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Jazz & Blues: 1920s-30s

"But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America;
the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul--the tom-tom of revolt against
against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work,
work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile."

--Langston Hughes, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (1926)

"Jazz is a good barometer of freedom.  In its beginnings, the United States
 spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which,
 eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say
it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom
yet produced in this country."

--Duke Ellington

Students should be aware that the quality of some of these early recordings is not up to today's technological standards.  However, you can still get the flavor and spirit of these Jazz Age classics, so kick back and enjoy.

To increase your understanding of the music you will hear on this page, read several of these background sources: Tips for Enjoying Jazz. and What is Ragtime? and What is Early Jazz?.

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King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band

Hot Jazz and Other Early Jazz Hits

Learn how to do the charleston (YouTube).

View the lyrics to Dr. Jazz.

More information on the Black Bottom Dance.

Read more about "Gimme a Pigfoot": Where Are the Blues.

Read background about this song: Minnie the Moocher.

Watch three early Betty Boop cartoons featuring Cab Calloway and his music: Minnie the MoocherThe Old Man of the Mountain;   and Snow White.

Biographies: Joe 'King' Oliver; Bessie Smith; Gertrude Pridgett ("Ma") Rainey; Cab CallowayJames P. Johnson; Jelly Roll Morton.


Bessie Smith

The Blues Queens

Watch/listen to a big band version by the great Ella Fitzgerald in '79 (YouTube).

St. Louis Blues

I hate to see that evening sun go down,

I hate to see that evening sun go down,

'Cause my lovin' baby done left this town.

If I feel tomorrow, like I feel today,

If I feel tomorrow, like I feel today,

I'm gonna pack my trunk and make my getaway.

Interlude: Oh, that St. Louis woman, with her diamond rings,

She pulls my man around by her apron strings.

And if it wasn't for powder and her store-bought hair,

Oh, that man of mine wouldn't go nowhere.

I got those St. Louis blues, just as blue as I can be,

Oh, my man's got a heart like a rock cast in the sea,

Or else he wouldn't have gone so far from me.

I love my man like a schoolboy loves his pie,

Like a Kentucky colonel loves his rocker and rye

I'll love my man until the day I die, Lord, Lord.

Here's Ethel Water's humorously naughty response, composed by Andy Razaf (1928): My Handy Man or Alberta Hunter's 1984 rendition (she is 83!) of this classic she sang back in the 20s.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

My heart's sad and I'm all forlorn, my man's treating me mean.

I regret the day that I was born and that man of mine I've ever seen.

My happiness, it never lasts a day; my heart is almost breaking while I say:

A good man is hard to find; you always get the other kind.

Just when you think that he is your pal,

you look for him and find him fooling 'round some other gal.

Then you rave; you even crave, to see him laying in his grave.

So, if your man is nice, take my advice,

and hug him in the morning, kiss him ev'ry night,

give him plenty of lovin', treat him right,

for a good man nowadays is hard to find.

Downhearted Blues

Gee, but it's hard to love someone when that someone don't love you

I'm so disgusted, heartbroken, too

I've got those down hearted blues

Once I was crazy 'bout a man

He mistreated me all the time

The next man I get he's got to promise to be mine, all mine

If I could only find the man oh how happy I would be

To the good Lord ev'ry night I pray

Please send my man back to me

I've almost worried myself to death wond'ring why he went away

But just wait and see he's gonna want me back some sweet day

Trouble, trouble, I've had it all my days

Trouble, trouble, I've had it all my days

It seems that trouble's going to follow me to my grave

Got the world in a jug, the stopper's in my hand

Got the world in a jug

The stopper's in my hand

Going to hold it, baby, till you come under my command

Say, I ain't never loved but three men in my life

No, I ain't never loved but three men in my life

'T'was my father, brother and the man who wrecked my life

'Cause he mistreated me and he drove me from his door

Yeah, he mistreated me and he drove me from his door

But the good book says you'll reap just what you sow

Oh, it may be a week and it may be a month or two

Yes, it may be a week and it may be a month or two

But the day you quit me honey, it's coming home to you

Oh, I walked the floor and I wrung my hands and cried

Yes, I walked the floor and I wrung my hands and cried

Had the down hearted blues and couldn't be satisfied

View the lyrics to Wild Women.

Watch/listen to Back Water Blues/Hurricane Katrina (YouTube).

View the lyrics to Back Water Blues.

See information on The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

Here is a different version of Strange Fruit also sung by Billie Holliday .

Read background and lyrics.

Read commentary about "Strange Fruit":  Strange Fruit.

Biographies:  Alberta Hunter; Bessie Smith; Gertrude Pridgett ("Ma") Rainey; W.C. Handy; Ida Cox; Billie Holiday


Louis Armstrong

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

See the discussion of Armstrong and this song in the "Prologue" to Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man.

View two versions of the lyrics to Black and Blue.

Watch this Betty Boop cartoon featuring a young Louis Armstrong and his music: I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You. Warning: includes racial stereotypes.

Biographies: Louis ArmstrongLouis ArmstrongThomas"Fats" Waller.


Duke Ellington

Edward "Duke" Ellington

View the lyrics to Mood Indigo.

Watch/listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing it! Mood Indigo (YouTube).

Biographies: Duke Ellington or Duke Ellington.


Ella Fitzgerald, with Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman

Ella Fitzgerald

View the lyrics to St. Louis Blues.

View the lyrics to Mood Indigo.

Biographies: Ella Fitzgerald or Ella.


George Gershwin

Gershwin's Symphonic Jazz

See/listen to the Whiteman's 'Rhapsody in Blue' as featured in the 1930 movie 'The King of Jazz' which begins with a voodoo drum/dance sequence followed by Gershwin's masterpiece, as interpreted by musicians and dancers. (The movie itself exaggerates the importance of Whiteman's influence on the development of jazz)

Here is a more symphonic recording by Leonard Bernstein and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra: Rhapsody in Blue (1951?) .

Biography: George Gershwin.

Go to Nichols Home Page.


Background MIDI: Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Any More"
Source:  http://members.tip.net.au/~bnoble/music/midilist.htm

This page is for educational use only.

E-mail comments/suggestions: knichols
Last updated: 9/10/12