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By:Emily Mead, Randy May, Ashley Crane, and Erica Pyper

flappers.jpgDuring the 1920's, music played a big part in everyday life. As a matter of fact, the '20's were eventually called the "Ja1111.jpgzz Age". Musicians, instruments, and dance are some of the branches that made music what it was in the Roaring '20's The 1920's were called the Jazz Age because it was when jazz music was born. It was also a burdensome time. People were struggling with their money, family, and basiclly everyday life, as they were trying to endure the Great Depression. So, to help free their minds, people listened to jazz music.
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Singers were what made jazz music come to life in the Jazz Age. Some singers were better known and more musically inclined then others, but they all showed emotion, stamina, and, of course, great talent. Singers were a major influence to people during the 1920's because many were struggling with money, and musicians communicated how hard it was. They also said some of the difficulties people might have been facing, through their music. Which is why musicians such as Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald were so important to the people everywhere around them.
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One of the most famous and greatest musicians of this time period, was Louis Armstrong, an African American, who was “ Noted as the la_1.jpgfirst genuine jazz singer”(Male Jazz Singers 7). He founded vocal jazz, and scat singing. Louis Armstrong’s musical talentTUMOYCARSILN0CAADJ9Z8CAGMKVZ8CAW84V47CAG6B3ADCACAIK86CABMNB9PCAZQQTMVCA81GNMDCAF1ZSAYCA9YITMXCA2XPO99CANVG7ZOCA93KA2HCAMDRRVNCAUUMHYRCASGO1L0CACMWD4ACAZPL1L0.jpg influenced many musicians, even some of the musicians today. His hit songs or recordings include "Hebbies Jeebies", "Hello Dolly", "What A Wonderful World", and "Porgy and Bess". Another popular male singer who was also quite influential was Frank Sinatra. It is said that he, “ …played with and listened to great jazz musicians and then created something of his own”(Male Jazz Singers 7). Sinatra’ s recording and songs include "Come Fly With Me", Francis A Sinatra& Edward K. Ellington, and Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Another amazing male jazz/blues singer during the 1920’s was Nat King Cole, who is noted as one of the first crossover musicians(Male Jazz Singers 7). He was an amazing pianist, but turned out to be a greatly loved jazz singer ( Male Jazz Singers 7). For, “ His clear, warm, baritone voice charmed his ethnic rainbow audiences.”( Male Jazz Singers 7). lois-armstrong.jpgHis famous recordings and songs include "The Christmas Song", "The Trio Recordings", and "A Blossom Fell".






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Not only were there male jazz and blues singers, there were female singers as well. They too had an influence on their fans, and put much weewee.jpgemotion into their music just as Armstrong, Sinatra, and Cole did.
Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bessie Smith were some of VD1H4CAJ93D5TCASK8UYLCA1MLOT6CAR7P3CKCAWPXMRVCAPVW8HDCAL253UUCABSZFE6CAMKBLABCARYD44ZCAEYVXAUCASVEXO8CAC0HTHPCASCJ2P6CAY33KDFCAP7PDTICADKC31MCA69VCK3CAFT9ZW8.jpgthe biggest female jazz and blues singers of their time. Billie Holiday, who was also called Lady Day “…was one of the greatest jazz and blues singers in the 1920’s to the 1950’s”( Female Jazz Singers 6). Holiday’s music was deeply written and presented in an individual manner. She “ transferred popular songs into emotionally-charged pieces”(Female Jazz Singers 6). Which is why Holiday is one of the best female jazz singers. She, like many other singers, sang in nightclubs and in bands. Another female singer of the time was Ella Fitzgerald who was a “jazz singer extraordinaire-the best of all female jazz singers”( Female Jazz Singers 6). She was very good at scat singing, with her large range of vocals. She went on many national tours with many of the popular singers in her era. She was also one of the few singers who appeared in films and on ella_fitzgerald.jpgTV shows. By the end of her singing career, she had won, “…12 Grammy Awards, received the Kennedy Center Honors…and a National Medal of Arts...”(Female Jazz Singers 6). So, she is remembered as one of the best female jazz singers in history. Some of her recordings that helped her win all her awards are "The Best of the Songbooks" and "Dream Dancing". Female jazz and blues singer Bessie Smith had everything a blues and jazz singer needed. “Broad Phrasing, fine intonation, blue note inflections, and wide, expressive range made hers the measure of jazz-blues singing in the 1920’s”(Female Jazz Singers 6). Itbessie_smith.jpg is said that only a few jazz/blues singers have been as consistently amazing as she was. Some people even say that she was definitely the top vaudeville blues and jazz singer and she “...brought emotional intensity, personal involvement, and expression of blues singing into the jazz repertory with excelled artistry" (Burns 5).


