Music Through the Ages Essay
After the huge popularity of swing music and the big bands that were associated with this genre, America’s economics changed meaning the artists could no longer afford to support the large amount of musicians they had in their bands. This led many swing bands to simplify their sound. Until this point the band and bandleader had been the focus point to the audience, and although the singer was still important, they were not considered to be the ‘title’ of the artist itself. As bands cut down on numbers they still carried on the same style as best they could whilst keeping the basics of vocals, piano, trumpet, double bass and drums.
This was the start of the gradual change into Rock and Roll music. This change combined with the influences of black gospel music from the thirties and forties allowed the genre to develop. Doo-wop is an acapella of sounds made by a singing group as they provide a harmonic background for the lead singer. This new form of music was one of the very early changes from swing, but at this point the genre had not been given a title and was still within the rock and roll genre, however this was too general, and it was referred to as vocal group harmony. The first Doo-wop song recorded was ‘It’s too soon to know’ by the Orioles in 1948.
At this time it was called race music because of the rhythm influences from jump blues music. Other groups such as the Ravens and The Clovers increasingly used the energetic beats with gospel influences. The Penguins “Earth Angel” was the first “pure” doo-wop record. “Earth Angel” blended pop’s melodic patterns and lyrical style with the emotional directness of gospel and R&B. The style became so distinct because the singers often imitated the percussive sounds of instruments such as the double bass; an example of this is “Count Every Star” by The Ravens (1950).
This created a template for groups such as the Orioles who helped develop the doo-wop sound with their hit “It’s Too Soon to Know” (1948). When the genre first developed the majority of recordings included instruments and had a distinct bluesy feel. However as it became popular in more places across America it started to gain a much wider audience, this variety of listeners meant artists had to be more creative. This resulted in many songs becoming more structured, such as songs like “Since You’ve Been Away” by The Swallows in 1951.
In my opinion these developments heavily influenced the progression of Rhythm and Blues. This was shown in 1954 when RnB artists started to use the ‘Doo-Wop’ vocal lines in corporation with the blues style. Rhythm and Blues American rhythm and blues originates from the 1940’s but the genre started to develop from the jazz and gospel influences combined with the popular ‘race’ beats of the time. By 1950 the genre was becoming more and more popular, In 1951, Little Richard Penniman began recording for RCA Records using the jump blues style of the late 1940’s.
However he was unsuccessful until he prepared a demo in 1954, this caught the attention of Specialty Records. This was the start to his fame in 1955 where his upbeat lively rhythm and blues would help define the sound of rock and roll. He had several hits following this beginning with “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally”, which would influence artists such as James Brown and Elvis Presley. Ruth Brown was another prominent R n B artist of the time and was signed to Atlantic records.
She helped create the genres popularity because her deep throaty voice appealed to African Americans that otherwise thought black music was being dragged away from its roots, however this sound had strong influences from this origin. As a result of this she had hits in the top 5 from 1951 to 1954. Blues was competing with Motown for radio play, however Motown was gaining more popularity and blues artists were looking for a new sound to compete. Ray Charles was at the centre of this development and in 1959 his record contract ended. Motown
Although many people recognize Motown as a genre, it originally started as a record label founded by Berry Gordy Jr on the 14th of April 1960 in Detroit. It made a big impact on popular music, as we know it today because it played an important role in racial integration of popular music and was the first record label to be owned by an African American as well as using primarily black artists on the label. This was one of the reasons why the label was so successful as it gave black people jobs and is responsible for discovering, mentoring, and perfecting a number of Americas popular music’s most influential and successful artists.
In the 1960’s ‘the Motown sound’ was developed, this was a combination of soul music with a distinct pop influence. This started with groups such as ‘The Miracles’, which were one of the first groups Gordy signed. Their number one hit ‘shop around’ was Motown’s fist record to sell one million copies. In My opinion many Motown songs sound very similar with little variation of technique or style between artists, this is because Berry Gordy used the technique; Create a number one hit, then make something else very similar to give the consumer what they want which lead to a very distinct early Motown sound.
Blues Rock Blues Rock typically describes white artists of the late 1960s and 1970s who picked up the sound of the black artists of the time, which led to create an enormously popular style of electrified blues. Blues originally developed out of the black music of the time and as the name implies, Blues Rock is essentially a blend of twelve bar blues and rock: the guitar has a faster and heavier sound than Chicago blues and includes extended jams, influenced in part by psycadelic rock. In the early 1960’s blues-rock started to gain popularity in England even though its origins were American. The Animals quickly became popular in the Newcastle underground club scene and their reputation spread to many other UK cities. The blues sound started to become popular amongst London’s art college students, and in my opinion this popularity was boosted by the exclusivity of the music, as having a blues vinyl was considered ‘underground’ as it had to be imported, making it different and therefore fashionable. This allowed specialist blues rock clubs to open in London, which allowed the genre to thrive.
In 1962 the Rolling Stones were formed over a mutual interest in the genre. They wrote to the BBC for airtime, however they were rejected because they sounded too similar to black music of the time. Because of this they adapted their sound to suite the public demand and aimed to compete with artists such as the Beatles and moved to Chicago to record their 2nd album in the Chess record studios. This lead to the realization that their sound worked best in America and that the ‘Chess’ sound was what they had been looking for.