and acoustic second guitar. The singers made “new” sounds such as stuttering, hiccups, screams and screams. This style, ‘father’ of rock ‘n’ roll, ended with the fifties. Most important, undoubtedly well-known names are Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry.

With rockabilly, or the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, the concept of teenager was born. In the 1950s, young people had not consciously experienced the Second World War. The baby boom of just after the war started growing up and listening to rock ‘n’ roll. They did not share the feelings and memories of their parents, did not know what the war had meant and how much it had affected the older generations. They did not share their parents’ satisfaction with the post-war era, peaceful and prosperous and without threats, as it seemed in contrast to the years before. This absence of major challenges, be it war, recession, industrialization or political change, led to the famous restlessness of young Americans in the 1950s. The symbol of this generation, James Dean,

Incidentally, this was true for white teenagers – it was slightly different for their black peers. Their restlessness did find a purpose, namely in their own living environment: the goal of justice and dignity. Perhaps it is precisely this goal that the white youths found so attractive.

The sixties

The sixties took a new direction – a style of very melodic vocals with a zn. ‘harmony’ background. Artists such as Smoky Robinson, The Temptations, The Supremes, Gladys Knight and The Four Tops became known as ‘Motown Sound’.

This historical overview is about the musical history of America – however, the influence of a band in the sixties cannot be ignored: In England, the Beatles had worked themselves from a school and club band to a national level. Soon they also conquered America. More English bands followed, so-called “The… Bands”, such as The Kinks, The Who, The Searchers and of course The Rolling Stones. With the latter, rock ‘n’ roll returned to its original rebellious image – but now even louder and above all angrier. Rock ‘n’ Roll became Rock.

Towards the end of the sixties the lyrics of rock records started to become quite drug related. Not surprising because you can speak of a psychedelic period at this time. Bands like the Doors and the Jimi Hendrix Experience and artists like Janis Joplin broke with the roots of rock ‘n’ roll in dance music. With the help of the then new stereophonic recording techniques, these artists made long, complex and committed songs that were rather abstract.

Seventies

Rock continued on the path of merging with other forms of music – not surprising given the history of the music stream. Folk rock, country rock and jazz rock emerged. But acid rock, metal rock, glam rock and punk also found their way to a new generation of artists. In the mid-seventies, some began to miss the dance element in music, especially now that rock was mainly produced for radio and record sales, resulting in the disco, which turned out to be not really timeless.

As a side effect, rock began to fall back on its roots. This resulted in the New Wave movement. Think The Cars and Elvis Costello. By the end of the decade, rock (‘n’ roll) had come of age – it had come full circle.

Music in America