In order to have all these wonderful musicians sound as good as they did, they needed instruments. Some of the more popular instruments of the a5.jpgtime were the trumpet, saxophone, bass, piano, clarinet, cymbols, and the trombone. Probably the most popular out of that group was the trumpeasasc.jpgt. Played by the one and the only, great Louis Armstrong, this instrument set an example for most brass instruments. Another very popular instrument was the bass. Used by most musicians and music writers, this instrument was used to set a tempo or beat for the song. Later on, it evolved into the bass guitar.


Another instrument was the saxophone. This brass instrument, was originally made for military bands (Wikipedia contributors). It was created by a man named Adolphe Sax. Some popular music involved with this instrument are blues, early rock'n'roll, and ska, but the saxaphone was designed for mostly jazz music(Wikipedia contributors). The piano was very popular as well. It is displayed as a keyboard, consisting of more than 86 keys and pitch types. It is sometimes categorized as a percussion or stringed instrument. One of the greatest jazz musicians ever, Fats Waller, played the piano. This unique instrument is the most played out of all the instruments from the 1920's. The percussion, which today is mostly classified as drums, was found in the background of many jazz songs. Equipped with the bass, it was one of the most pure sounding combo instruments out there(Wikipedia contributors).
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The clarinet, which is actually a type of trumpet, is a musical instrument in the woodwind family (Wikipedia contributors). It is considered to be a type of trumpet because when this instrument was first invented it sounded like a trumpet. The trombone, involved in most jazz bands, is in the brass family. The trombone meaning, "large trumpet", is related to the trumpet as well. (Wikipedia contributors). These instruments define the "Jazz Age" and how music was slowly evolving from one thing to another.
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One instrumentalist during the 1920's was Loius Armstrong, who played the cornet at the start of his career, but later on, he switched to the trumpet. Other instrumentalists go by the names of Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke, Joe "King" Oliver, Coleman Hawkins, and Duke Ellington. Hoagy Carmichael played the piano, and was one of the very well-known pianists of the time. His songs include "Stardust", "Rockin' Chair", and "Georgia on My Mind". Bix Beiderbecke, who was a great musician ever since he started playing an instrument, played both the piano, and the cornet. Joe "King" Oliver played the trumpet, and the cornet. He, as well, was a great musician and was in several successful bands. Another great instrumentalist was Coleman Hawkins, who, played many instruments including the cello, piano, bass saxaphone, tenor saxaphone, and the clarinet. His most well known recording was, " How Long Has This Been Going On?". Another great musician was, Duke Ellington, who was a pianist, but his main instrument was the orchestra (Wikipedia Contrubutors). His famous recordings include a song called, "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me". These instruments define the "Jazz Age" and how music was slowly evolving from one thing to another. With all these instruments comes music and dance. In order to dance they needed a beat so that's where dance came in.

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The Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Tap, Ballet, Lindy Hop and the Charleston are just a few of the many dances during the Roaring 20's. Tap and Ballet were mostly for rich parents who wanted to teach their kids to dance etiquette. Although, there were many dances, the most popular dances were the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The Charleston was introduced in a musical called, " Running Wild". The Charleston consists of many moves. These moves included outward heel kicks, which is an up and down motion by bending and straightening the legs. The Lindy Hop was a mixture of a partner and solo dance. "This dance included movements and improvisation of black dances and the eight count structure of European partner dances."(Wikipedia). In this dance,the Lindy Hop, you basically just "swingout."


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One of the most famous dancers of the time was Bill Robinson. What makes Robinson so famous is his transformation of a new type of dance called hoofing. At a young age of 13, he became a professional tap dancer. The reason why his type of dance was so popular was because he put wooden taps on the bottom of his shoes, making a very unique sound. (dance history archive). He is just one of the many famous dancers of the time.

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One of the fun things of the time period incorporating dance was dance-offs and dance contests. This is where you would invent new moves and compete against others to see who had the best move. As a result of these competitions, people started coming up with more and more dances .They also had dance marathons where you competed to see who could dance the longest before they dropped to the floor, and the winner would get money. Often, one partner would have to hold up a sleeping partner. In this marathon, you did not even need to dance, all you had to do was keep moving and be in contact with your partner. This marathon went on for hours until the last couple stood. It wasn't until 1928, when a man named Homer dropped dead after dancing for 87 hours straight, when dance marathons were outlawed. So, they decided to have the "Dance Derby of the Century", which lasted for five days. This consisted of couples that danced for an hour and then they got to take a 15 minute break in between, but there were rules. If one person in the couples' knee hit the ground, they would be disqualified. It started out with 91 couples, by then more than 60 couples had dropped out. That was one of the big and more fun events of the period.


