Popular music places a premium on accessibility, employs various means
to boost both instant appeal and memorability - distinctive syncopation, novel
instrumental flourishes, danceable rhythms, repeated riffs - but its signal feature is
Popular music at the turn of the century came largely from musical theater - Broadway and Hollywood. Originally, popularized by traveling groups and sheet music sales, popular music really came into its own with the arrival of radio broadcasting, jukeboxes, 78 r.p.m recordings and other twentieth century technologies which continued into the Fifties.
Hits from the first half of the 20th century were supplied by Tin Pan Alley that celebrated the boom years and Roaring Twenties and provided an escape from the Depression and two World Wars. Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern left their imprint during "the Jazz Age." However, there were the long-forgotten hacks cashing in on the latest fads spewing out sentimental weepers and cute novelty numbers aimed at the bland tastes of American mainstream.
Jazz and boogie-woogie of the Thirties moved popular music away from the light entertainment of the publishing houses toward a more exciting and dance oriented style that made the swing era a golden age. As the big bands died out and the star singers again grabbed the spot light the songwriters again found their services in demand. Without jazz driving it and Americans rebuilding their lives and starting a baby booms people were to busy to waste time dancing. Popular music turned back to light sentimental songs and cute novelty music song by polished voices and backed by sweetly generic instrumentals. 1
The Fifties were a good time to be a white middle class American These years brought an unprecedented prosperity and confidence to Americans who barely remembered the Great Depression. Popular music of the early fifties mirrored the life of mainstream America: bland predictable and reassuring. which didn't seem bad after the depression and horrifying war, or at least to those adults who lived through those hard years and actually enjoyed Perry Como, Patti Page, Doris Day, Teresa Brewer, Rosemary Clooney, Kay Starr, Dean Martin, Connie Francis, Fontane Sisters, McGuire Sisters, Lawrence Welk
Nat "King" Cole was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 as an early influence.
1 Gass, "A History of Rock Music: The Rock and Roll Era" (McGraw-Hill, 1994) p. 35-36