Music From the 1940s

by Joan Houghton

What is it about music from the Big Band Era that is so special?  Is it rhythm,  messages, melodies, or just the “Big Band Sound”?

I find myself feeling sorry for the young generation today.  Can they possibly understand the feelings of dancing romantically to such old meaningful songs?   Or will they have their OWN tender memories  and remember the words and feelings 60 years later?  I hope they will, but it just seems as though the words are so lost in the clanging noise of today’s music.  Today’s  country singers do impart more clear messages and stories.

There was a  strong thread of sadness lingering in many of those past numbers; many brought on by the separations of World War 2.  Each song had a story to tell.  Many were about separation, homesickness and loneliness:  such as, THE LAST DANCE , NIGHT AND DAY, (you were the one) STAR DUST and  AT LAST (my love has come along), THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT,  ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL, (when I hear that)   SERENADE IN BLUE (and I’m all alone with you).

There were I’LL BE SEEING YOU ( tear-jerker when saying good-by to a  serviceman as  he boards the train  in a snowstorm for overseas ) , SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (recalling   a special journey to visit a returned veteran).

Possibly, the saddest of all was WHITE CHRISTMAS  (heard by soldiers and sailors away from home.)

Then there were the especially danceable numbers like TUXEDO JUNCTION, CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO,  IN THE MOOD, I’VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO, WOODCHOPPER’S BALL, AND ONE O’CLOCK JUMP.

Of course, we had our goofy ones too:  FUDI RAK A SACKI SEAFOOD MAMA,  MAIRZY DOATS, COW COW BOOGIE.  We had audience participation when we shouted out  that telephone number:  PENN-SYL-VA-NIA  6-5-0-0-0.

There were some truthful ones like, THEY’RE EITHER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD,  DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANY MORE;  advice for loved ones at home, DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE WITH ANYONE ELSE BUT ME.

Some were patriotic and military :  THIS IS MY COUNTRY,  WHY DO THEY CALL A PRIVATE A PRIVATE?, AMERICAN PATROL,  and THE BUGLE BOY FROM COMPANY B.

The Big Bands were traveling the country and also appearing at special shows for overseas servicemen.   Remember Bob Hope and his years of performances all over the world.  Famous band-leaders included: Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey—all top-notch.

Then  there was Glenn Miller who lost  his life in that effort.    Who from the 1940’s can forget his theme song , MOONLIGHT SERENADE, which always meant, sadly,  the evening was over.

I hope that teen-agers of today  will have  memories just as sweet.

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