JAZZ DAYS IN THE JAZZ AGE

The 1920s were an era of great contradictions. After winning WWI, the United States seemed to be (on the surface) a more liberated country than previously, finally shaking off the restrictions of the Victorian era. Dresses became shorter, many more women entered the workforce, dancing became more exciting and sensuous, some movies actually hinted strongly at sex, the economy was prosperous, and jazz seemed to be everywhere as the country experienced something like a decade-long party [known as The Jazz Age and The Roaring 20s].
But a closer look reveals Republicans ruled the White House, liquor was illegal (even if gangsters and bootleggers made it widely available), the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its popularity (with lynchings of blacks commonplace), racism was institutionalized, big business had few restrictions, poverty was widespread, and there was no safety net. It was a great era to be rich and white, but the poor and blacks were barely tolerated by average middle-class citizens. –Scott Yanow, author of CLASSIC JAZZ*

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The above puts Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 nonstop transatlantic flight (see my last post) in broader historical context. ‘Fellow’ aviator Elinor Smith Sullivan later said, “It’s hard to describe the impact Lindbergh had on people. The twenties was such an innocent time.” This helps explain why songs like LINDBERGH, EAGLE OF THE USA and LUCKY LINDY were written by wantwits with words which would make wittier writers wince.

Thus, the wittiest composer/lyricist this side of the Atlantic, Cole Porter, put the Jazz Age in earthier terms:

In other words….

Our flight of fancy, like Lindbergh’s, ends in gay Paree with a song (recorded in 1930) from Porter’s 1929 musical FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMEN:

*Kindle edition available online for as low as $17.99 (highly recommended for classic jazz lovers)

 

 

 

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SOUNDS OF THE TIMES

You’ve got to hand it to Cole Porter. He’s a rich boy who made good. 
–Oscar Levant (said jokingly of his born-into-wealth friend)

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If you, like me, are a child of parents born in the first decade of the 20th Century, you no doubt have at least a second-hand feel (if not first-hand familiarity) for that time in America known as “The Roaring Twenties” (AKA “The Jazz Age”) and “The Great Depression” (the 1930s). I was born too late in the Depression to recall what I saw then, but what I heard transcends the times. It’s the music, Cupid. Not that it was entirely romantic.

You remember music (take that however you wish). In the words of Lorenz Hart: It’s Easy To Remember (but so hard to forget)….or, put another – Irving Berlin’s – way: The Song Is Ended (but the melody lingers on). Today, however, we celebrate a master songwriter of those times whose music is Easy To Love: Cole Porter, born June 9, 1892.

To that end, I quote Fred Lounsberry, Editor of “103 lyrics of Cole Porter” (Random House):
Mixing of opposites, wide knowledge, spunk, individuality, realism, restraint, rascality, maturity. This is a pretty complete list of what makes Cole Porter’s lyrics delightfully different, but the really primary strength of his lyrics is intelligence, putting all his facts, facilities and philosophies into the right balance to make good entertainment.

So, without further ado, Let’s Do It — let’s do a few of those 1920s & 30s Cole Porter songs that are as likely to parody romantic bliss as to evoke it (including two versions of Let’s Misbehave):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iqqAIZpp2c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ceMwgadNFM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2AiQgnylrE

There, now — that wasn’t so bad, was it?