The Origins of Swing Music

Swing music first came on the scene in the 20’s and it was a mixture of West African and European rhythms and it was heavily influenced by the Jazz movement going on at the same time.  You will see the origins or swing in other cultures like Haiti, Cuba and Brazil, this music was listened to by the slave population.  Unfortunately they don’t get any credit for bring this music to the mainstream.

Although the earliest examples of swing can be found in the 20’s swing really didn’t become popular until the 30’s and 40’s.  It was the African American population who enjoyed swing initially but with popularity came the demand to “tone it down” for white listeners.  By 1939 you could find swing being played in clubs and radios all over the US.

Swing Music Moves to New York

While Jazz and Swing music may have gotten their start in New Orleans it wasn’t long before the sound travelled to Chicago and eventually New York.  New York became the center for swing music in the 30’s and 40’s.  It was here in New York that had a newly created recording industry and it also had the nightclubs where Swing musicians could get work on a regular basis. Back in those days money was a big factor and big bands had to go where the money was and that was in New York.  Here is some of the music from back then.

The Decline of Swing

Swing started to decline during World War II, there are a couple of reasons for this.  Many musicians enlisted in the military during that time and were sent overseas to fight in the war.  That made it difficult to start new bands and create new music.  The economy during the war just made it too expensive for bands with a dozen members or more to tour.  The shift moved to three or five piece bands rather than the big bands of the 30’s.  Swing also paved the way for new genres of music like rhythm and blues.  The last time you will hear real swing music being recorded is in 1947.

Famous Swing Musicians

The most famous swing musician or the “King of Swing” is Benny Goodman and he played a huge role in inspiring musicians to go from the Jazz they were used to to the more swing style.  If Benny Goodman was the king the Artie Shaw was probably the prince of the genre.  Among the other famous swing musicians you will find Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.