AmericanPopularMusicLarry Starr & Christopher Waterman
Copyright 2003, 2007 byOxford University Press, Inc.This condensation of AMERICANPOPULAR MUSIC: FROMMINSTRELSY TO MP3 is acondensation of the bookoriginally published in Englishin 2006 and is offered in thiscondensation by arrangementwith Oxford University Press, Inc.Larry Starr is Professor of Musicat the University of Washington.His previous publications includeThe Dickinson Songs of AaronCopland (2002), A Union ofDiversities: Style in the Music ofCharles Ives (1992), and articlesin American Music, Perspectivesof New Music, Musical Quarterly,and Journal of Popular MusicStudies. Christopher Watermanis Dean of the School of Arts andArchitecture at the Universityof California, Los Angeles. Hisprevious publications include Jùjú:A Social History and Ethnographyof an African Popular Music (1990)and articles in Ethnomusicologyand Music Educator’s Journal.Clockwise from top:Bob Dylan and JoanBaez on the road;Diana Ross sings tothousands; LouisArmstrong and histrumpet; DJ Jazzy Jeffspins records; ‘NSyncin concert; ElvisPresley sings and acts.
AmericanPopularMusicLarry Starr & Christopher Waterman
C O N T E N T S Introduction. 3CHAPTER 1: Streams of Tradition: The Sources of Popular Music.6CHAPTER 2: Popular Music: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries . 12An Early Pop Songwriter: Stephen Foster . 19CHAPTER 3: Popular Jazz and Swing: America’s Original Art Form. 20CHAPTER 4: Tin Pan Alley: Creating “Musical Standards” . 26CHAPTER 5: Early Music of the American South: “Race Records” and“Hillbilly Music” . 30CHAPTER 6: Rhythm & Blues: From Jump Blues to Doo-Wop . 34Big Mama Thornton . 39James Brown and Aretha Franklin. 40Jazz Gallery . 44CHAPTER 7: Country Music: Songs of Tradition and Change . 56Hank Williams . 61CHAPTER 8: Rock ’n’ roll : A Generation’s Identity . 62Bob Dylan . 70CHAPTER 9: Music: The Business . 72Bill Haley and “Rock Around the Clock” . 65CHAPTER 10: Music Technology: Innovations and Controversies . 76The Electric Guitar. 80CHAPTER 11: Hip-Hop: The “Rapper’s Delight” . 82Prince . 88The Message . 89CHAPTER 12: World Music Collaborations: Crossing Cultural Boundaries . 90Glossary . 94
IntroductionPopular music, like so muchof American culture, reflectsa kaleidoscope of contribu tions, a cross-fertilization of styles,and a blending of dreams. It couldhardly be otherwise in this nationof immigrants. Arguably the UnitedStates is a perfect musical laborato ry: take people from every corner ofthe globe, give them freedom to cre ate. Distribute their effort: by sheetmusic, phonograph, radio — or, forthe younger reader: by Blu-ray Disc,mp3, Internet stream.And what results! Europeanballads recast with African poly rhythmic textures or blended witha Cuban-flavored habanera (bold faced terms are defined in the glos sary) or a more “refined” rumba.“Cold” bop. “Hot” jazz. “Acid” rock.“Gangsta” rap. We might speak lessof a singular American popular mu sic than of a constellation of mutu ally-enriching American popular“musics.” Elvis Presley borrows fromAfrican-American blues, and blackMotown stars recast “white” pop.Ask Khmer-American rapper PrachLy, also known as “praCh,” aboutAmerican popular music and he’llspeak of growing up with SnoopDog, Dr. Dre, Run DMC, and PublicEnemy on the radio and of cuttinghis first album in his parents’ garage.Lacking a mixing board, Prach useda karaoke machine and sampled oldKhmer Rouge propaganda speechesfor his powerful musical condemna tion of the Cambodian genocide.We hope the pages that followconvey a sense of creative ferment,of artistic drive, and of how Ameri cans, borrowing from diverse musi cal traditions, have made their ownoriginal contributions to humanity’struly universal language. The readerwill encounter here crooners andrappers, folkies and rockers, the“King,” a Prince, and the “Queen ofSoul.” Explained here is the latest inmusical technology, from the solidbody electric guitar to the losslesscompression digital file. And read ers will learn about the people whomake the music, truly American intheir stunning diversity. Theirs areperhaps the most wonderful storiesof all.Musicians gather around the great Louis Armstrong, seated at the piano.Armstrong grew up in New Orleans in the early part of the 20th century andgave the world a lasting legacy — jazz.3
