1920’s Music

Music in the 1920s

As with the cinema, the radio was also becoming a useful medium for music. The BBC (British Broadcasting Company, later, Corporation) was founded in 1922 and set up its studios in 1923. The introduction of gramophone records also started to bring ‘jazz’ music to new audiences. The term ‘jazz’ has uncertain origins and was apparently first used to denote a style of music from about 1915.

With Afro-American roots and American origins, jazz and its artisans thrived in the 1920s. Various versions of jazz tunes such as rags, stomps, shuffles, etc.,  existed and there evolved a list of ‘standards’ – tunes which a musician might be expected to have in his repertoire.

If you are thinking of going to an event dressed as a jazz player, a straightforward ‘Dixieland’ ensemble of boater, bright waistcoat, shirt and slacks (plus some form of instrument) will usually suffice.

Popular music Icons of the 1920s

  • Louis Armstrong
  • Bix Beiderbecke
  • Duke Ellington
  • Edward Elgar
  • George Gershwin
  • Florence Mills and the Blackbirds – Dancers
  • Jelly Roll Morton
  • Cole Porter
  • Ravel

Dances from the 1920s

Many of the dances from the ‘Jazz Age’, were associated with the flappers. The typical flapper or Charleston outfit, was designed to ‘move’ with the dance-steps and highlight the energy of the dancer’s steps. Because of the pace of the dances, beaded headbands and feathers were preferable to cloche hats!

  • Black Bottom – Originating in New Orleans, it was brought to New York in the show Dinah in 1924 and has had several variations, including Jelly Roll Morton’s Black Bottom stomp.
  • Charleston -This song by Cecil Mack became adance style of the 1920s apparently originating in Charleston, Carolina, USA, but receiving greater fame once a jazz version of the dance music was included in the Broadway show ‘Running Wild’. The tune continues to be a jazz ‘standard’.
  • Lindy Hop – This dance was named after Charles Lindburgh who flew from Paris to St Louis in 1927. The dance derives from the Charleston.

Songs of the Nineteen-Twenties

  • A Room With a View
  • Ain’t She Sweet
  • Always
  • Among My Souvenirs
  • Bye Bye Blackbird
  • Creole Love Call – Duke Ellington
  • Fascinating Rhythm
  • I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby
  • I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
  • It Had to be You
  • King Porter Stomp
  • Let’s Do It – Cole Porter
  • Limehouse Blues
  • Mammy – Al Jolson
  • Ol’ Man River
  • Show Me the Way to Go Home
  • Sometimes I’m Happy
  • Stardust – Hoagy Carmichael
  • St Louis Blues – WC Handy – Written in 1914, but not widely heard until the 1920s
  • Sweet Georgia Brown – Ben Bernie
  • Tip-toe Through the Tulips – The musical talkie film Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929) introduced this song, written by Al Dubin and Joe Burke, which became one of the early chart hits.
  • The Charleston
  • Who’s Sorry Now? – Written in 1923, this song was recorded by a number of artists throughout the twentieth century, including Connie Francis.

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