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Music in the Age of AnxietyAmerican Music in the Fifties$
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James Wierzbicki

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040078

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040078.001.0001

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The Pop Music Mainstream

The Pop Music Mainstream

(p.11) 1 The Pop Music Mainstream
Music in the Age of Anxiety

James Wierzbicki

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the two most successful commodities in the field of popular music in 1950: “The Tennessee Waltz” and “Goodnight, Irene”—both of which are composed in 3/4 time. In terms of meter alone, these two extraordinarily successful songs stand as much in contrast to the rock 'n' roll music that captured the attention of American teenagers later in the decade as to the swing music that appealed to Americans of diverse age groups in the years leading up to and including World War II. But meter is not the main thing that distinguishes “The Tennessee Waltz,” and “Goodnight, Irene.” Rather than meter, or tempo, or even rhythm, what most distinguishes these songs from earlier and later efforts is their treatment of rhythm.

Keywords:   1950s popular music, The Tennessee Waltz, Goodnight, Irene, 3/4 time, rock 'n' roll, swing music, American teenagers, tempo, rhythm

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