By Marcy

Reflecting on what music we think of as especially American, my first thought is of jazz. It’s a unique type of music created by African Americans and characterized by improvisation and syncopation or an irregular rhythm. One of the most famous jazz musicians of all time was the New Orleans trumpeter, Louie Armstrong (1901-1971). Some other famous names of the jazz era include Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Glen Miller. Probably the most famous jazz musician currently performing is the trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis.

Country is another genre of American music which developed in the early 20th century in the Southeastern part of the United States and drew primarily on Appalachian folk music and blues. It can be thought of as the folk music of working class Americans. It has drawn on the traditional music of the Irish, the English, and the American cowboy. Almost everyone has heard of the Grand Ole Opry, the most famous venue for American country music located in Nashville, Tennessee. A song that most of us know from that genre is “The Tennessee Waltz” (1948), a story of lost love. Other songs most of us learned as children and that were made famous by the singing cowboys, Roy Rodgers and Gene Autry, included “Happy Trails to you” and “Back in the Saddle again”. A couple of the most famous country singers ever were Johnny Cash and the still performing Dolly Parton.

Hip Hop music, developed in the 1970s, is a rhythmic music usually accompanied by rapping, a rhyming, fast-paced chant. Some famous performers of Hip Hop include the Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Jay-Z.

Some all time favorite American songs include “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, “Take me out to the Ball Game”, “You are my Sunshine”, and “This Land is your Land; this Land is my Land”. A song for difficult times made famous by the Civil Rights movement is “We shall Overcome.” Our shared knowledge of these songs is an important part of our cultural experience as Americans. I hope we’ll get to sing them together some time!

Source: Wikipedia, “Music of the United States”.