The first half of the 20th century was the era of the Big Bands. They became steadily more prominent until reaching their heyday in the 40’s. They were part of the social fabric of our world. By the 50’s traditional songs were being overshadowed by the new swing sounds as various band leaders like Glen Miller were motivated to explore new beats and rhythms. We heard Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Les Brown and his Band of Renown, Quinzy Jones, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and so many more. The popularity of the Big Bands was amplified by lead singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra….not to mention The Andrews Sisters. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy brought a smile to many a soldier.
Later in the 50’s came pop music, rock & roll and pure jazz. Singers stepped out on their own and we all remember Perry Como, Elvis, Pat Boone, the Beatles to name only a few. Frank and Ella were in that group as well. It was the era of the solo artist and American Bandstand.
The common denominator with all of this music was the beat. It was difficult to sit still while the music was playing. The lyrics were either romantic or upbeat, fun, simple, sometimes repetitive and easy to follow. Tunes like Sing Sing Sing, Blue Suede Shoes, Danny Boy, Fly Me to the Moon, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Run-around-Sue, New York New York, My Way – we remember.
I went to a Big Band dance not long ago. Admittedly most attending were in the 50-80 age group. The dance floor was packed from beginning to end and everyone had a smile on their face as they heard the familiar rhythms and let themselves feel the magic. Today I mentioned this music to a group of Seniors in an Assisted Living facility and it was easy to see they not only remembered but for a moment they too felt the magic.
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