Louis Armstrong in a 1931 photoConsider the African-Americanchild, born in 1901 and living in apoor New Orleans neighborhood.At the age of seven, with his motherand sister in poverty, he found workwith a family of junk dealers — Rus sian Jewish immigrants nearly aspoor as his own family. “They werealways warm and kind to me,” helater would write — indeed, as onescholar later put it, they “virtuallyadopted him.” The boy would ridethe junk wagon and blow a small tinhorn to attract potential customers.4As he later wrote:One day when I was on the wagonwith Morris Karnovsky wepassed a pawn shop which hadin its window — an old tarnishedbeat up “B” Flat cornet. It costonly 5. Morris advanced me 2on my salary. Then I put aside 50cents each week from my smallpay — finally the cornet was paidin full. Boy, was I a happy kid.That boy’s name was Louis Arm strong. He would give the world jazz.American popular music is thesound of countless Louis Arm strongs sharing the music in theirsouls. It spans a matchless range ofhuman experience, from mattersof the heart — Sinatra bemoaninga lost love “in the wee small hoursof the morning” — to the politicalprotest of Country Joe and the Fishperforming the “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’to Die Rag.” Some tunes propelcouples to the dance floor, there to
twist or jitterbug, hustle or tango.Songwriters depict their muses sovividly we can almost believe themreal: the Beach Boys’ Caroline per haps, Chuck Berry’s Maybellene,Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Ma rie,” or Rickie Lee Jones’s “Chuck E.”And sometimes what resonates isnot the girl in the song, but the onewith whom you first heard it, a longtime ago.“Without music, life would be amistake,” the German philosopherFriedrich Nietzsche wrote. Hereyou will meet many visionaries whowould agree.—Michael Jay FriedmanClockwise from upper left: A couple whirls across the dance floor of Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, 1953; Dancers “Twist” at New York’s Peppermint Lounge, 1961; Crooner Frank Sinatra, 1943; Singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, 1999; Country Joe McDonald in the late 1990s. 5
CHAPTER 1 Streams of Tradition:THE SOURCES OFPOPULAR MUSICEvery aspect of popularmusic today regarded asAmerican has sprungfrom imported traditions.These source traditionsmay be classified into threebroad “streams”: EuropeanAmerican music, AfricanAmerican music, and LatinAmerican music. Each ofthese is made up of manystyles of music, and eachhas profoundly influencedthe others.6The European-American StreamUntil the middle of the19th century, Americanpopular music was almostentirely European in character. Thecultural and linguistic dominance ofthe English meant that their musicestablished early on a kind of “main stream” around which other stylescirculated.At the time of the AmericanRevolution, professional composersof popular songs in England drewheavily upon ballads. Originally anoral tradition, ballads were circu lated on large sheets of paper calledbroadsides. While some broadsideballads were drawn from folk tra dition, many were urban in originand concerned with current events.In most cases only the words wereprovided, with an indication of a tra ditional melody to which they wereto be sung. Balladmongers hawkingthe broadsides sang them on thestreets. Composers of broadsideballads often added a catchy chorus,a repeated melody with fixed textinserted between verses.The pleasure garden was the mostimportant source of public enter tainment in England between 1650and 1850. Large urban parks filledwith tree-lined paths, the pleasuregardens provided an idyllic ruralexperience for an expanding urbanaudience. The pleasure gardens be came one of the main venues for thedissemination of printed songs byprofessional composers. In the 1760sthe first American pleasure gardensopened in Charleston, New York,and other cities.The English ballad opera tradi tion was also popular in Americaduring the early 19th century. Per haps the best known is John Gay’sThe Beggar’s Opera (1728). The maincharacters in ballad operas werecommon people, rather than thekings and queens of imported op eras; the songs were familiar in formand content; and the lyrics were allin English rather than Italian.The English folk ballad traditionthrived in America. In the early20th century folklorists were ableto record dozens of versions of oldEnglish ballads in the United States.While today these songs are pre served mainly by folk music enthu siasts, the core of the tradition liveson in contemporary country andwestern music. The thin, nasalizedtone known as the “high lonesomesound” continues today as a markerof southern white identity.
