History of Big Band/Swing Music

Read about the pre-rock era in which big bands led by Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw and others commanded top status in the music industry with their horn sections. Big bands rose in the Roaring Twenties with early leaders being Paul Whiteman and Guy Lombardo. By the 1930s big bands began to lead the mainstream with vocals and instrumentals. The parallel developments in blues created an interesting jazz/blues artform led by artists such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat "King" Cole.

While the big band era is sometimes thought to have ended in the 1940s, it actually kept on going and has survived in the present. In the decades to follow its peak and most memorable songs, ballroom dance music has never left the music arena. Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" became one of the biggest hits of the 1950s. Then in the 1960s Frankie Valli's "I Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" used a traditional big band arrangement and became a ballroom classic. One of the biggest American bands of the sixties was instrumentalists Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, who helped bring back some of the classics.

Lots of big band era standards came back as cover hits in the early sixties before Beatlemania. But even the Beatles did songs that fit the big band era format, such as "When I'm 64," "Your Mother Should Know" and to some degree "Penny Lane." In the 1970s big band music made several comebacks. Bette Midler's rendition of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (originally by the Andrews Sisters) sparked a return to swing dance in 1973. At the end of the decade Frank Sinatra gave us one of the most treasured big band recordings ever: his version of "Theme From New York, New York."

"Puttin' On The Ritz" made a comeback in the 1980s when Taco revived the standard that first appeared in the thirties. The 1990s opened with Jive Bunny's medley of big band classics that included "In The Mood" by Glenn Miller. At the end of the decade mambo, a division of ballroom dance music, returned to the charts with the hit "Mambo No. 5." Swing bands that emerged as trend-setters included Cherry Poppindaddies, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

There continues to be an appreciation for big band and swing music in the 2000s. An electronic rocked-up swing recording of JXL Versus Elvis doing the song "A Little Less Conversation" became a hot swing number on dance floors in the new millennium. The more classic swing sound can still be heard and felt in the music of Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. Christina Aguilera's "Candy Man" in 2007 brought back obvious references to the music of the Andrews Sisters, who were among the hottest acts of the 1940s.

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