Jazz started off life in the 1920s as a cultural movement in America, and has not looked back. The Jazz Age started its snow ball to popularity in the Roaring Twenties, along with the introduction of mainstream radio and the conclusion of the first World War.
However, like most music genres its shelf life was limited to about 10-15 years, as the Great Depressions of the 1930s hit America hard. Jazz lives on in many different forms today, and some say that it is more popular at present than it ever has been.
[Thanks to macprohawaii, via Flickr]
Jazz started off, and is often accredited to, African Americans. This soon expanded through to the white middle class, and cities like New York and Chicago soon brought Jazz to their masses. Jazz is often characterised by this meshing of races, classes and differing parts of society. It was Jazz music that crossed this invisible barrier between two very different sets of people. New York and Chicago become hotbeds for the black jazz singer, somewhere to start a music career that could take them from the poverty stricken rural wastelands to the wealth of the urban areas.
The youth of the 1920s were influenced by Jazz to rebel against previous popular cultures, and this was represented with the fashion at the time, as well as the birth of radio and the distribution of Jazz over the airwaves.
Jazz differed completely from the mainstay classical genre of the 1920s, and as the decade went on Jazz started to gain popularity from all quarters of society. Traditional black dances like the Charleston were quickly adopted by the more affluent demographics. As Jazz was the first music genre to take advantage of the birth of radio, people did not have to visit a Jazz club to listen to the music.
Due to racial prejudice, at the time, white Jazz artists received much more air time than their black counterparts. Artists like Louis Armstrong, Joe ‘King’ Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton all received far less airtime, however their music was still very much loved and played throughout Jazz clubs in the bigger American cities.
Women also had a huge role in the growth of the popularity of Jazz. During the 1920s women were playing a bigger role in society, from working in factories to expressing themselves through art and music. Named the flapper woman, they began to captivate society, several famous female singers emerged at the time, including Bessie Smith.
Bessie Smith is special, not just because of her musical talent, but because she was also black. This was a huge leap in social acceptance, especially at that time. It was not until the 1930s or 1940s that black female singers really began to be recognised by both the public and by the music industry. It was women like Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday that really carved the way for black female music artists and singers to be successful today. Music lovers all owe this people their respect and bravery during these more difficult times.