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Recorded Music in American LifeThe Phonograph and Popular Memory, 1890-1945$
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William Howland Kenney

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195171778

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195171778.001.0001

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Popular Recorded Music within the Context of National Life

Popular Recorded Music within the Context of National Life

(p.182) 9 Popular Recorded Music within the Context of National Life
Recorded Music in American Life

William Howland Kenney

Oxford University Press

More than we used to realize, the phonograph and recorded music served to stimulate collective memories among Americans of different social and ethnic backgrounds, who were, like the few large recording companies that survived the Depression, caught up in the swiftly changing patterns and politics of national life. The personal changes brought on by life itself provided ample stimulus for seeking solace in musical memories, but the additional burdens of national economic adversity and war, which drew workers into urban factories and GIs onto lonely battlefields, led many in both groups to long for the music they had left behind. Record producers often mixed stylistic genres and, less creatively, simply issued ethnic cover versions of hit records. Such processes of cultural and musical assimilation created another basis for shared popular musical memories. With bebop, as with 1920s jazz, blues, hillbilly music, and big band swing of the 1930s and 1940s, the recording industry mediated cultural and musical diversity in the United States.

Keywords:   United States, Depression, phonograph, recorded music, recording companies, musical memories, hillbilly music, blues, recording industry, national life

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