Music of the 1930s often directly reflected the impact of the Great Depression, as best summed up by Yip Harburg’s song “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” (1932) and recorded by a number of singers, including Bing Crosby. Folk singer Woody Guthrie captured the experience of the “Okies” in his many “Dust Bowl ballads” but also provided reaffirmation with “This Land Is Our Land” (1940). Songs from film and Broadway musicals were also successful and provided a vehicle for several of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Cole Porter’s compositions. Musicals continued to be successful during World War II, and in Oklahoma and Carousel, popular songwriters Rodgers and Hammerstein captured the joyful aspects of America’s rural experience in the same way that serious composer Aaron Copland looked to the past for inspiration in his celebration of American values. The 1944 hit musical Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland, also presented a nostalgic image of bygone America.
   The big band sound continued with Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller, who’s “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)” captured the hopes of many departing servicemen during World War II. The big hit of the war years was Berlin’s nostalgic “White Christmas” from the movie Holiday Inn (1942), sung by Crosby. Berlin’s “God Bless America” also became widely known during the war years. The precursors of the screaming fans of later years were the “bobby-soxers,” who mobbed Frank Sinatra during his performances in the early 1940s. The Andrews Sisters (Patty, Maxene, and Laverne) attracted a more sedate audience, but like many other stars, they entertained troops on United Service Organizations tours during the war and had huge hits with “I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time” (1940) and “I Can Dream Can’t I?” (1945).
   Other forms of music, particularly jazz, were developing in new directions. Led by African American musicians like Louis Armstrong, in the late 1930s there was a revival of the “Dixieland” jazz of the 1920s, while during the 1940s more avant-garde black musicians, most notably Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Dizzie Gillespie, and Miles Davis, were developing bepop and “cool” jazz. Blues was emerging as the urban, electrified rhythm ‘n’ blues and establishing the foundations on which rock ‘n’ roll would be built in the 1950s.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.


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