By Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman
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Additional info for American Popular Music (2008)
While some musicians sought to move country music onto the mainstream pop charts, others reached back into the musical traditions of the American South, refurbishing old styles to fit new circumstances. While this “neotraditionalist” impulse took many forms, the most influential was probably the rise of bluegrass music, a style rooted in the venerable southern string band tradition. The pioneer of bluegrass music was Bill Monroe (1911-97), born in Kentucky. Monroe started playing music at a young age and was influenced by his uncle (a country fiddler) and by a black musician and railroad worker named Arnold Schulz, whose influence can be seen in the distinctive bluesy quality of Monroe’s music; the interaction between white and black styles has long been an important aspect of country music.
Gershwin’s greatest composition, Porgy and Bess (1935), which he called an “American folk opera,” represents his most thoroughgoing synthesis of European classical, mainstream popular, and AfricanAmerican stylistic influences — a synthesis that remains his own but that also celebrates the wide diversity of American culture. Cole Porter (1891-1964) was born into a wealthy Indiana family and studied classical music at Yale, Harvard, and the Schola Cantorum in Paris. ” Richard Rogers (1902-1979), who produced many of the period’s finest songs in collaboration with lyricists Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) and Oscar Hammerstein II, was the college-educated son of a doctor and a pianist.
Among the most popular blues vocalists of the 1920s and 1930s, Bessie Smith (1894–1937) influenced profoundly subsequent generations of jazz singers. edly high. ” Okeh advertised “Crazy Blues” in black communities and sold an astounding 75,000 copies within one month (at that time, 5,000 sales of a given recording allowed a record company to recoup its production costs, meaning that any further record sales were almost all profit). Mamie Smith’s records were soon available at music stores, drugstores, furniture stores, and other outlets in northern and midwestern cities, and throughout the Deep South.