20th Century Music: An American Odyssey

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Music has always been a center piece of every nation, but a nation of immigrants had to grow into its own musical identity. How can America take traditions spanning from Europe to Africa and emerge with its own distinct sound? The 20th century became the era that American music came of age.

The sounds of Jazz, Blues, Country Western, Rock & Roll, Soul, R & B, Disco, and Hip Hop all emerged in the U.S. in the 20th Century. From Louis Armstrong to Elvis Presley to Otis Redding to Ella Fitzgerald to Aretha Franklin to Alicia Keys to Jay-Z, American music gave birth to a nation of brilliant artists, evoking these new music styles to express the America identity.

Louis Armstrong represented Jazz better than most of his contemporaries. Making a name for himself in the 1920’s, he was known as an “inventive” trumpet player whose improvised solo work and distinct gravelling singing was highly influential in the early Jazz scene.

Elvis Presley defined Rock & Roll as young, wild, and confrontational towards social norms. Mixing Blues and Country influences, he was able to take blues and country tracks and make them hits. From Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama” to Big Mamma Thorton’s “Hound Dog,” he refined Black Blues’ music into mainstream White Pop songs.

Alicia Augello Cook, more commonly known as Alicia Keys, is a contemporary R & B artist who combines her talents as an accomplished pianist and songwriter to craft music that complements contemporary Hip Hop sounds while infusing classical piano with R&B, soul, and jazz. She cites a diversity of many great R & B artists such as Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, and Donny Hathaway.

Jay Z defined success in rap music. He is one of the most successful music artists in America. Exposed to his parent’s collection of soul artist like Marvin Gaye, Jay Z created a sound that has been described as a mastery of flow. Whether slow or fast, he blends spoken word to verse to create a style that is made up of fast rhymes and vocal deliveries.


These are some examples of some of the artist who were influenced and influence American Music. All of them helped inspire what music should song like in the U.S. The 20th Century became the defining moment for music in America. One can only imagine how this music will continue to evolve and change into the next century and beyond.

Please enjoy the playlist from the  U.S. in the 20th Century @ https://soundcloud.com/treamwith/sets/the-20th-century-became-the