Having Fun – Jazz

Duke Elliengton According to many who lived through the Depression, you can’t be sad and dance at the same time. Music and dancing made people forget the hardships of daily life. Jazz and swing were popular. People danced to the big band tunes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. Louis Armstrong expanded his repertoire. In addition to playing trumpet, he sang and performed on radio.

Songs written in the 1930s by Irving Berlin and Richard Rodgers are still sung today. Cole Porter musicals were popular on Broadway in New York City. George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” premiered in 1935. All of the famous bands toured through Nebraska. Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway came through and drew large and enthusiastic crowds. Accordion player Lawrence Welk, who was born in Strasburg, North Dakota, performed on radio and toured the Midwest in the 1930s. The Works Progress Administration  (WPA) built several bandstands in the state.

OpitzMillie Opitz was one woman who loved to dance and recalls Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, and other bands that performed in Nebraska.

The flip side of swing and jazz was folk and country music. Woody Guthrie, an Oklahoma native and folk singer, toured the country and wrote many songs supporting the labor union movement.

And the classical musical scene was vibrant as well. Composers Aaron Copland and Virgil Thompson were popular. Copland, became very interested in American folk music and incorporated several folk tunes in his compositions.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

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