Wednesday, June 29, 2011
THE MUSIC CORNER: American Idol 2011 (Top 6) - Haley & Casey Duet - ...: "American Idol 2011 (Top 6) - Haley & Casey Duet - I Feel The Earth Move - Live VIDEO"
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
A drum circle is any group of people playing (usually) hand-drums and percussion in a circle. They are distinct from a drumming group or troupe in that the drum circle is an end in itself rather than preparation for a performance. They can range in size from a handful of players to circles with thousands of participants.
In 1991, during testimony before the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart stated:
Typically, people gather to drum in drum "circles" with others from the surrounding community. The drum circle offers equality because there is no head or tail. It includes people of all ages. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. To form a group consciousness. To entrain and resonate. By entrainment, I mean that a new voice, a collective voice, emerges from the group as they drum together.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Influence of Music & Rock Videos
Singing and music have always played an important role in learning and the communication of culture. Children learn from the role models what they see and hear. For the past 30 years, some children's television has very effectively used the combination of words, music and fast-paced animation to achieve learning.
Most parents are concerned about what their young children see and hear, but as children grow older, parents pay less attention to the music and videos that hold their children's interest.
The sharing of musical tastes between generations in a family can be a pleasurable experience. Music also is often a major part of a teenager's separate world. It is quite common for teenagers to get pleasure from keeping adults out and causing adults some distress.
A concern to many interested in the development and growth of teenagers is a serious deterioration in the messages of some rock music, including best-selling albums promoted by major record companies. The following troublesome themes are prominent:
•Advocating and glamorizing abuse of drugs and alcohol.
•Pictures and explicit lyrics presenting suicide as an "alternative" or "solution."
•Preoccupation with the occult; songs about satanism and human sacrifice, and the apparent enactment of these rituals in concerts.
•Sex which focuses on controlling sadism, masochism, incest, devaluing women, and violence toward women.
Parents can help their teenagers by paying attention to their teenager's purchasing, listening and viewing patterns, and by helping them identify music that may be destructive.
Music is not usually a danger for a teenager whose life is happy and healthy. But if a teenager is persistently preoccupied with music that has seriously destructive themes, and there are changes in behavior such as isolation, depression, alcohol or other drug abuse, a psychological evaluation should be considered.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Music can be a positive force for mental health, calming, relaxing, intellectually stimulating. This is true for adults, teens and children. Music can and does affect our emotions, it can create "channels" in our mind, patterns of thinking. It can impart ideas and ideologies, powerfully and emotionally conveying a way of life.
Our choices in music, the intensity and frequency of the music we listen to, can have a bearing on our mental health. Some of the greatest composers were borderline geniuses, but also, many had personalities that could be described as deeply emotional or even volatile. Mood disorders can be affected by both the type, intensity and amount of music we listen to.
When we listen to music, we can internalize, so that the emotions of the composer, the band or singer, become a part of us. For the time we listen to and identify with the music, we have a spiritual connection, a bonding, with the one or ones who are singing, playing, and/or who composed the music.
Music can be interpreted in different ways. Even the same music performed by the same composer, can convey a message of sadness and loyalty, or anger and betrayal, depending on the manner in which he chooses to convey the message.
Music can be used in a positive way to bridge gaps, to create a bond between people who might otherwise have little in common. It can convey a message of peace and brotherhood, relax, soothe.
At the same time, music has been used historically to glorify war, such as in the Star Spangled Banner which recalled the victory of the Americans over the British in the War of 1812, or when classical pieces by German composer and theatre director Richard Wagner (pronounced Vagner), were used by Hitler to stir patriotic fever in the masses.
Children, teens, and even babies potentially benefit from listenening to music, as music can be a stimulant to intellectual and cognitive development. At the same time, parents should choose carefully the type of music they play for the baby and child, as well as what music the mother listens to while she carrying the baby in the womb.
Music Psychology - Music Education and Benefits for Children and Young People
Music Psychology, the Classroom and Children
In the classroom, typically in preschool and kindergarten, soft and calming music is often, almost ubiquitously used to help children to relax at nap time and other times of the day. Some high schools use classical music in the hallway speaker in the morning periods and other times of the day. This adds to a peaceful and calm atmosphere in some large city schools.
Music and Psychology - Higher Test Scores, Cognitive Development
* In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students, researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12." This observation holds regardless of students' socio-economic status, and differences in those who are involved with instrumental music vs. those who are not is more significant over time. (Catterall, J, Iwanga, J., 1999.)
*"Education in the arts makes better math and science students, enhances spatial intelligence in newborns." It also can be part of a "solution" to "teen violence" [if directed in the right way]. Michael Greene, for Music Education Online.
Higher SAT Scores
* Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation. College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001. (Music Education Online).
Music and Language Skills Development
* Both music and language are processed in the same area of the brain. Children and youth who develop skills of playing an instrument often times develop greater language capacity as well as the greater adeptness in the ability to learn a new language.
Music Teachers as Positive Role Models * Music teachers provide good role models for inner city children. The percentage of high school students, in one study, who viewed music teachers as a role model was higher than for any other discipline, 36% for music teachers, 28% for English teachers, 11% for elementary teachers and 7% for phys-ed/sports teachers. (Hamann, 1993)
Music and Teens - Developing Self Esteem
* "I love my piano lessons," said a 14 year old girl who recently (2010) began studying piano. Active participation in playing music and music appreciation has been demonstrated to increase self-esteem. One teenager who was diagnosed with ADHD said that she had difficulty connecting with other teenagers in school. Learning to play piano during her teenage years, filled many vacant hours, staved off boredom, but also contributed to her development of self-esteem, which sometimes can be damaged when a teenager is diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
The Psychology of Music - Teenagers and Children Benefit from being Exposed and Learning to Enjoy a Wide Variety of Music
There are many positive benefits for children and teenagers to be actively involved in learning about a wide variety of music, as well as in learning to play a musical instrument. By learning about and being exposed to a wide variety of music, "widening out" in their musical taste, a teenager can get a better perspective on cultural history, and where the music of today fits into the broader picture of music throughout history.
There have been centuries of rich cultural heritage in many diverse cultures which have produced a wide variety of fascinating styles of music, much broader and scope and emotion than what might be popular at this point in time with commercial and pop, hop-hop and rock music, along with their various offshoots or progeny, in different, current, styles of popular music.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The economic boom
The illusion of peace after the bloodbath of World War II did not last for long. After the Korean war (1950) it became apparent that another war was underway, a war by proxy against the Soviet Union (that had just exploded its first atomic bomb). The two winners of the war represented two opposing ideologies: capitalism versus communism, democracy versus tyranny. Previous wars had been largely fought over territory, resources, prestige, patriotism; not quite over ideology. The tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the confrontation all the more dangerous: a war between the USA and the Soviet Union would have caused massive destruction. China became no less hostile to the West, shutting down all communication with the capitalist world. India gravitated mostly towards the Soviet Union too. The communist countries supported independence movements by all the former European colonies, and many of them ended up being ruled by socialist regimes. Thus the "Cold War" would spread throughout the planet. Another impact of the "Cold War" on USA society was a renewed sense of insecurity. Between 1948 and 1954 senator Joseph McCarthy successfully launched a "witch hunt" against intellectuals suspected of being communist spies. When a civil war in Cuba was won by the communist Fidel Castro (1959), the paranoia only increased.
The war had left behind some good inventions. First came the computer (the first commercial computer, the Univac, was introduced in 1951), then the transistor radio (1954), then cheaper television sets (that allowed sitcoms such as the "Honeymooners" to become national phenomena), then the integrated circuit (1956), then the first artificial satellite, the "Sputnik" (1957), then the first intercontinental jet service (1958), then the first telecommunication satellite, the "Telstar" (1962). However, the symbol of the USA economy was the car. 73% of world cars were produced in the USA in 1952, and in 1956 the country embarked on a project to build a nation-wide network of freeways. Homes were built outside cities, thus creating a suburban culture.
The USA was experiencing one of its greatest economic booms. Two events of 1955 are suitable metaphors: the first McDonald's restaurant opened near Chicago and Disneyland was inaugurated in Los Angeles. In 1957 a record number of babies were born (the peak of the "baby boomers" generation, conventionally those born between 1946 and 1960). In 1958 the USA's gross national product was about half of the world's national product. In 1960 Manhattan alone had 98 buildings which were taller than 100 meters: the rest of the world had none. The spirit of the age was summed up by John Kennedy (1961), the youngest president ever, who spoke of a "New Frontier". When a few months later Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut, Kennedy launched the "space race" culminating in a program to put a man on the Moon. It was the zenith of USA optimism.
The late 1950s and the 1960s were the age of the car. After all, owning and driving a car was almost cheaper (relative to the returns) than owning a television set: in 1950 the average cost of a new car was $1,500 versus $250 for a (black and white) tv set and $60 for a radio, and gasoline was still only 18 cents per gallon (68 cents per liter). It was in 1956 that the USA embarked in the project to build a nation-wide network of freeways, thus de-facto creating the culture of suburban America. A new house in California cost less than $10,000, which was only twice the average salary. Ten years later prices had not changed that much: the average house was $13-15,000 and the average car was $2,500 and a gallon of gas was 25 cents. But the median income had almost doubled, and it almost doubled again during that decade. The cars were big and heavy. The average Cadillac weighted more than two tons. And a new kind became popular, the two-seat convertible sport cars: General Motors introduced the Corvette in 1953, and Ford the Thunderbird in 1954 (but even more successful was to be the Mustang introduced in 1964). And USA car manufacturers dominated the world market, especially after the end of the Korean War allowed them to focus on civilian cars. People liked to spend so much time in their cars that "drive-in" cinemas, restaurants and even churches popped up everywhere.
