Billy Murray
Fred and Ginger
Michael Jackson
Mariah Carey
Some of the Stars of
America's Hit Parade

America's Hit Parade: 1890 to Present (L)

Saturdays, 12 to 2:45 p.m., Mariposa 1000

Mike Harkins

Think of the vast changes in popular music since we were teens. Then imagine how much music has evolved since the 1890s. This seminar surveys the shifting trends in America's most popular music by listening to the top artists and recordings of each decade. From the very first recordings to the synthesized digital tracks of today, we explore connections between each decade's best sellers and the social environment in which they were produced. How did war stoke the fires of ragtime, jazz and swing? What distinguishes pre-1955 music from post-1955 music? Join us to find out. No presentations required. This is a drop-in seminar, but contact Mike by email to get weekly agendas and playlists.

Feb. 3: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1890s.
The first major recording stars were marching bands followed by three male tenors (Gaskin, Quinn and Spencer) of quite different backgrounds and singing styles. Drop by and hear what these original 1890s cylinders sounded like, and you might be surprised how familiar you are with many of these Victorian Era hits—but don't expect any hi-fi stereo.
Feb. 10: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1900s.
Into the new century, the range of recording artists expanded from just male tenors to include a few daring women and the harmonizing of barber-shop quartets. But the big news was the "conversational" song styling of my two favorite acoustic era artists: Billy Murray and Ada Jones. So join us for these century-old (but still very familiar) tunes.
Feb. 17: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1910s.
Sentimental songs began to outsell minstrel-style songs as harmonizing quartets became the latest rage—and so it remained until everything changed with the outbreak of war. While the most popular songs were rousing patriotic tunes, singing styles became more emotional through artists like Henry Burr and Al Jolson.
Feb. 24: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1920s.
The end of the Great War brought many changes to America as the public discarded everything that reminded them of the past and danced their way into a brighter future of prosperity. Post-war lifestyle trends ushered in a whole new era of music with the Jazz Age while wartime technology enabled high quality electrical recording.
March 3: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1930s.
The dance fever of the 1920s grew and the bands got bigger—and some began to swing. Crooning became all the rage and Bing began his career as America's best-selling recording star of the 20th Century. Fred and Ginger, America's most elegant dancing sweethearts, helped the public forget their Depression woes with wishful romantic comedies of the rich and famous.
March 10: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1940s.
Two hallmarks of Thirties music kept right on rolling into the Forties: big bands and Bing Crosby. But just as things really started to swing the big bands were faced with wartime restrictions that would contribute to their sudden collapse by 1947 at which time the now unemployed band singers took the Swing Era into the Sing Era.
March 17: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1950s.
While we saw how the events of the Twenties (e.g., electrical recording, crooning, radio, etc.) changed America's music industry in many significant ways, these paled in comparison to the seismic shifts of the Fifties as teen-driven Rock and Roll clashed with the adult-driven Pure Pop handed down from the Big Band Era.
March 24: No Class
Spring Break
March 31: No Class
Cesar Chavez Holiday
April 7: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1960s.
Following the traumatic upheaval of the music industry in the Fifties by teen-driven Rock and Roll, the traditional Tin Pan Alley model of songwriting was no longer relevant. To replace the only guiding light that mainstream American music had ever known, the historic Sixties offered many contenders, and each was groundbreaking in its impact on the future of America's most popular music.
April 14: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1970s.
Inspired by the prolific song writing of The Beatles in the Sixties, many artists took up their pens and thus began the Singer-Songwriter Era that has now spanned almost as many years as its predecessor, Tin Pan Alley, did in the 20th century. And still the musical trend most identified with the Seventies will probably always be the Disco craze that closed out the decade.
April 21: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1980s.
While Disco faded (into generic dance-pop) as quickly as it had appeared, the Singer-Songwriter became firmly entrenched as the foundation of modern American music. And the trend of diversity (among pop, rock and soul) continued to grow with the arrival of punk-based New Wave on the national charts.
April 28: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 1990s.
Building on the dance pop and music video revolution of MTV fueled by Michael Jackson, Madonna created a new path to stardom for female singers. But it was the vocal skills of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey that inspired the young female singers as they took control of the charts after a century of male domination.
May 5: America's Hit Parade looks at the hits of the 2000s.
With all of the many musical genres on the national charts through the 1990s, it was almost inevitable that some of them would merge into new forms, but no one could have predicted how diversified mainstream music would become. And yet, through it all, the ladies continued to prevail as the most successful chart-toppers.