The 1940s brought many much-loved ‘crooners’ into the homes of millions, via gramophone records and via the wireless. Families put their 78rpm vinyl record on their turntable, or tuned in to the BBC Light Programme to listen to the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.
Amazing to think that Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (recorded in 1942) still tops the charts of favourite Christmas songs, some seventy-five years on – having sold more than fifty million copies worldwide.
Of course, once the BBC Forces Programme came on air at the start of the war, Vera Lynn charmed listeners with her sentimental and uplifting songs.
The early part of the decade saw the popularity of the Big Band sound, led by the artists such as the wonderful Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman, who accompanied crowds in the dance halls. But towards the end of the decade the sound of ‘swing’ was drowned out by the crooners – with the cost of large bands becoming an issue in a post-war era when money was tight.
Alongside the crooners, there was jazz – specifically ‘bebop’ – led by the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. This was music to be listened to rather than danced to and in turn led the way to the more traditional ‘smooth’ jazz that became popular at the end of the decade, with musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole all coming into their own.
But by the end of the decade there was another musical style creeping into popularity – ‘rhythm and blues’. It originated from the music of African-American communities, with names like Louis Jordan, Paul Gayton and Roy Brown all coming to prominence. It was music that would evolve over the next few years, and represent a significant shift in musical tastes, leading to the explosion in popular music of the 1950s and 1960s. Of which much more in later posts!