In Europe it was a different story: it was the age of the small car. The car that best defined the 1960s in Britain was the Austin Mini (introduced in 1959), and the cars that best defined the economic booms in Germany and Italy were the Volkswagen "Beetle" and the Fiat 500 (introduced in 1957).
Those were also the years of consumerism, of shopping malls, of tv commercials, of fast food (the first McDonald's restaurant had opened in 1955), of appliances, of "plastic fantastic", of Disneyland (that had opened in 1955 and represented a metaphor for the artificial life of the economic boom). It was still an age of routine lives with well-defined roles both in the family, in the community and at work, although the triumph of the suburban bourgeoisie had slightly changed the stereotypes of husband and wife, of neighborhood and of workplace. Suburban life emanated a reassuring sense of "artificial" that replaced the insecurity of down-to-earth rural life.
However, there were strains in the society. On one hand, black communities were still segregated, and in 1955 the arrest of Rosa Parks, a humble woman who refused to give her seat to white folks, sparked non-violent protests led by Martin Luther King, while in 1956 Malcom X became the spokesman for the violent "Nation of Islam". In 1960 Martin Luther King delivered his speech "We shall overcome", inaugurating the era of the civil-right movement. On the other hand the white intellectuals of the "beat generation" repudiated the "American way of life". Last but not least, the youth of the USA was increasingly torn between the traditional morality (represented by the stable family of a working husband, a housewife and three children, and by a puritanical ethic that criminalized sex and fun) and a looser lifestyle. The older generation became paranoid about the "juvenile delinquents" that were out to subvert the codes of conduct. In 1962 Tom Hayden and others founded the "Student for Democratic Society" (SDS), introducing the generational issue at the intellectual level. This marked a strategic move, because it initiated the process by which the youth became a political force. On another front, in 1962 Helen Gurley Brown published "Sex and the Single Girl", a book that defended a woman's right to have sex for pleasure. While very few girls read it, it marked the beginning of the sexual revolution.
Alaska (1958) and Hawaii (1959) marked the last tokens of territorial expansion. However, in 1962 the USA sent troops to Vietnam to counter Soviet help for the communist guerrilla. That was the beginning of a different kind of expansionism. This too triggered an intellectual reaction, that led to a peace movement. The USA still had a draft, and that induced many teenagers to join the peace movement. It had been easy for president Roosevelt in 1941 to convince young people to go to war after Japan attacked the USA, but it was not easy to convince young people to go to war against people who posed no threat.
All these tensions exploded violently in the next few years. In november 1963 Kennedy was assassinated. A few months later Mario Savio founded the "Free Speech Movement" and student riots erupted at the Berkeley campus. The nation's psyche was now split between an economic boom and constant social unrest.
In the meantime, Europe was slowly recovering. Elizabeth II had become queen of Britain in 1952, inaugurating one of the longest reigns of all times, but also presiding over the two crucial transformations of the century: the decline of the monarchy and the dissolution of the empire. In the following decade dozens of Britain's former colonies declared independence: the British Empire was no more. Nonetheless the reconstruction of Europe brought prosperity to the United Kingdom (as it was still called). The "Swinging London" enjoyed a period of blissful exuberance. The social transformations were even more visible than in the USA, but somehow more tolerated. Kids wore long hair, Mary Quant launched the mini-skirt (1965), poor neighborhoods were terrorized by juvenile delinquent called "mods", the sexual revolution was underway.
In continental Europe peace was maintained by USA troops and by a number of new organizations, notably the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) that had been founded in 1951. France too lost most of its empire, although at a cost of millions of lives in Indochina and Algeria. Charles DeGaulle still believed in a "Grande France" at a time when France was obscured by the two emerging superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union. The tragedy of Europe was not over yet. After so many wars, there was still one "cold war" to fight: in 1961 the Soviet Union built a wall to isolate West Berlin and to discourage people from fleeing the Soviet-controlled eastern part of Germany. It was the final act in the division of Europe, once arrogant and ruling the world, between the USA and the Soviet Union. Europe took consolation in sport: football and cyclism often prevailed over politics. They marked a return to peace (no matter how many nuclear bombs the superpowers were deploying on its soil) and presented heroes that did not kill.
The list of serious pretenders to the title of first rock'n'roll song (not just a title referencing the act of "rocking") begins with The Fat Man (1949), cut by Antoine "Fats" Domino, a New Orleans performer, which certainly sounded like a new kind of boogie. The man who is commonly credited with inventing the term "rock'n'roll" is a white Cleveland disc-jockey, Alan Freed, who in 1951 decided to speculate on the success of Leo Mintz's store and started a radio program, "Moondog Rock'n'Roll Party", that broadcasted black music to an audience of white teenagers. Other white disc-jockeys had done and were doing the same thing, but it was Freed's enthusiasm for black music that became contagious. That same year Ike Turner's Rocket 88 (1951) was definitely rock'n'roll (although an adaptation of Pete Johnson's instrumental Rocket 88 Boogie of 1949). And that same year Gunter Lee Carr cut the dance novelty We're Gonna Rock. Therefore, everybody was already "rocking". Alas, they were mostly black, i.e. distributed only locally.
The record industry was aware that a new music was being created by the blacks, and tried to exploit it with Bill Haley. His success proved that there was an audience for that music, and it was an audience desperate for anything that would play that music.
White people had the money, but black people were making the most exciting music. This created a niche for independent labels recording black artists for the white audience, but it could never become a mass market. The USA was still largely a racially-divided country. There was little chance that a black singer could become as popular as, say, Frank Sinatra. When Sam Phillips founded Sun Records in Memphis (Tennessee), he made the famous statement "If I could find a white man who sings with the Negro feel, I'd make a million dollars".
In 1952 a white singer, Bill Haley, formed the Comets, which can be considered the first rock'n'roll band. 1952 is also the year in which Bob Horn's "Bandstand" tv program (which in 1956 would become Dick Clark's "American Bandstand") began airing from Philadelphia every weekday afternoon, and the year in which Alan Freed (now more famous as "Moondog") organized the first rock'n'roll concert, the "Moondog Coronation Ball". And the year in which the first rock'n'roll song to enter the Billboard charts was Bill Haley's Crazy Man Crazy in 1953. At the same time, Sam Phillips was recording the first Elvis Presley record in his Sun studio, using two recorders to produce the effect of "slapback" audio delay that would become the typical sound of rockabilly.
Rock'n'roll was certainly not the only thing to happen to the USA music scene in those post-war years. The sentiment of euphoria was contagious. Hank Williams reached the top of the country charts in 1949, and turned country music into a serious art. Howlin' Wolf (out of Memphis) and Joe Turner (out of Kansas City) were popularizing the aggressive blues style of the "shouters". In 1952 Roscoe Gordon, a Memphis pianist, invented the "ska" beat with No More Doggin'. Charles Brown's Hard Times (1952) was the first hit by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to enter the charts, and marked the beginning of a new era for pop music. The Orioles' Crying in the Chapel (1953) was the first black hit to top the white pop charts. The following year saw the boom of a new kind of black vocal harmony, doo-wop, inaugurated by the Penguins' Earth Angel (1954) and by the Platters' Only You (1955).
Technological innovations laid the groundwork for further stylistic innovations. In 1952 Gibson introduced its solid-body electric guitar, invented by Les Paul a few years earlier, and the following year Leo Fender introduced the Stratocaster guitar (that he had invented in 1950). In the meantime, since 1951 the first juke-box machines that played 45 RPM records had begun to spread in every corner of the USA.
In 1954 all the record companies switched from 78 RPMs to 45 RPMs: the 78 RPM was dead, and the 45 RPM came to symbolize a new era of prosperity and fun. That same year a Japanese electronic company, TTK (later renamed Sony), introduced the last thing that was missing to turn popular music into a universal language: the world's first transistor radio. The new, cheaper gramophones and the portable radios caused a musical revolution of their own in the way people (especially young people) listened to music. The masses were now able to listen to music when they wanted and where they wanted.
Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock (1954), written in 1953 by James Myers and Max Freedman (both white) for a boogie group, was the first rock song used in a movie soundtrack. Bill Haley was the most unlikely "teen idol" (he was almost 30), and that song sounded like a novelty number, not a revolutionary anthem, but that was the song that turned rock'n'roll into a nation-wide phenomenon. Two films of 1955, "Rebel Without A Cause" and "Blackboard Jungle", established a new role model for teenagers: the rebellious loner and sometimes juvenile delinquent (not exactly the role model that their parents would have liked for them).
From black to white rockers
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Musically, the real event of 1955 was Chuck Berry's first recording session. His songs were the first ones to have the guitar as "the" lead instrument, and introduced the descending pentatonic double-stops (the essence of rock guitar). His music was the meeting point of the guitar technique of T Bone Walker, the vocal technique of the "shouters" and the rhythm of boogie-woogie (with help from his pianist Johnnie Johnson). His songs also told a story that teenagers could relate to, that emphasized the generation gap, and hinted at taboo subjects such as adolescent love, notably in School Day (1957) and Sweet Little Sixteen (1958). He began the process of transforming the issues of a young generation into mythology. The riffs of his three masterpieces, Roll Over Beethoven (1956), Rock And Roll Music (1957) and the mythological Johnny B. Goode (1958), electrified millions of white kids. Last, but not least, his songs were... "his": Berry was the first major composer of rock'n'roll (not just an interpreter). But Berry was black, and blacks did not get the same airplay as white musicians. He remained a cult item.
