Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recurring Themes in '20s Jazz

I've taken a shine to ninety year old music - jazz from the 1920s and 1930s - and I've discovered several recurring themes.

Am I Blue?
Blue Moon
Blue Skies
Blue River
Blues In My Heart
My Blue Heaven

And the whole Blues genre which didn't go mainstream until the Roaring Twenties. You've got your sad blues, your happy blues, your "I should kill myself" blues, and your blues about things nobody should ever be blue about. For an era colored in black and white they were really into the color blue. My favorite is the vaudeville ditty  the "We Have No Bananas Blues" which is about freaking out over that other ditty, "Yes, We Have No Bananas."

Two songs. "Lulu's Back in Town" is the story of how "Mr. Otis" is frantically abandoning all of his friends, lovers, and businesses and intends spending every last dime he owns carousing with Lulu. And then there is the opinion expressed in "Don't Bring Lulu" that she is so damn freaking crazy that any woman is better than having her at a party.

Lots and lots of reflective songs about "my" this and "I" that.

I'll Get By
I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
I Ain't Get Nobody
I Got Rhythm

And there is an entire family of "My" songs:
My Kid
My Man
My Sin
My Heart Belongs to Daddy
My Yiddishe Momme

Not to mention the entire array of "you" songs that include:

You're the Cream in My Coffee
You Are My Lucky Star
You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me
You Remind Me Of A Naughty Springtime Cuckoo (gotta love that title)

Fascinating Rhymes
Tin Pan Alley circa 1920
In those days lyricists penned rhymes that nobody does today (although you may think that's a good thing).

Button Up Your Overcoat
Beware of frozen funds,
Stocks and bonds,
Dockside blondes,
You'll get a pain and ruin your bankroll!

Those Panama Mamas
They shook so much, I understand,
They caused the earthquake in Japan
Those Panama Mamas, there's ruining me.

Let's K-nock K-nees
My heart is so tick tock tickable
and your lips are so lipsticable.
you know your ABC's so let's knock knees.

Minnie the Moocher
She messed around with a bloke named Smoky
She loved him though he was cokey
He took her down to Chinatown
He showed her how to kick the gong around

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