Monday, July 4, 2011

American Music

Josh Marshall

On July 4th we celebrate America. The most obvious thing is our civic tradition, our history of democratic government. But since it's so rightly and well celebrated, I thought I'd focus on something else for today: American music, or more specifically America's distinct and world-transforming musical idioms. Most of them originating or coming into view of recorded sound between about 1 and 1930 from an interplay of upcountry white and low country black sounds. If listen to the amazing British single Adele today she's still working through basic Blues and Jazz musical idioms from going on a century ago.

So a few acts and performers to celebrate today. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, Ike Turner, Elvis Presley, Leadbelly. I've gone pretty light on the Jazz side of the equation. I'd say Armstrong, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, though that leaves out most of the greats.

Who else am I missing? And not just great musicians but the ones who defined if not always created the idioms. I can think of dozens of others. But I hardly know where to start because it's impossible to know where to stop.

(ed.note: If you've never heard him, pick up an album of Robert Johnson's. It also doesn't matter which one, aside from remastering quality, since he only did two recording sessions. And it all amounts to about one long album's worth of music. It's like listening to the rosetta stone of maybe half of American music for the next 75 years.)

I have no argument with Mr. Marshall as far as he goes which is a little blues-heavy and there's nothing wrong with that, but he did leave out the other half which I try to post on weekends.

1 comment:

wkmaier said...

Interesting that "American culture" is always derided (Well, we are guilty of giving Donald Trump soapbox after soapbox), but I think American contributions to music in general are pretty damn impressive.