In the same city and in the same year, another black musician, Chuck Berry's bassist Bo Diddley (born Otha Ellas Bates, raised Ellas McDaniel), invented the "hambone" rhythm (a syncopated boogie rhythm), that harked back to tribal Africa and gave songs such as I'm A Man (1955), the ominous Bo Diddley (1955) and Who Do You Love (1955) suspenseful, sinister and hypnotic quality. The album Bo Diddley (mar 1955 - ? 1957 - ? 1958), Mona (1957), Love Is Strange (1957), written for Mickey (Baker) & Sylvia (Robinson), Dearest Darling (1958), typical of his devilish approach to the mystical, the proto-rap Say Man (1959), the novelty Road Runner (1960) coupled primordial energy and good-time humor. He also pioneered the blues-rock format with the four lengthy jams of Two Great Guitars (mar 1964 - jul 1964), a collaboration with Chuck Berry.
Rock'n'roll was certainly more closely related to rhythm'n'blues than to country music. Chicago rhythm'n'blues naturally morphed into rock'n'roll with black musicians such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.
If Berry invented the kind of rock'n'roll that will rule for the following 50 years, others laid the foundations for several strains of rock'n'roll. Perhaps the most influential on future generations was the kind of rock'n'roll that arose from gospel music. In New Orleans a singer and pianist named Esquerita (Eskew Reeder) coined a wild style of playing and singing that was popularized by New Orleans vocalist and pianist "Little" Richard Penniman. They performed like animals, and added another level of provocation: clothes and facial make-up that were obscene. Esquerita and Little Richard invented decadence-rock. Little Richard's frenzied songs of the time (mostly propelled by the drums of Earl Palmer) would remain the most hysterical specimens of rock'n'roll until punk-rock: Tutti Frutti (1955), Long Tall Sally (1956), Bumps Blackwell's Rip It Up (1956), Lucille (1957), Keep A-Knockin' (1957), Bumps Blackwell's Good Golly Miss Molly (1958). Larry Williams (also from New Orleans) was a Little Richard clone: Short Fat Fannie (1957), Bony Moronie (1957) and Dizzy Miss Lizzie (1958).
Sam Phillips' dream came true when he met Elvis Presley. Presley went on to become the first great swindle of rock'n'roll, and the prototype for the ones that would follow. Sam Phillips had found his man, equipped him with a masterful rhythm section (Bill Black on bass and Scotty Moore on guitar), and proceeded to market him as the juvenile delinquent that he was not. In a segregated society like the USA of the time, Presley became the ultimate white robber of black hits: Arthur Crudup's That's All Right Mama (1954), Roy Brown's Good Rockin' Tonight (1955), Junior Parker's Mystery Train (1955). He began to move towards "whiter" material with Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes (1956), with Frederick "Shorty" Long on piano, Mae Axton's Heartbreak Hotel (1956), perhaps his vocal masterpiece, Leiber & Stoller's Hound Dog (1956), but his black soul still emerged in Otis Blackwell's diptych Don't Be Cruel (1956), his greatest hit, and All Shook Up (1957). Leiber & Stoller's Jailhouse Rock (1958), finally an irreverent boogie, was his swan song. Presley the rocker died there: he went on to croon and shout operatic melodies such as old Italian songs, and to specialize in seduction numbers such as Love Me Tender (1956, stolen from the soundtrack of "Rancho Notorious"), and Hugo (Peretti) & Luigi (Creatore)'s Can't Help Falling In Love (1961, a rewrite of Giovanni Martini's Plaisir d'Amour).
Presley's success was important in enabling hundreds of kids to play the music of the blacks. White rockers were finally tolerated, and even promoted by the "majors" (major label companies). These rockers (or, rather, Sam Phillips' production) defined "rockabilly", a style whose singer sang in a stuttering and hiccuping manner, accompanied by a small combo of slapping bass and frantic guitars, while the whole was captured using two recorders to produce an effect of "slapback" audio delay. Rockabilly songs were simulated bursts of lust.
Among early white rockers, Jerry Lee Lewis was, by far, the most faithful to the wild style of black rockers. James "Roy" Hall's Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (1957) and Otis Blackwell's Great Balls Of Fire (1957) coined a style of psychotic singing that will make the history of rock music (unlike Presley's, that will make the history of easy listening) and coined a manic style at the piano that was as ferocious as Berry's guitar riffs.
Other notable white rockers (all based in Memphis unless noted) were Carl Perkins, the stereotypical rockabilly singer, who wrote Blue Suede Shoes (1956) for Presley; Wayne "Buddy" Knox of the Rhythm Orchids, a Texan who wrote Party Doll (1956) for his friend Holly; Gene Vincent (Craddock) of the Blue Caps, an authentic rebel from Virginia who spew out Be Bop A Lula (1956), reminiscent of the Drifters' Money Honey, and formed the Blue Caps, one of the first rock bands; Louisiana's Dale Hawkins, whose swampy Suzie Q (1957) was derailed by James Burton's bluesy guitar solo; Johnny Burnette, a schoolmate of Elvis Presley whose trio recorded Tiny Bradshaw's Train Kept A-rolling with one of the first solos of distorted guitar (by Paul Burlison); Charlie Feathers, with a vocal style that was both nonsensical and virtuoso (Defrost Your Heart, 1955; Tongue Tied Jill, 1956); Albert "Sonny" Burgess of the Pacers, from Arkansas, one of the wildest (Red Headed Woman, 1956); Billy Lee Riley, leader of Sun's house band and one of the most sound-conscious (Ray Scott's Flying Saucers Rock'n'Roll, 1957, Billy Emerson's Red Hot); West Virginia's wildman and one-man band Hasil Adkins (She Said, 1955; The Hunch, 1957; Chicken Walk, 1962); and Ronnie Hawkins (Mary Lou, 1959). Wanda Jackson in Los Angeles was the "queen" of rockabilly (Honey Bop, 1956; Fujiyama Mama, 1958), and one of the very first white women to adopt a provocative, rebellious stance. The fact that their songs didn't climb the charts does not mean that they were any less talented than Presley. If nothing else, they mostly wrote the songs they sang.
There was also a brief "Latino rock" fad, with Ritchie Valens' Come On Let's Go (1958) and Chan Romero's Hippy Hippy Shake (1959), two of the most frantic rockabilly songs.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
The limit of white rockers was their roots in country music. Their music was rarely as powerful and original as the music of black rockers. Black rockers who developed a unique style included Junior Parker, whose Mystery Train (1954) was the best wedding of country and blues, Richard Berry, a doo-wop performer who wrote Louie Louie (1956) for his Pharoahs (and sung it in Jamaican patois), Joe Turner, whose Shake Rattle And Roll (1957) would remain one of the most frenetic songs of all times, Screamin Jay Hawkins, from Cleveland (Ohio), who introduced voodoo into rock'n'roll with I Put A Spell On You (1956) and whose macabre stage antics virtually invented gothic-rock. Otis Blackwell, a black songwriter from New York, is one of the unsung heroes of the genre: he wrote Fever (1955) for Little Willie John, Don't Be Cruel (1956) and All Shook Up (1957) for Elvis Presley, and Great Balls Of Fire (1957) and Breathless (1958) for Jerry Lee Lewis. Jazz organist Bill Doggett bridged jump blues and rock'n'roll with the one instrumental track that mattered, Honky Tonk (1956), which actually emphasized guitar and sax.
Los Angeles-based Eddie Cochran was perhaps the greatest talent of the second white generation, but he died at 22. Summertime Blues (1958) and C'mon Everybody (1958), on which he overdubbed all instruments and vocals, were moving away from rockabilly.
Texas-based Buddy Holly was even more of an "enfant prodige": he also died at 22, but left behind an impressive corpus of songs. He radically altered the image of rock'n'roll: wearing glasses and a formal high-school outfit, he represented the exact opposite of the juvenile delinquent. His childish, naive optimism contrasted with the nasty, morbid world of the other rockers. His lyrics reached for the primal child in every teenager: they were made of onomatopoetic tongue-twisters and of "baby talk" (syllables, rather than words, silly repetitions, trifling rhymes). His vocal phrasing was a recital of exaggerated tones of voice, hiccupping from bass to falsetto, a nonsense lingo of guttural ejaculations and martial slogans. His music was catchy, but set to bizarre accompaniments (clapping, tom-toms, celesta), distilled from blues, tex-mex, folk, pop and country. That'll Be The Day (1957) and Peggy Sue (1957), a childish nursery-rhyme accompanied by one of the most famous drum beats in history, were his rockabilly masterpieces, but Words Of Love (1958), Everyday, It's So Easy and Well All Right already belonged to another genre, a form of jangling, melodic music straddling the line between folk and rock, and arranged in creative ways. In many ways, Holly was the first of rock's singer-songwriters. Last but not least, his Crickets forged the standard of the rock band: their line-up was two guitars, drums and bass; they wrote their own material, and the sound of their songs mainly relied on their playing (not on session musicians or orchestras).
