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Music in the 1940s was mainly built around the jazz and big band styles that were popular during the day. Artists like Rosemary Clooney, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw helped to define the musical era with their unique brand of entertaining crowds through their music. This was also the era of World War II, and many musical acts strived to reflect the pain that the country was going through while still remaining upbeat and positive about the impending future. The 1940's was a time for many breakthrough artists who made their mark in the history of music and several of them are still recognized as innovators in their day.
One of the innovators of the 1940s musical style was Dizzy Gillespie. Known for his trademark puffy cheeks formed from being a prominent jazz trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie was one of the prominent band leaders of the day. He also helped to create the bebop style of music, which consisted of a fast-tempo style of jazz combined with scat singing. Scat singing was a phenomenon that came to prominence during this era and it consisted of several nonsense but rhythmical syllables strung together to fit with the music. Dizzy Gillespie also helped to create the Afro-Cuban music trend that enjoyed popularity during the following years. This style combined musical aspects from both Latin and African influences. Dizzy Gillespie was also known for having a bent trumpet because it produced a unique sound that was characteristic of his particular sound.
Cab Calloway was another popular scat jazz singer that came to prominence in the 1940s. In fact, he was so prominent in this field of music that he was often referred to as the “Hi De Ho” guy. One legend of how scat began tells of how Calloway forgot the words to a song during a performance and started improvising nonsense syllables to fit with the beat of the music. It was well-received by his audience and a new musical styles was born. His baritone voice was an excellent match for his style of jazz music, but he was also a very successful big band leader. His orchestra included some of the most prominent musicians of the era, including the aforementioned Dizzy Gillespie. Calloway is also synonymous with the Betty Boop cartoon because his popular song “Minnie the Moocher” was used as the score for one of the episodes.


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Bing Crosby helped to define the music of the 1940s as well as much of the music today. Most famous for his rendition of “White Christmas,” Crosby was a great musical talent during his day and musicians continued to be influenced for several decades, including Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. He was also a prominent entertainer in the field of improving troop morale during the war as he appeared several times to perform for them. Crosby instilled the idea into popular music that a performer could be a genuine artist rather than becoming a novelty act. He opened the door for future artists to have a well-rounded persona with lyrics that had significance. His popularity continued to throughout the 1940s and he also appeared in several movies. During the 1944- 1949 era, he was the largest box office draw in the world and his legacy continues to this day.
The Dorsey Brothers are also synonymous with the big band style of the 1940s Jimmy Dorsey was an accomplished musician who was talented in playing the clarinet and saxophone. His orchestra was one of the first musical acts to sell millions of albums containing their performances. Tommy Dorsey was a prominent jazz trombonist who also lead his own orchestra. His act accounted for over 130 hits on the Billboard Charts and, like Calloway, his orchestra included some of the most popular musicians of the era. He is also known to be the guy that gave Frank Sinatra his start in the entertainment industry. After World War II, there was a shift in musical tastes in the country and his orchestra disbanded, only to be put back together with his estranged brother to form the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Both men died shortly thereafter, but their legacy continues to be an excellent demonstration of the 1940s musical era.
Though every decade has its unique characteristics in the way of musical styles, the 1940s was enduring one of the biggest wars in the history of the country. World War II was taking its toll on the people in the United States and abroad, but the performers continued to keep their upbeat styles to help America take their mind off of the news. They not only continued to make fun music, but many of them also took their talents to the troops to keep them entertained and improve their morale. The 1940s positive musical styles helped to give way to the rock ‘n’ roll styles of the decade that was to come.