How has music changed from the 1930’s to the 1960’s?
By Oscar Danielsson.
Both the 1930’s and 1960’s are decades that have had a large impact on music as a whole and while there are many similarities between them, there are also some differences. Firstly, I will give an overview of the music in the 1930’s. I’ll answer who the most famous artist was, what the most influential genre was and some examples of the most important musical works of the decade. Secondly, I will do the same for the 1960’s. Thirdly, I will compare the two and their similarities, differences as well as giving my own personal opinion on which one I prefer and why and addressing both involution and evolution that may have occurred between the two decades.
In the 1930’s, there came about a new type and technique of jazz. The swing period of jazz was in full action and it was probably the most important musical genre of the 1930's. Swing jazz was a period of jazz that really started to reach out to more people by being played on the radio, artists performing and via records. Swing music was a type of dance music, which means it had characteristics like its melodies being clear and having a beat that was pretty strong. Swing music was simple, clear and had a solid beat. There were many famous and important artists during the 1930’s. Some of the more influential were Duke Ellington, Count Blaise, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Examples of iconic works of the 1930’s are “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller, “Body and Soul” by Johnny Green and “Sing Sing Sing with a Swing” by Benny Goodman. “In the Mood” was a song that was released in the year 1939, thus making it a part of that musical decade, even though it gained its serious traction in the 1940s. “Body and soul” was released in 1930, on October 11th and it was actually in the top 20 of the pop charts over ten times in the musical decade with covers from many different artists. “Sing Sing Sing with a Swing” was released in 1937, on the 6th of July in Hollywood.
Now, moving on to the 1960’s. In the 1960’s, the most important musical genre was rock'n'roll, which really came about in this decade and really took over. The 1960’s also saw a huge revolution in music overall. There were now protests on politics, there was sexual liberations and some pretty odd clothing styles. All of these came together and impacted the music. The most vital artists of this decade were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. This was also a decade of many important musical works that would become iconic. Examples of these are “God only knows”, “I want you back”, “A change is gonna come”, “Like a rolling stone” and “A day in the life” . “God only knows” was released in 1966 by the Beach Boys, “Like a rolling stone” was released by Bob Dylan in 1965 and “A day in the life” was released in 1967 by the beatles.
These different decades both have things that are alike and that put them apart and there were both involution and evolution between them. One big difference between them is that swing music was pretty happy music, and it was dance music. Music was mainly for entertainment in the 1930’s. The music in the 60s could more be used to make more of a statement, that could be sadder. It could be about political assassinations (as the case was with Martin Luther King), war (as in the “make love, not war” campaign) and environmentalism. With these things in mind, I generally prefer the characteristics of the music of the 30’s. This is because even though I think it was very good and important to have messages in music, since so many people are exposed to it, I enjoy the music of the 30’s better, purely on what type of music I’d like to listen to. This is because when I listen to music I want to feel happiness and be lifted up, not be reminded of everything that isn’t good with the world. Another difference between the two is the instruments they used, since much of the rock in the 1960’s was heavily based on electric guitars and guitars in general, like the Beatles (who also had some bass). For example, in the song “Help!” by the Beatles, I liked the use of the guitar and it actually helped set me in a good mood. However, if I was to compare this to a song from the 30’s, say “Sing sing sing with a swing” it had a much smaller range of instrument. In “Sing sing sing with a swing” there was a larger array of instruments, so it was able to utilize the different instruments at different points to what was, according to me, better music since the differences in how the instruments were played were backed up by many different sounds. To me, it just felt a little more complete than a few guitars and bass. Because of this, I liked the instrumentation of the 30’s more.
Now, on to some similarities between the two musical decades. The first one I’d like to mention is one that I really like - solos. Both the 1930’s and the 1960’s had many different solos and although they were with different instruments I really enjoy both the solos from the different periods. I think they can be a good transition between different parts of a musical piece and that they also are able to really catch your attention with either a really complex or catchy solo. This is something that I really appreciate in music because while I do like happy and upbeat music I also enjoy the difficulty of some solos and how they can change a song. Another similarity that I think is very important is that bands were very prominent throughout both of these decades. Big bands really defined the swing jazz during the 30’s and the 1960’s saw some of the most famous bands in history really emerge, like the Beatles, for instance. I really like bands because you have a group that can work together, and together form music. I personally think that music feels more complete when there are people working together with different types of instruments that produce different sounds in comparison with if they were on their own.
Between these two different decades, from 1930-1960, music changed a great deal and now I'll go through some evolution and involution. Some for better, some for worse. The first thing I’d like to bring up is something I touched on earlier. Music changed into a way of communication that could display messages and protest against things that were going on in society. This really was a huge change from the musical environment of the swing jazz in the 1930’s, which was all about dance, not really conveying a message. As I said earlier, this is something that I would consider somewhat detrimental to my personal listening experience and how much I like the music, even though I think this was very important for society. The other major change between the decades that were really groundbreaking was obviously the change in the most important genre where you had swing jazz in the 30’s and rock in the 60’s. Between these, I must say that I prefer the music of the 30’s and the swing jazz. I like brass and how it was utilized in swing jazz as I really think it adds to the music and I personally just like the sound. On the contrary, I don’t enjoy rock music much at all since I personally don’t love guitars and they have a very prominent role in rock and in the 60’s.
In conclusion, the 1930’s was a decade when new technologies and methods emerged in jazz music through the swing jazz with many iconic musicians and songs while the 1960’s was a decade of protest and messages through music where rock really was the major genre. Some of the most famous bands ever, like the Beatles, came about. There were some real differences between them, like the most common instruments to use and what the music was doing. Either being dance music or protest music and music to send a message. When it comes to these things, I personally preferred the aspects of the 60’s. However, there were also some similarities like solos and bands. From the 30’s to the 60’s there were also some real changes like the most important genre going from swing jazz to rock and also the purpose of the music. All in all, I feel that the 30’s was a better musical decade than the 60’s.