A social disease
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
Slowly but steadily, this new generation of white rockers overthrew two entrenched praxes of the recording industry. First, the guitar took over the piano. Second, singers began to sing their own songs. Since the beginning of the recording industry, professional songwriters had been writing the hits for pop singers to sing (and nameless players to accompany). Black rockers, instead, were writing most of the songs that they were singing. Pop songwriters were mainly pianists: they would compose a song on the piano, and then score the orchestral arrangements. Black rockers were composing on the guitar, just like bluesmen had been doing ever since, and knew too little about other instruments to arrange their compositions for an orchestra (they also used much simpler chords). Thus rock'n'roll became essentially a guitar-based genre. Thus the natural unit of delivery for rock'n'roll was the small combo, instead of the orchestra. Thus rock'n'roll emphasized the rhythm, not the harmony.
The guitar soon became integral part of the character: while pop singers only dealt with microphones, rockers were expected to swing a guitar in front of them (even though the majority of white rockers did not know how to play it).
"What" these singers sang also changed. Pop songwriters had always focused on universal values and feelings: each story was rehearsing the eternal themes (love, for example) of western literature. Black rockers came from a tradition that was more realist: the bluesmen sang about life in the plantation, in the jail, in the street, in the ghetto. Black rockers continued that tradition, except that they set their stories in a modern milieu that connected with the personal experiences of the white youth of the USA.
Rock'n'roll was, in many ways, the by-product of changes that were taking place within the USA society: mass education through a public school system (that put kids of the same community in daily contact with each other), the widespread diffusion of the radio, the juke-box and the 45 RPM record (that put kids from far-flung communities in daily contact), consumerism (that granted teenagers limited financial independence from their parents), increased racial integration (that allowed white kids to learn the more libertine customs of black people). The sexual revolution may have started before rock'n'roll, but certainly rock'n'roll became its soundtrack. The net effect of these developments was to favor a "clandestine" genre such as rock'n'roll was in the beginning. In 1955 the establishment applied the capitalistic rules of mass marketing to this new product, and sanctioned its existence. Rock'n'roll was, therefore, an almost inevitable synthesis of the USA civilization of the 1950s.
The tone of rock'n'roll was certainly different from the traditional tone of popular music. The sentimental, the tragic and the comic tones of popular music became (respectively) erotic, violent and sarcastic. That "was" a teenager's view of the world.
Rock'n'roll was revolutionary at several levels. It originated from small, independent labels (rather than big corporations). It ridiculed the stars and the sounds (and, indirectly, the lifestyle) of the establishment. It bridged the gap between the white public and the black public. It invented the notion of a rebellious youth. These were all destabilizing facts.
Puritans were right when they claimed that rockers (by appropriating the convulsions of strippers, the sensuality of perverts, and the "savagery" of blacks) were inciting male teenagers to become criminals and female teenagers to become prostitutes. It was their way to vent a generation's feeling of independence.
Through rock'n'roll, young people began searching for an identity, a process that would continue for decades, parallel to the evolution of rock music.
There had already been signs of discontent and dissent within the white capitalistic society (the beatniks in literature, for example), but they had not affected the masses. The "revolutionary" power of rock'n'roll far exceeded any political or cultural movement that had preceded it. Music became the terminal stage of an anelastic process: from social alienation to musical alienation to musical revolution to social revolution. Music became more than entertainment. Music became more than a universal language. Music became more than a message board. Music became a revolutionary tool for the youth of the USA.
The disease spreads
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Rock'n'roll spread to Britain, causing the first mass adoption of a USA musical style by the European masses. British rock hits included: Tommy Steele's Rock With the Cavemen (1956), Cliff Richard (Harry Webb)'s Move It (1958), written by his guitarist Ian Samwell, Marty Wilde's Bad Boy (1959), Frederick "Johnny Kidd" Heath's Shaking All Over (1960), and especially Billy Fury, who made the best album of British rockabilly, The Sound Of Fury (apr 1960 - ? 1960). These rockers laid the foundations for the British takeover of rock'n'roll.
The popularity of rock'n'roll caused the record industry to boom and allowed independent labels to flourish. Between 1955 and 1959, the USA market share of the four "majors" dropped from 78% to 44%, while the market share of independent record companies increased from 22% to 56%. The US market had increased from 213 million dollars to 603 million, and the market share of rock'n'roll increased from 15.7% to 42.7% in 1959. The excellent health of the recording industry was probably one reason why they kept experimenting with the format. In 1956 Elektra pioneered the "compilation" record, containing songs by different musicians, and in 1958 RCA introduced the first stereo long-playing records.
As musicians were allowed to make more and more bizarre records, they began to plunder the repertory of the rest of the world. In 1955 Pete Seeger released the first album of African music by a white musician, Bantu Choral Folk Songs (? 1955 - ? 1955), and in 1956 Martin Denny's Exotica created a new genre. Interest in Indian music (until then largely unknown in the west) was triggered by sarod player Ali Akbar Khan's 1955 concert in New York. Mexican composer Juan-Garcia Esquivel concocted super-kitschy lounge music, scoring odd melodies and counterpoints for exotic instruments and just about anything that had an unusual sound, from theremins to harpsichords. As a title of his best album goes, Other Worlds Other Sounds (jan 1958 - ? 1958).
Rock'n'roll was only the tip of the iceberg. Music was changing at every level. The Chordettes of Mr Sandman (1955) were the first "girl-group". Also in 1955, Ray Charles invented "soul" music with I Got A Woman, a secular adaptation of an old gospel.
The first Jamaican recording studio had opened in 1951 and recorded "mento" music, a fusion of European and African folk dance music. By fusing the mento rhythm and Memphis' rhythm'n'blues, a new genre, "ska" began to spread in the island.
So many parallel developments did not eclipse the traditional forms of popular music, which was still largely dependent on Broadway's musicals. For example, the best-selling album of 1955 was Doris Day's Love Me Or Leave Me ( ? 1955 - may 1955), and the mega-seller of the following year was Rodgers' and Hammerstein's Oklahoma (may-jul 1954 - ? 1955). The kids were still only a fraction of the market. Presley himself began to dominate the market only with his movie soundtracks (from 1957 on), and even he was eclipsed by the album of Leonard Bernstein's musical West Side Story (1961), that spent 54 weeks at the top of the charts (a record that no rock musician would ever beat).
While the youth of the USA danced at a faster rhythm and was being entertained by rebellious singers, isolated minds were experimenting with ever more unusual sounds. One of the most under-rated and eccentric geniuses of the 20th century, Moondog, who was a blind New York street performer, virtually invented every future genre of rock music between 1949 and 1956. Harry Revel's suite Music Out of the Moon (1947), issued as a set of three 78 RPM records, was arranged by Les Baxter for cello, horn, choir and (mainly) a theremin played by Sam Hoffman, the man who had debuted the instrument in Miklos Rozsa's soundtracks for Lost Weekend (1945) and Spellbound (1945). Louis and Bebe Barron's soundtrack for the science-fiction film The Bells of Atlantis (1952), and later for the more famous Forbidden Planet (1956), employed only electronic instruments.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
It didn't last. Soon, the puritanical element that was so pivotal in the USA society managed to kill the new genre. Actually, there were at least three forces working against rock'n'roll, despite its commercial success: a political force (the USA was coming out of Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunt" but unruly behavior was easily suspected of communism), a religious force (rock'n'roll, with its obvious references to sex, wasn't exactly the kind of music that church-goers desired for their children), and a racial force (rock'n'roll was clearly a black invention, in an age that was still obsessed with racial separation).
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
The impact of rock'n'roll could still be felt long after the last rocker retired or emigrated: the new pop idols promoted by Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" program (which was broadcast by 105 tv stations), were younger, and spoke to a younger audience. But the format went back to the melodic, romantic song of the vocal groups, and the guitar/bass/drums band was replaced by the string orchestra.
This was not true in Britain, where neither of those three forces was particularly strong, and where bluesmen and jazzmen were treated like living legends. Black music became very popular among white kids of the British middle-class at the same time that was being forgotten in the USA. In fact, two of the most influential phenomena of the 1950s originated from this passion for the Afro-American culture. London was the center of "trad" ("traditional jazz"), which spawned a generation of white musicians playing black music, notably Alexis Korner. Rock Island Line (1955), sung by Lonnie Donegan for trombonist Chris Barber's jazz combo, launched the fad of "skiffle", a sort of fast-paced, exuberant and melodic jug-music performed with cheap instruments. (In the 1920s, "skiffle" was used by USA record companies to refer to music performed by musicians who were too poor to buy instruments, thus using washboards, kazoos and jugs). Within a year, there were almost a thousand groups of skiffle bands in London alone, notably the Vipers (featuring the young Hank Marvin) of Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O (1956) and Streamline Train (1957).
Sunday, June 19, 2011
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Wolfgang Mozart Biography
in full Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart
( 1756 – 1791 )
(born Jan. 27, 1756, Salzburg, Archbishopric of Salzburg [Austria]—died Dec. 5, 1791, Vienna) Austrian composer, widely recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. With Haydn and Beethoven he brought to its height the achievement of the Viennese Classical school. Unlike any other composer in musical history, he wrote in all the musical genres of his day and excelled in every one. His taste, his command of form, and his range of expression have made him seem the most universal of all composers; yet, it may also be said that his music was written to accommodate the specific tastes of particular audiences.
Early life and works
Mozart most commonly called himself Wolfgang Amadé or Wolfgang Gottlieb. His father, Leopold, came from a family of good standing (from which he was estranged), which included architects and bookbinders. Leopold was the author of a famous violin-playing manual, which was published in the very year of Mozart's birth. His mother, Anna Maria Pertl, was born of a middle-class family active in local administration. Mozart and his sister Maria Anna (“Nannerl”) were the only two of their seven children to survive.
