As we were driving down route 10 headed to the first weekend of Coachella in April 2016 I was giving my father directions from the backseat; trying to explain where he was going to be headed as he got off the exit. Needless to say, when I don’t know how to pronounce a word I still sound it out like an eight year old and sometimes it is totally wrong. Every street in the Palm Springs area are named after old time 1940s singers. The area is considered Hollywood’s desert playground. A place where people of Los Angeles can escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a weekend. There was a street called “Dinah Shore” and of course I butchered “Dinah” where then my father proceeded to be in shock and make fun of me because I had no idea who this woman was in the industry of music. So, I dug a little deeper into this 1940s icon and discovered the world of crooners, big bands, and barbershop quartets.
It was the decade that music was starting to really come back to life after the depression. After the stock market crashed in 1929 music died a little. Dance halls were empty and musicians couldn’t find work, but by the mid 1930s the economy was starting to recover and the 1940s crooner superstars (Bing Crosby, Cab Callaway, Eddie Cantor) started to hit the scene hard. There was also the return rise of big bands such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw as jazz and blues artists were becoming national sensations – Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Then you have Dinah Shore who hit on another level. After failing auditions for the bands of Benny Goodman and Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey she struck out on a solo career leading to a string of 80 charted hits between 1940 to 1957. She was one of the first singers of her era to achieve such success. She was Taylor Swift before there was Taylor Swift.
1940s music was filled with brass, big sound, and a voice that could sooth any rotten day. The voices of this generation seem gentle, soft, and hypnotizing. Getting lost in an era of musicals, where men acted liked gentlemen, and woman had more drive and ambition than taking the best selfie for Instagram. This is not a knock on the Millennial generation, but I sometimes wonder where the magic went in this world. When did image and beauty begin to matter more than substance or talent. There is no mistaking the talent of these artists and musicians. There was no machine back then that could hide voice or instrument mistakes or imperfections; recordings were honest and had truth behind the words that were sung. Even instrumental big band music such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller – their music has power to bring you back in time as an underlying woodwinds carry the brass horns to tell a story of two young lovers being torn apart by war.
Maybe that is why this music is so special. It was created during a time of bombings, air raids, and being exposed to horrific deaths at a young age. Your best friend could be next to you one day and gone the next. The music has a stroke of blues even in the up beat songs (i.e. Sing Sing Sing). Benny Goodman’s song “Sing Sing Sing” is iconic. Even if you don’t know 1940s music this song has been used in movies throughout the decades since its creation. It goes up and down in moods from jumping and jiving to slow and bass level waves in notes that get a little too personal. That bass drum remains its constant heart beat throughout the whole eight minutes as saxophones and trumpets slither in and out of quick and smooth music bar lines taking the listener through a party scene of people feeling different emotions and the rollercoaster that we call life.
Click Here for some my favorite 1940s music! Better yet watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” plays in the background.