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Musicians, songwriters, singers, and dancers put a lot of heart and hard thought into their music, and dances. Through their music, they were able to explain what was happening in their lives, and how they were dealing with their problems. They were not always about problems though, sometimes they were about love. For example, Ella Fitgerald's, "Blue Moon", is about someone she loves, and how it felt to be in love. She, like many other jazz singers from the 1920's, touched poeple with the emotion, and power they put into their songs. Artists like Ella Fitzgerald allow people to easily connect with the song or piece because of the great amount of emotion put into songs like "Blue Moon".
"Exceptional voice, artist.. soul and sensitivity. It makes me feel I have heart inside, to hear her voice vibrating so wonderfully. " says holiday07 under Fitzgerald's video of Blue Moon on YouTube. Holiday07 is not the only person who felt this way after hearing Fitzgerald's great piece of work. Others, such as Kitty273 who said, "Such a beautiful voice with NO artificial aids to enhance it. What we are hearing is something that has almost disappeared:A genuine voice,God given and lovely. I can listen to Ella all day.If I'm having a bad day,I can put her on and a smile just comes to my face. Her voice is so soothing,so clear,and lovely to hear,it's just heavenly.There is nobody today that can compare to her elegance and timelessness." Clearly, not only can jazz music from the 1920's touch people, it can also help people feel better.
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Music as great as Ella Fitgerald's to some is still some of the best music that is being heard today. So, evidently, Every song has a mood. Every song is different, some moods can be happy, sad, or even depressed.
Another one of the big jazz performers was Fats Waller who has a song called "I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby". It is all about how he is crazy about his love. His song involves a lot of upbeat music to help describe to his audience how in love he is. Even though there is not a lot of singing going on, you can still connect with it. He says, "I'm the World's most happy preacher", but you would be able to guess that without him saying it because of the optimistic music in the backround. In this song, the mood would be happy,and romantic. His other song "Keeping out of Mischief Now" is also about a loved one, and how he is done with all other women, but his one love. And he is telling his love how much he loves, and cares for her. This song, like "Im Crazy 'Bout My Baby" has a happy, joyful, and romantic mood.
Another one of the great singers of the Jazz Age was, Billie Holiday. She was a great singer, and sang about her and a loved one.

One of her songs called "Strange Fruit" is about living in the south, and the fruit around her. She made something as simple as fruit into a great song for many to enjoy. She was able to make fruit seem like something more then it really was by putting emotion, and suspenseful music in the background. Unlike Fats Waller's pieces, "Strange Fruit" had more of a gloomy, and dreary mood. Another one of Billie Holiday's songs is called "God Bless the Child". It is about the love and life of a young child. This song also has a sad and dreary mood. Like other Jazz singers, when Billie Holiday sings she makes sure everyone listening to her music knows what she is talking about, making her pieces powerful.

Duke Ellington was another great singer that everyone absolutely loved. His music had rhythm, and a great tune. One of his songs "It Don't Mean a Thing" is just for fun. Everyone loved it. There wasn't any real dedication to the song. Just simply for fun! The music was very happy and upbe
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Duke Ellington
at, and some people even considered his music to be s
ome-what like swing music. So, the mood of his song, "It Don't Mean A Thing" was happy, upbeat, and excited.


In conclusion, there are many different ways the 20's used their outstanding musical talent to explain the burdensome times they were facing. They did it through dancing, singing, writing, or playing an instrument. That is why music played a big part in the 1920's.







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Burns, Ken. "Bessie Smith." PBS. 1995. national public radio. 19 Jan 2009 <http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_smith_bessie.htm>.
"charleston dance." blog. 100012007. 20 Jan 2009 <http://charleston-dance.blogspot.com/2007/10/charleston-dance-1920s.html>.
"dance history archive." street swing. 100052005. 20 Jan 2009 <http://www.streetswing.com/histmai2/d2bojan1.htm>.
Doctrow, Cory. "Best music of 1900's - 1920's as MP3s." www.boingboing.net. July 2, 2006. 20 Jan 2009 <http://www.boingboing.net/2006/07/02/best-music-of-1900s1.html>.

Hill, unknown. our century 1920-1930. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens Publishing , 1993.
"In the 1920's new kinds of dancing evolved with new jazz and blues music." 1920's dancing. 2005. 20 Jan 2009 < http://www.1920-30.com/dance/ >.
The Male Of The Species . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Male Jazz Singers." Jazz Music Made Easy. 2005. Jazz-Music-Made-Easy.com. 19 Jan 2009 <http://www.jazz-music-made-easy.com/index.html>.

"Lindy Hop." Wikipedia. 22 Jan 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_hop>.
Hill, unknown. our century 1920-1930. wisconsin: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 1993.
Contributers, Wikipedia. "instruments of the 1920s." wikipedia. january 24 2009. 27 Jan 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Piano&oldid=266404795>.