The boy's early talent for music was remarkable. At three he was picking out chords on the harpsichord, at four playing short pieces, at five composing. There are anecdotes about his precise memory of pitch, about his scribbling a concerto at the age of five, and about his gentleness and sensitivity (he was afraid of the trumpet). Just before he was six, his father took him and Nannerl, also highly talented, to Munich to play at the Bavarian court, and a few months later they went to Vienna and were heard at the imperial court and in noble houses.
“The miracle which God let be born in Salzburg” was Leopold's description of his son, and he was keenly conscious of his duty to God, as he saw it, to draw the miracle to the notice of the world (and incidentally to profit from doing so). In mid-1763 he obtained a leave of absence from his position as deputy Kapellmeister at the prince-archbishop's court at Salzburg, and the family set out on a prolonged tour. They went to what were all the main musical centres of western Europe—Munich, Augsburg, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Mainz, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Paris (where they remained for the winter), then London (where they spent 15 months), returning through The Hague, Amsterdam, Paris, Lyon, and Switzerland, and arriving back in Salzburg in November 1766. In most of these cities Mozart, and often his sister, played and improvised, sometimes at court, sometimes in public or in a church. Leopold's surviving letters to friends in Salzburg tell of the universal admiration that his son's achievements aroused. In Paris they met several German composers, and Mozart's first music was published (sonatas for keyboard and violin, dedicated to a royal princess); in London they met, among others, Johann Christian Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach's youngest son and a leading figure in the city's musical life, and under his influence Mozart composed his first symphonies—three survive (K 16, K 19, and K 19a—K signifying the work's place in the catalog of Ludwig von Köchel). Two more followed during a stay in The Hague on the return journey (K 22 and K 45a).
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Southern States: Hillbilly Music
In 1910 ethnomusicologist John Lomax published "Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads" (that followed by two years the first known collection of cowboy songs), and in 1916 Cecil Sharp began publishing hundreds of folk songs from the Appalachian mountains (or, better, the Cumberland Mountains, at the border between Kentucky and Tennessee), two events that sparked interest for the white musical heritage, although the world had to wait until 1922 before someone, Texan fiddler Eck Robertson, cut the first record of "old-time music". These collections created the myth of the Appalachians as remote sanctuaries of simple, noble life, whose inhabitants, the "mountaneers", isolated from the evils of the world embodied the true American spirit. Many of those regions were not settled until 1835, and then they were settled by very poor immigrants, thus creating a landscape of rather backwards communities, still attached to their traditions but also preoccupied with the daily struggle for survival.
In 1922, a radio station based in Georgia (WSM) was the first to broadcast folk songs to its audience. A little later, a radio station from Fort Worth, in Texas (WBAP), launched the first "barn dance" show. In june 1923, 55-year old Georgia's fiddler John Carson recorded (in Atlanta) two "hillbilly" (i.e., southern rural) songs, an event that is often considered the official founding of "country" music (although Texas fiddler Eck Roberton had already recorded the year before). The recording industry started dividing popular music into two categories: race music (that was only black) and hillbilly music (that was only white). The term "hillbilly" was actually introduced by "Uncle" Dave Macon's Hill Billie Blues (1924). In 1924, Chicago's radio station WLS (originally "World's Largest Store") began broadcasting a barn dance that could be heard throughout the Midwest.
With When The Work's All Done This Fall (1925), Texas-bred Carl Sprague became the first major musician to record cowboy songs (the first "singing cowboy" of country music). And, finally, in 1925, Nashville's first radio station (WSM) began broadcasting a barn dance that would eventually change name to "Grand Ole Opry". Country music was steaming ahead. Labels flocked to the South to record singing cowboys, and singing cowboys were exhibited in the big cities of the North.
Among the most literate songwriters were Texas-born Goebel Reeves, who penned The Drifter (1929), Blue Undertaker's Blues (1930), Hobo's Lullaby (1934) and The Cowboy's Prayer (1934), i.e. a mixture of hobo and cowboy songs, and Tennessee-born Harry McClintock, the author of the hobo ballads Big Rock Candy Mountain (1928) and Hallelujah Bum Again (1926).
Country music was a federation of styles, rather than a monolithic style. Its origins were lost in the early decades of colonization, when the folk dances (Scottish reels, Irish jigs, and square dances, the poor man's version of the French "cotillion" and "quadrille") and the British ballad got transplanted into the new world and got contaminated by the religious hymns of church and camp meetings. The musical styles were reminiscent of their British ancestors. The lyrics, on the other hand, were completely different. The Americans disliked the subject of love, to which they preferred pratical issues such as real-world experiences (ranching, logging, mining, railroads) and real-world tragedies (bank robberies, natural disasters, murders, train accidents).
The instrumentation included the banjo, introduced by the African slaves via the minstrel shows, the Scottish "fiddle" (the poor man's violin, simplified so that the fiddler could also sing) and the Spanish guitar (an instrument that became popular in the South only around 1910). Ironically, as more and more blacks abandoned the banjo and adopted the guitar, the banjo ended up being identified with white music, while the guitar ended up being identified as black music. For example, Hobart Smith learned to play from black bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson, but went on to play the banjo while Jefferson played the guitar.
The role of these instruments was more rhythmic than melodic, because most performances were solo, without percussion. Some regions added their own specialties (such as the accordion in Louisiana), but mostly white music was based on stringed instruments. When not performed solo, it was performed by string bands, particularly after the 1920s, when the first recordings allowed musicians to actually make a living out of their "old-time music". The string bands of the 1920s included Charlie Poole's North Carolina Ramblers, that augmented the repertory of old-time music with songs from minstrel and vaudeville shows, Ernest Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers, and finally (but the real trend-setters for string bands) the hillbilly supergroup Skillet Lickers, formed in 1926 and featuring Riley Puckett on guitar, Gideon Tanner and Clayton McMichen on fiddles (and all of them on vocals), the first ones to record Red River Valley (1927).
The "hillbilly" format (led by the guitar and a bit more "cosmopolitan") was more popular in the plains, while the "mountain" format of the Appalachians (dominated by fiddle and banjo) remained relatively sheltered from urban and African-American influences.
Solo artists, or "ramblers", became popular after World War I, but often had to move to New York to make recordings. Some of them specialized in "event" songs, songs that chronicled contemporary events, such as Henry Whitter's The Wreck Of The Old 97 (1923), that may have been the first "railroad song" (but actually used the melody of the traditional The Ship That Never Returned), later recorded by New York's singer Vernon Dalhart (1924) for the national audience (perhaps the first hit of country music), Andrew Jenkins' Death Of Floyd Collins, also first recorded by Dalhart (1926), about a mining accident, and Bob Miller's Eleven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat (1928), Dry Votin' (1929), and especially Twentyone Years (1930), perhaps the first "prison song". Miller was, by far, the most prolific, writing thousands of hillbilly songs.
Hillbilly musicians also dealt with the opposite genre, the novelty song: Wendell Hall's ukulele novelty It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo (1923), Carson Robison's whistling novelty Nola (1926), Frank Luther's comic sketch Barnacle Bill The Sailor (1928).
Very few of these singers were of country origins: Vernon Dalhart, Carson Robison and Bob Miller were New York singers who became famous singing hillbilly songs (and sometimes composing them, as in the case of Robison and Miller).
The real country musicians had been known mainly for their instrumental bravura. A national fiddle contest had been organized in Georgia already in 1917 (by the Old Time Fiddlers Organization). Two musicians important in the transition from the quiet and linear "mountain" style and the fast and syncopated "bluegrass" style were banjoists Charlie Poole of the North Carolina Ramblers (Don't Let Your Deal Go Down, 1925; White House Blues, 1926, better known as Cannonball Blues), and "Uncle" Dave Macon, the main "collector" of old-time music and one of the best-sold artists during the Roaring Twenties (Keep My Skillet Good And Greasy, 1924; Chewing Gum, 1924; Sail Away Ladies, 1927). If these two already used the banjo as much more than a mere rhythmic device, Dock Boggs was perhaps the first white banjoist to play the instrument like a blues guitar (in 1927 he recorded six plantation blues numbers and Sugar Baby, that was rockabilly ante-litteram). Sam McGee was one of the first to play the guitar like a bluesman, starting with Railroad Blues (1928). Georgia's blind guitarist Riley Puckett, the author of My Carolina Home (1927), played a key role in transforming the guitar from percussion instrument to accompanying instrument.
Un until the late 1920s, hillbilly artists were considered comedians as much as musicians. Many of them had a repertory of both songs and skits. The Skillet Lickers were probably instrumental in creating the charisma of the country musician, as opposed to the image of the hillbilly clown.
The Hawaian steel guitar, invented by Joseph Kekuku around 1885 in Honolulu, was a late addition to the line-up of string bands. The incidental music to Richard Walton Tully's play Bird of Paradise (1912) popularized the ukulele and the steel guitar in the USA, as did the Hawaiian pavillion at the "Panama Pacific Exhibition" of San Francisco in 1915. On The Beach At Waikiki (1915), composed by Henry Kailimai and Sonny Cunha, started a nation-wide craze. In 1916 all the record labels started selling records of Hawaiian music, including Sonny Cunha's Everybody Hula (1916), Richard Whiting's Along the Way to Waikiki (1917), Hawaiian Butterfly (1917), composed by Billy Baskette and Joseph Santly, and Walter Blaufuss' My Isle of Golden Dreams (1919). Hawaiian steel-guitar virtuoso Frank Ferera toured internationally. He had debuted on record with Stephen Foster's My Old Kentucky Home (1915). The craze subsided in the 1920s, but the steel guitar (first recorded by a hillbilly musician in 1927) would become more and more popular in the repertory of country music.