A sampling of musical diversity (clockwise from left):“Polka King” Frank Yankovic; Klezmer-rock bandGolem; Zydeco and other (often accordion-driven)Cajun stylings have profoundly influenced many kindsof American popular music.Irish, Scottish, and Italian songsalso influenced early Americanpopular music. Copies of ThomasMoore’s multivolume collection ofIrish Melodies were widely circu lated in the United States, and Scot tish songs such as “Auld Lang Syne”also enjoyed wide popularity. By thefirst decades of the 19th century, theItalian opera was also popular inthe United States, and the bel cantostyle of operatic singing had a majoreffect on the development of popularsinging.Dance music was another impor tant aspect of the European influ ence on American popular music.Until the late 19th century Europe an-American dance was modeled onstyles imported from England andthe European continent. Countrydances were popular. In the UnitedStates the country dance traditiondeveloped into a plethora of urbanand rural, elite and lower-class, blackand white variants. It continues to day in country and western linedances and in the contradances (folkdances performed in two lines withthe partners facing each other) thatform part of the modern folk musicscene.In addition to songs and dancemusic produced by professionalcomposers, immigration broughta wide variety of European folkmusic to America. The mainstreamof popular song and dance musicwas from early on surrounded byfolk and popular styles brought byimmigrants from other parts ofEurope. The descendants of early7
Clockwise from left: Rhythm and blues singerWhitney Houston has sold an estimated 54million recordings; Bonnie Raitt is considereda master of the slide guitar; Bo Diddleyhelped pave the transition from blues to earlyrock ’n’ roll ; Buddy Holly died in a plane crashat age 22, but has been described as “thesingle most influential creative force in earlyrock ’n’ roll .”8
French settlers in North Americaand the Caribbean maintained theirown musical traditions. Millionsof Irish and German immigrantscame to the United States duringthe 19th century. Between 1880 and1910 an additional 17 million im migrants entered the United States.These successive waves of migrationcontributed to the diversity of musi cal life. European-derived musicalstyles such as Cajun fiddling, Jewishklezmer music, and the Polish polkahave each contributed to main stream popular music while main taining a solid base in particularethnic communities.The African-American StreamNot all immigrants came willingly.Between one and two million Af ricans were forcibly brought to theUnited States between the 17th and19th centuries. The areas of westernand central Africa from which slaveswere drawn were home to hundredsof distinct societies, languages, andmusical traditions.The genesis of African-Americanmusic in the United States involvedtwo closely related processes. Thefirst of these was syncretism, the se lective blending of traditions derivedfrom Africa and Europe. The secondwas the creation of institutionsthat became important centers ofblack musical life — the family, thechurch, the voluntary association,the school, and so on.It is misleading to speak of “blackmusic” as a homogeneous entity.African-American culture took dif ferent forms in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti,Jamaica, and the United States,shaped in each by the particularmix of African and European sourcetraditions, and by local social condi tions. In the United States, peoplefrom the Senegambia region of WestAfrica appear to have made u
in American Music, Perspectives of New Music, Musical Quarterly, and Journal of Popular Music Studies. Christopher Waterman is Dean of the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. His previous publications include Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (1990) and articles in Ethnomusicology and Music Educator’s Journal .