Through the decades, jazz music has often reflected the early struggles of black Americans. With each era, a new form of jazz would entertain listeners everywhere, and the genre that fit the sound of music boxes would be the soundtrack to life, hardships, and the power to overcome.
A Brief History of 1940s Jazz Music
In the 1940’s, big band jazz was in full swing. As America entered into its second World War of the century, big changes hit the music industry hard, especially that of jazz. Wartime entertainment taxes were responsible for plunging profits while the military draft began to create big band vacancies that were difficult to fill.
While thousands were fighting in foreign countries, the jazz industry was facing their own fight at home. In March of 1940, the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Artists, and Producers) proposed a new contract that would increase the royalties of those in the music industry by 100 percent when their material was used for broadcast. Furious over the proposal, broadcasters formed their own organization, BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). In retaliation, BMI began to sign non-ASCAP songwriters, closing the year with 650 signed broadcasters, compared to only 200 who continued with ASCAP. At the end of 1941, ASCAP had negotiated a new contract, but with so much ASCAP material “banned” by broadcasters, popular music took on a whole new form.
While the big bands struggled to get by throughout the duration of World War II, a revolution was forming. Jazz music in specific regions of New York City became known as “Swing Street,” where small-combo jazz musicians were featured. These groups spearheaded the premise of exploring harmonic melodies of the popular song. This era of jazz became known widely as “bebop,” which is believed to be the foundation of future eras. Unlike prior eras of jazz, bebop was appealing only to a specific type of audience, with a style that could be built upon, as well as built up to.
Following the 1940 recording ban, a variety of independent record labels and recording artists began business specializing in jazz. The artists they hired were generally free to record whichever type of material they desired. From this freedom, jazz saw the eras of “jump” music, “rhythm and blues,” and built the foundation that eventually stemmed roots of “rock-n-roll.