The first stars of the hillbilly genre were the members of the Virginia-based Carter Family, basically a vocal trio (Sara on lead vocals and autohapr, Alvin on bass vocals, and Maybelle on alto vocals and on guitar) that started out in 1926 and first recorded in 1927. Unlike their peers, who emphasized the instrumental sound, the Carter Family focused on songs. Collectively, they wrote over 300 songs, including classics such as Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone (1928), Keep On The Sunny Side (1928), a cover of Theodore Morse's 1906 song, Foggy Mountain Top (1929), My Clinch Mountain Home (1929), Worried Man Blues (1930), Can The Circle Be Unbroken (1935), No Depression (1936), and especially Wildwood Flower (1928), a traditional first published in 1860 that Maybelle turned into a guitar masterwork. Their vocal style was the quintessence of the "close-harmony" style of country music. Later, Maybelle (who plucked the melody on the bass strings) formed her own quartet with her three daughters (among whom June wrote Ring Of Fire and Helen wrote Poor Old Heartsick Me).
In 1924 with his first recording, Rock All Our Babies To Sleep, blind Georgia's guitarist Riley Puckett (already a radio star) introduced the "yodeling" style of singing (originally from the Swiss and Austrian Alps) into country music, the style adopted in 1927 by the first star of country music, Mississippi's Jimmie Rodgers, who wed it to the Hawaian slide guitar and, de facto, invented the white equivalent of the blues with T For Texas (1927), Waiting For A Train (1928), In The Jailhouse Now (1928), Mule Skinner Blues (1930). Ironically (but also tellingly), Jimmie Rodgers became the first star of this very white phenomenon by being the most influenced by the very black music of the blues. The year he died (1933) was a watershed year for country music.
Rodgers was influential in creating the myth of the Far West, which had already been fueled by the cowboy songs of Carl Sprague and Goebel Reeves. Thus "country" music became "country & western" music. Originally, country music was mainly from the Southeastern states (Virginia, Tennesse, Kentucky and neighboring states). But now the audience was becoming fascinated with the Southwestern states (Texas and neihboring states). The romantic allure of the mountain dweller was slowly being replaced by the romantic allure of the roaming cowboy.
Another country musician who, like Rodgers, harked back to the blues, was Louisiana's singer-songwriter Jimmie Davis whose songbook was no less impressive: Pistol Packin' Papa (1929), Organ Grinder's Blues (1929), Pussy Blues (1929), Nobody's Darling But Mine (1935), It Makes No Difference Now (1938), You Are My Sunshine (1939).
In the meantime, two new styles were emerging: honky-tonk and western-swing. And two instruments debuted in those years that would become the staple of rock bands: Adolph Rickenbacker invented (1931) the electric guitar and Laurens Hammond invented (1933) the Hammond organ. The steel guitar was electrified shortly afterwards, and enthusiastically embraced by country musicians (another sign that the trend was away from the mountain purists).
It was Texas singer-songwriter Gene Autry's Silver Hairde Daddy Of Mine (1931) a big hit that launched the "honky-tonk" style of country music. Debuting in the film Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1935), Autry (who in real life was not a cowboy at all) was also the first of the "singing cowboys" of Hollywood (before Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Johnny Bond, Jimmy Wakely) that contributed to move country music (originally an eastern phenomenon) to the "far west", at least in the popular imagination. He also recorded Mother Jones (1931), a labor song, besides a long list of western-flavored songs, such as Mexicali Rose (1936). Roy Rogers and songwriters Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer formed the genre's supergroup, the Sons Of Pioneers, who composed some of the genre's classics, starting with Bob Nolan's Tumblin' Tumbleweeds (1927).
Clyde "Red" Foley was the star of Chicago, popularizing country music in the big city with Old Shep (1935) and Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy (1950).
By now "hillbilly" was no longer a positive attribute, but rather a derogatory one, and thus "country & western" came to connote all white southern music. The performers wore country attires and mimicked the slang of cowboys. The fascination with the West spread to the big cities of the North thanks to fake hillbilly songs written by professional Tin Pan Alley songwriters, such as Bill Hill's The Last Roundup (1933), actually a catchy tune in the Broadway style, but nonetheless influential in creating the vogue of the Far West. This enabled Tex Ritter, who had never been cowboy but simply a rodeo attraction, to become a star in New York, thanks to his Texan accent, and then (1936) in Hollywood (Rock'n'Rye Rag, 1948).
Both honky-tonk and western-swing were, de facto, by-products of the shift of country music towards the western states (i.e. Texas).
In 1932 vocalist Milton Brown and fiddler Bob Wills cut the first records of a kind of country music influenced by jazz that was later dubbed "western swing" (by Foreman Phillips in 1944). Basically, the country & western music of rural towns merged with the swing of the big bands of urban jazz. The two pioneers then split. Brown's combo, the Musical Brownies, featuring fiddler Cecil Brower (who introduced Joe Venuti's style to country music), jazz pianist Fred Calhoun, Bob Dunn on one of the first amplified steel guitars and a rhythm section influenced by ragtime, ruled in Texas, while Wills' Texas Playboys, based in Oklahoma and featuring a country string section and a jazz horn section, and now fronted by Tommy Duncan, debuted on record in 1935 (with Osage Stomp, reminiscent of Will Shade's Memphis Jug Band) and went on to produce Steel Guitar Rag (1936), New San Antonio Rose (1940), their greatest hit, recorded with an 18-piece band, perhaps the first nation-wide hits of country music. Time Changes Everything (1940), Smoke on the Water (1944), New Spanish Two Step (1946).
From 1936 Chicago's fiddler and accordionist Frank "Pee Wee" King, who wrote Bonaparte's Retreat, Tennessee Waltz and Slow Poke (1950), led the most popular of the western swing bands, the Golden West Cowboys.
After the war, Spade Cooley (in Los Angeles) introduced a variant of western swing that de-emphasized the brass and reeds while returning to the more traditional sound of pop orchestras.
Western Swing marked the transition from the archaic string-bands to the dancehall orchestras. These bands were responsible for the introduction into country music of instruments such as drums, horns and electric guitar.
Texas singer Al Dexter had hits in both the honky-tonk style, such as Honky Tonk Blues (1934), and the western-swing style, such as Pistol Packin' Mama (1942), boasting a revolutionary arrangement of accordion, trumpet and steel guitar. San Diego's pianist Merrill Moore did the same after World War II, achieving a synthesis in songs such as House Of Blue Lights (1953) that heralded rock'n'roll.
The other major genre to surface during the 1930s was bluegrass music, but this one originated in the traditional southeastern areas ("bluegrass country" being the nickname of Kentucky). Several vocalist-instrumentalist couples had appeared (particularly brothers) that played a more spirited music devoted to domestic themes.
Alabama's guitar-based Delmore Brothers (Alton was the main composer and lead vocalist) were instrumental in popularizing the "brothers style" thanks to their tenure with the "Grand Ole Opry" between 1932 and 1938. They were also important for bridging the world of white music and the world of black music. Their songs were bluesy, and they often interpreted gospel songs. Their greatest hits were in fact blues numbers, from Brown's Ferry Blues (1933) to Blues Stay Away from Me (1949). In 1944 they added the bluesy harmonica of Wayne Raney, and in 1946 they added electric guitar and drums. That is when they recorded their series of breathless boogies, one step away from rock'n'roll: Hillbilly Boogie (1945), Freight Train Boogie (1946), Mobile Boogie (1948), Pan American Boogie (1950). Other famous numbers were Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar, Midnight Special, Beautiful Brown Eyes (1951).
Another "brother act" was that of the Blue Sky Boys, formed by Bill and Earl Bolick (respectively, mandolin and guitar), perhaps the most faithful to the "mountain" tradition in their versions of Sunny Side Of Life (1935), Down On The Banks of the Ohio (1936), Story of the Knoxville Girl (1937), Are You From Dixie (1939), Turn Your Radio On (1940).
The bluegrass style, that originated in the 1920s from both Kentucky and Bristol, on the Virginia-Tennessee border, was a by-product of the "brother style", except that it was fast, virtuoso and sometimes instrumental-only "mountain music" (the country equivalent of the dixieland in jazz). It derived from the string bands of the 1920s, with a banjo, fiddle, and mandolin leading the melody, backed by guitar and string bass. The notable addition to the arsenal of the string bands was the Italian mandolin, that became popular in the South with bluegrass music. The vocals were not as important as in the "brothers style", although often featured a high-pitched tenor voice. Bluegrass music relied a mixture of techniques: mountain music's three-finger banjo picking, country & western's fiddle, the rhythmic guitar of the ramblers, the tenor-driven choir of religious hymns with bass-register counterpoint.
Kentucky-based mandolinist Bill Monroe, who had started a duo in 1934 with his guitarist brother Charlie, popularized the "bluegrass" style with Kentucky Waltz (1945), Blue Moon Of Kentucky (1945) and Footprints in the Snow (1945), performed by his new band, the Blue Grass Boys, that eventually came to include virtuoso musicians such as Earl Scruggs on banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle, Howard Watts on bass, and Lester Flatt on guitar, which were in turn replaced in the Sixties by a new generation of virtuosi (fiddler Richard Greene, guitarist Peter Rowan, banjoist Bill Keith). Monroe's spectacular mandolin style was documented on instrumental pieces such as Rawhide (1951) and Roanoke (1954). At the peak, Monroe's band was so focused on improvisation and technical skills that it sounded like a jazz group performing country music.
