While 1920s music is commonly linked to the rise of the great Depression — when businesses and government employees would line up outside banks for a quick loan and the economy was depressed and suffering — there were also plenty of other reasons. Here are three of them.
1. They were popular. When 1920s music first became popular, it was popular among people who did not have much more than their parents
Fashion designer Charlotte McKinney once remarked that her own mother “was afraid that her daughter would not be able to tell the difference between a jazz flanger and a harp; that she’d never be able to dance around a room like a jazz singer.” McKinney herself was not particularly cultured (her family, the “Dixie Chicken” line, was made of chickens), and she wore expensive clothes for a time, but she didn’t have an interest in fashion. She wore the clothes and wore them to work — and wore them for most of her life.
As more and more people in the United States (and elsewhere) entered the middle years of their lives in the 1920s, they were less interested in wearing fashion, and it’s probably fair to say that “furniture salesmen” did not become “salesmen” until the mid-20s. But if you had a child born into the Depression who wanted nothing more than to join you in church, you could buy their music because they were singing it.
2. They were for young people who wanted to get involved.
Even as the government was struggling to bail out farmers, many of them were turning in their crops and selling them — and in some locations they were selling it for cash. In the first half of 1920s, it was legal for an out-of-work American male under 30 to work as a day laborer, but many who did so couldn’t put any money away for a down payment or retirement.
That’s why artists like John Philip Sousa and Ella Fitzgerald were so popular with young Americans. They were the kind of artists who would go out on the street, or buy a newspaper from the “gutter” who wasn’t buying it at full price; the artists of the 1920s were trying to take control of their lives and make a better life for their children. That’s what they were doing.
3. They were more inclusive.
While this point may seem obvious, it’s often overlooked. This is because, despite their name,
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