Flatt and Scruggs formed their own act in 1948, that, thanks to pieces such as Foggy Mountain Breakdown (1949), Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms (1950), Pike County Breakdown (1952), Flint Hill Special (1952), and eventually the hit The Ballad of Jed Clampett (1962), competed with both Bill Monroe. Flatt and Scruggs were also instrumental in introducing the dobro guitar (since 1955, played by Buck Graves), a variant of the Hawaian steel guitar, into country music.
Bluegrass acts of the 1950s included the Osborne Brothers (Sonny on banjo and Bobbie on mandolin), perhaps the most innovative of the new generation, as displayed in Ruby (1956); and the Stanley Brothers (Carter being the lead vocalist), much more focused on the vocal harmonies than on the instrumental counterpoint and solos, from the "high lonesome" style of A Vision of Mother to love songs such as How Mountain Girls Can Love (1959) to religious themes such as Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet and Albert Brumley's Rank Strangers (1960).
Bluegrass would remain the branch of country music most obsessed with dazzling technical proficiency, whether vocal or instrumental.
Tennesse native Roy Acuff became the first star of Nashville thanks to two tunes already recorded by the Carter Family: The Great Speckled Bird (1936), based on the melody of I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes, and Wabash Cannonball (1936), one of the most celebrated "railroad songs". The Precious Jewel (1940), based on The Hills of Roane County, Wreck On The Highway (1942), one of the earliest car songs, Frank "Pee Wee" King's Tennessee Waltz (1947), were sung in an old-fashioned, mournful mountain style, and accompanied mainly with the dobro (James Clell Summey until 1938 and Beecher "Pete" Kirby after 1938). Country broadcasting had been dominated by string bands: Acuff's emotional solo performances changed the very perception of what country music ought to be. He was instrumental in turning country music into a business, and a huge nationwide business. The music publishing company he founded in 1942 with songwriter Fred Rose (credited with many songs that he actually only revised and published, including Hank Williams' Kaw-liga and Take These Chains From My Heart) became a gold mine.
Johnny Bond wrote Cimarron (1938), I Wonder Where You Are Tonight, Hot Rod Lincoln, Your Old Love Letters and Tomorrow Never Comes.
In 1939 the "Grand Ole Pry" moved to Nashville's "Ryman Auditorium" and was broadcasted by the national networks.
Nonetheless, the nation was still largely unaware of country music. It wasn't until 1942 that "Billboard" introduced a column on country music, and only in 1944 it introduced the charts for hillbilly songs.
New York: Dissent
If country music represented the quintessential American values, and a positive attitude towards the American way of life, others (harking back to the epics of the itinerant "hobos") were seeing through the American Dream and confronting the issues of poverty, fascism and racism.
In a somber guitar-based folk style, Oklahoma's Woody Guthrie wrote the Dust Bowl Ballads (1935, first recorded in 1940), the soundtrack of the Great Depression, to become the first major singer-songwriter of the USA. After moving to New York in 1940, he also graduated to be the voice of the political "opposition" with Pretty Boy Floyd (1939), the anthemic This Land Is Your Land (1940, first recorded in 1944), Ludlow Massacre (1944), 1913 Massacre (1944), Deportee (1948), and the Ballads Of Sacco & Vanzetti (1947); but also composed popular songs such as Oklahoma Hills (1937), Pastures Of Plenty (1941), Reuben James (1941), So Long It's Been Good To Know You (1942), Philadelphia Lawyer (1946). His songs were mostly based on ancient hillbilly melodies.
The Left gained strength throughout the 1930s, finding shelter in the artists' lofts of New York's Greenwich Village. The "Village Vanguard", opened by Max Gordon in 1939 in that area (7th Avenue and 11th Street), was a jazz club but soon began to serve a white audience of political dissidents.
The viability of popular music as sociopolitical protest had been proven by Brother Can You Spare A Dime (1932), a song written by Yip Harburg (music by Jay Gorner), a veteran of the Broadway musical and the Hollywood soundtrack, and sung by Bing Crosby. In fact, the whole soundtrack of Victor Fleming's Wizard of Oz (1939), also written by Harburg (music by Harold Arlen), was meant as a commentary to the Great Depression.
Besides Guthrie, other folk musicians composed protest songs. For example, Earl Robinson wrote Joe Hill (1936) to commemorate a murdered union leader.
Another important strain of popular music had to do with folk music, which Guthrie and Robinson had already associated with social awareness. In 1940 Pete Seeger went further: he formed the Almanac Singers to sing protest songs (We Shall Overcome, Guantanamera), sometimes with communist overtones. In 1948 Seeger formed the vocal quartet Weavers loosely modeled after the Country Family. Their arranger Gordon Jenkins added a string orchestra to their cover of Leadbelly's Good Night Irene (1949), thus creating the first folk-pop crossover. The collaboration with Gordon Jenkins continued with The Roving Kind (1950) and Wimoweh (1952). Their If I Had A Hammer (1949), Where Have All The Flowers Gone (1956), Bells Of Rhymney (1959) and Turn Turn Turn (1962) established the vogue of folk music, while Wimoweh (1961) even resurrected African folk music. His Goofing Off Suite (1955) was, de facto, the first record of "American primitivism".
Another pioneer of the folk revival, Burl Ives, popularized Foggy Foggy Dew (1945), a traditional English tune, Blue-tailed Fly (1948), a Civil War tune, Harry McClintock's Big Rock Candy Mountain (1948) and Stan Jones' Ghost Riders In The Sky (1949), based on the traditional When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
"Ramblin' Jack" Elliott Adnopoz became Guthrie's ambassador in Europe. Several black musicians (notably, Leadbelly and Josh White) benefited from the folk revival.
In fact, the folk revival was instrumental in rediscovering forgotten genres and musicians that could not possibly aim for the charts. For example, the tradition of "one-man bands" was kept alive in San Francisco by a black musician, Jesse Fuller, an old man (he debuted at 58) who played at the same time guitar, pedal bass, harmonica, hi-hats and castanets, immortalized by his San Francisco Bay Blues (1954). In 1948 Moe Asch founded Folkways, a record label devoted to folk music, but also to Latin-American music, to Native American music and to blues music.
New York became the stage for a movement of "folk revival" that spawned hits such as the Tarriers' Banana Boat Song (1956), that also launched the calypso craze, the Kingston Trio's traditional Tom Dooley (1958), Jimmy Driftwood's Battle Of New Orleans (1958), and Jimmy Driftwood's Battle of New Orleans (1958) and Soldier's Joy (1958), all of them reconstructed from traditional melodies. Ethno-musicologists such as the New Lost City Ramblers assembled "lost" songs on albums such as The New Lost City Ramblers (1958), Vol II (1959) and Songs from the Depression (1960). The Limeliters assembled a multinational repertory on soothing collections such as The Slightly Fabulous (1961). The "Newport Folk Festival" (1959) created a vast audience for this music, an audience that increasingly came to be identified with the political Left and the young beatniks of the Greenwich Village.
These folksingers had little in common (stylistically or ideologically) with the hillbillies of country music, but they ended up creating the urban audience for country music. Country music, even in states that were rapidly urbanizing such as Texas, had been catering mainly to the countryside. The post-war generation of folksingers catered almost exclusively to the audience of the big cities. It wasn't long before country music learned that lesson.
Also part of the Leftist movement of ideas were the iconoclast satirists who attacked the American way of life, contemporary politics and assorted taboos in the night clubs of New York: Richard "Lord" Buckley, Lenny Bruce and Tom Lehrer (chronologically). Their caustic humour actually anticipated the existential spleen and the political skepticism of the Greenwich Movement.
Texas and Tennessee: Country Music
The 1940s were mainly the years of "honky-tonk" music, a much more driving style than traditional Appalachian music, and the first urban form of country music. Originally named after the saloons where alcohol was being served illegally (which, in turn, took their name from the factories that made gin), honky tonk became even more popular at the end of Prohibition era. Its stars were from Texas: Ernest Tubb (Walking The Floor Over You, 1942), who was also the first country artist to employ an electric guitar, and William "Lefty" Frizzell, Rodgers' natural heir, one of the most innovative vocalists and a poignant songwriter (If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time, 1950; Always Late, 1951; I Want to Be With You Always, 1951; Danny Dill's folk ballad The Long Black Veil, 1959; Saginaw Michigan, 1964; That's the Way Love Goes, 1973). Floyd Tillman wrote It Makes No Difference Now (1938) and the "cheating song" Slipping Around (1949). Houston-based pianist Aubrey "Moon" Mullican predated Jerry Lee Lewis in fusing honky-tonk and boogie-woogie, two styles that had much in common, with Harry Choates' New Jole Blon' (1947) and I'll Sail My Ship Alone (1950). South Carolina's guitarist Arthur Smith did something similar with the instrumental Guitar Boogie (1945). Ted Daffan composed the classics Worried Mind (1940), Born To Lose (1943), Headin' Down The Highway (1945). Honky-tonk songs dealt with more prosaic themes such as alcohol (of course) and cheating.
Purists looked down on honky-tonk, that preserved little of the original spirit of country music, but Hank Williams shut them down with Lovesick Blues (1949) and You're Gonna Change (1949), followed by a repertory of both ballads and pseudo-blues. Among the former: Cold Cold Heart (1950), Why Don't You Love Me (1950), Your Cheating Heart (1952), I Saw The Light (1953). Among the latter: Moaning The Blues (1950), Long Gone Lonesome Blues (1950), So Lonesome I Could Cry (1949), I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (1952). Plus rhythmic songs that predated rock'n'roll, such as Move It On Over (1947), Honkytonking (1948), Howlin' At The Moon (1951). He died young (at 29), and his last songs, such as Jambalaya (1952) and Fred Rose's Kaw-liga (1952), already predated the age of exotic music.
The star of honky-tonk who succeeded Williams, Webb Pierce, from Louisiana, adopted the electric guitar and steel guitar and moved towards pop and rock'n'roll in Merle Kilgore's More And More (1954) and Teenage Boogie (1956). Ray Price, from Texas, bordered both honky-tonk and western swing in songs such as Don't Let The Stars Get Into Your Eyes (1952), Crazy Arms (1956), City Lights (1958). Hank Thompson's band, also from Texas, did the opposite (from western swing to honky-tonk), starting with Wild Side of Life (1952), basically a cover of Roy Acuff's The Great Speckled Bird (1936). Another Texas, Johnny Horton, adapted the style to the dancehalls and to rock'n'roll with songs such as Honky Tonk Man (1956).
Jimmie Rodgers' style was instead revived by Canadian-born Hank Snow, particularly in his own I'm Moving On (1950), one of the greatest hits of the post-war era, The Golden Rocket (1950) and The Rhumba Boogie (1951).
Among instrumental virtuosi, Merle Travis' finger-picking style (that was basically an adapation of a banjo technique to the guitar) turned the guitar into both a melodic and rhythmic instrument. To his contemporaries, he sounded like two guitarists, not one. He also recorded Folk Songs of the Hills (1947), including his own celebrated protest song Sixteen Tons, in a vein similar to Woody Guthrie's. Smoke Smoke Smoke (1947) was his biggest hit.
His disciple Chet Atkins simplified Travis' style by using three fingers instead of only two. More importantly, Atkins pioneered the classic "Nashville sound" through compositions such as Bluesy Guitar (1946), a duet between electric guitar and clarinet, Canned Heat (1947), Galloping on the Guitar (1949), Chinatown My Chinatown (1952), Country Gentleman (1953), Downhill Drag (1953), that progressively downplayed the rustic role of the fiddle and the steel guitar while emphasizing a sweeter, poppier sound based on guitar and piano.
Jean Ritchie pioneered the revival of the dulcimer with records such as Singing Traditional Songs of Her Mountain Family (1952).
Les Paul, a white guitarist who played more often with jazz musicians than country ones, invented the solid-body guitar (1941), pioneered new recording techniques ("close miking", "echo delay", "multi-tracking") and engaged in archetypical experiments of tape manipulation and overdubbing in his 1948 songs Brazil and Lover (on which he played all instruments by himself), besides sprinkling his recordings with all sorts of sound effects.
Los Angeles-based pyrotechnic guitarist Joe Maphis was one of the first to use the instrument not only for the rhythmic accompaniment but also for the lead lines. He also composed Dim Lights Thick Smoke (1952) and Fire On The Strings (1954).
Other virtuosi included fiddler Vassar Clements and blind flat-picking guitarist Arthel "Doc" Watson, who recorded his first album, Doc Watson Family (1963), at the age of forty.
"Tennessee" Ernie Ford was the sex symbol of country music in the 1950s, and launched standards such as Smokey Mountain Boogie (1948), Johnny Lange's and Fred Glickman's Mule Train (1949) and Shotgun Boogie (1950), a progenitor of rock'n'roll.
Leon Payne, a member of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, wrote Lost Highway (1949) and I Love You Because (1950)
Felice and Boudleaux Bryant were among the most successful Nashville songwriters, from Hey Joe (1953) to Love Hurts (1961) to Rocky Top (1967), and particularly for the Everly Brothers.
At the end of World War II, several studios had opened in Nashville, reflecting the growing popularity of the "Grand Ole Opry". Then musicians started relocating to Nashville. By 1954, when the "Country Music Disc Jockeys' Association" (CMA) was created, Nashville had as many songwriters as New York. Chet Atkins was one of the producers who, in the 1950s, crafted the "Nashville sound", basically country music played with a pop sensibility (the guitar and sometimes the piano replacing the fiddle, background vocals, string orchestra). Atkins was the man who buried the "high lonesome" Appalachian sound. In 1961 there were 81 radio stations devoted to country music, in 1966 there were 328. By 1963 one out of every two American records was produced in a Nashville studio.
The Importance of Country Music
Country music had a profound impact on the American subconscious: it provided the American nation with an identity. Pop music (as performed in theaters, as published by Tin Pan Alley) was largely a European invention, so much so that European stars touring the USA were invariably given a royal welcome and billed as the "real thing". But country music was American, and only American: its performers were American, its audience was American, its stories were American, its "sound" was American. Americans could enjoy pop music on Broadway, but they could not identify with it the same way that they could identify with the hillbillies and the cowboys. The sound of country music embodied the history of the USA, it represented its genome. As it developed from the 1920s to the 1960s, it simply continued to emphasize that "American" element, progressively removing the European elements: it sounded less and less like the English ballads and the Irish dances that originated it, and more and more like something completely new.
From a musical viewpoint, country music emphasized first of all the story, then the voice, and last the arrangement. It was a secular music, devoted to personal, domestic or collective issues, but largely set in a secular universe. It was rational to the extent that its characters were trying to make sense of their life and their surroundings.
This contrasted with rhythm'n'blues, that emphasized first of all the voice, and then (ever more) the arrangement, and finally the story; that had a stronger mystical element (the legaly of the spirituals and of gospel music); that was fundamentally irrational, in that it accepted the human condition as inevitable.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Living With a Teenager
This parents' guide to surviving adolescence offers insights that will be helpful to anyone living with a teenager.
William remembers the day his son became an adolescent. In earlier years, his son had liked how his father would break into a quiet song while they walked through the aisles of the supermarket. He seemed delighted with his dad's spontaneity as he walked close by, mouthing the words if he knew the tune.
Things changed abruptly on a spring evening when William's son was 13. William started on one of his standard 1960s songs in the condiments aisle. This time his son spun around, reproached him with a stern "Dad!" and then fled toward the other end of the supermarket. In an instant, William had switched from "Cool Dad" to "Dork Dad."
When asked about this incident later that evening, son told father that it was highly embarrassing that father was singing in public. And then came the clincher: What if a friend were to witness this scene?
Surviving your child's adolescence means accepting the inevitable: Your popularity will go down in direct proportion to the rise in popularity of friends; your child's growth spurt and hormone surge will bewilder both of you; and your companionable child will suddenly become a privacy freak.
Other than being gracious about your drop in popularity, what else can you do to survive the early teen years? Here are some pointers.
Keep your perspective. Adolescents are not irritable or uncooperative because they want to hurt you. They are more consistently pleasant with their friends because they fear that their friends will reject them if they are unfriendly and uncooperative. Teens grouse more with their parents because family is a safe place to ventilate adolescent frustrations. It's not personal, it's hormonal, and it will eventually pass.
Keep your cool. The biggest mistake parents make is to allow themselves to become emotionally triggered whenever their teen acts like a teen. If William had yelled at his son for being ashamed of him in the supermarket, an uncomfortable situation would have become a huge fight.
Some teens enjoy seeing their parents get worked up. That's another reason to avoid an emotional meltdown when dealing with kids this age. Keeping your cool is even more important when your daughter comes home with pierced eyelids and a scruffy new boyfriend. Blowing up or giving speeches at this moment accomplishes nothing but raising your blood pressure.
Keep your standards. Some parents give up legitimate rules and expectations in the face of withering debates with their teen. Be willing to reexamine your standards to see if they are reasonable, but hold fast to those you believe are good for your teenager and the family. For example, you might allow your teens to stay out later, but insist that you be informed about their whereabouts at all times. Although teens will lobby for no rules, don't give up your essential standards: Your child will feel abandoned and unloved if you do.
Keep your distance. Don't pursue an adolescent who is reluctant to be open with you. You have the right to expect basic information about where they are and what they're doing, but you cannot make them share what they are feeling or thinking. Inquire respectfully about their thoughts and feelings, and accept whatever they give you without driving them farther away.
Keep yourself ready to listen. Once in a while your teenager will actually want to talk to you. Not at a time you plan for, of course, but when he or she chooses. William's son would signal the moment by coming into his father's study and saying, "How's my dad today?" Dad learned to drop everything because he never knew when that door would open next.
Your teen needs you
as much as ever, just
in a different way.Keep your connection rituals. Don't let your kids absent themselves from family dinners, visits to relatives, vacations, and other rituals. Job and school activities will inevitably cut down on these family times, but preserve them as much as possible. Family rituals give teens a sense of being part of a family that values its time together. Even if they act bored or disconnected, they will feel more secure knowing that their family is still a family and that they have a central place in it.
Create new connection rituals. Look for opportunities for one-to-one connection with your teenager. It might be shopping together, going to ball games, or playing chess. When William's daughter resigned from bedtime talks with Dad, they evolved a weekly ritual of going to an ice cream store for a treat and a talk. They did this every week for five years, until she left home. Getting ice cream was the ostensible purpose of the ritual, but both knew it was about the father-daughter connection.