The Birth of Swing Music

New York is described as the birth place of swing music, it’s cool sound and dance feel that originated in America in 30’s and 40’s hit it’s heights in the 1950’s. This is due to it’s two major artists who originally wrote and performed this genres biggest hits, Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra. This study will focus on both of these artists and musicians and how their songs reach out further than just the genre itself.

The Benny Goodman track Sing, Sing, Sing is off his album Treasure chest released in 1959 by MGM Records.[1] The chord progression is Am, Bb, G, Em, G sharp and C sharp minor. The structure of the song form is a 12 bar blues, 32 bars in totally for each section and the song form is AABA. The song starts with a 3 bar drum intro then has a 12 bar brass melody followed by a 2 bar drum transition then has a 12 bar trumpet solo followed by a 25 bar clarinet solo then outro with 10 bars of brass melody. The tempo is fast and lively with an upbeat feel for dancing and has a swing feel to the rhythm.[2] The melodic style of this song is step and skip and some leaps in the solo sections. The song is also motif based and you can hear this in the constant driving drum beat from Gene Krupa.

The Frank Sinatra Come Fly With Me was released in 1954. This song has an unusual structure AABBC. The structure is different and unusual especially for the genre and the time its was released. Most popular swing tunes were a 12 bar form. The A sections are 12 bars long, the B sections are each 8 bars long totalling 16, and the C section is 16 bars long and consists of an entire A section with a 4 bar tag added on at the end.[3] The main melody is sang by Frank unlike Sing, Sing, Sing which has the melody played by brass. The tempo is moderate with a swing feel to the rhythm. The production of this song is more modern than Sing, Sing, Sing. It sound more professional and you can hear the instruments better as well as Franks voice.

That fact also both songs have been covered by other artists such as Michael Buble and Fletcher Henderson. Sing, Sing, Sing was an original song by Louis Prima but it was Benny Goodmans instrumental version that made it famous. This shows how popular this genre is and strong the melodies are that they have stood the test of time. In fact you can hear versions of Sing, Sing, Sing recorded in every decade since its release. Both tunes have a strong swing feel which is very recognisable in the wider context of jazz, swing and big band where emphasis of the pulse is on beats 2 and 4. Unlike Come Fly with Me, which has a more subtle drumming beat Sing, Sing, Sing has heavier driving rhythm. In terms of structure Sing, Sing, Sing has a 12 bar feel too it and is instrumental based with solo sections. Come Fly With Me has a more of a jazz structure with a popular sense because the main tune is sung by Frank and has more of an instrumental break in the middle where all the instruments are playing the same riff in harmony instead of an actual solo section where a single instrument takes the lead. So both songs are different structure wise. Instruments on each record are similar as the they are big bands although Come Fly With Me has voice for the main tune and lyrics also this track has a string arrangement with a string section adding a more polished and produced sound probably for radio where Sing, Sing, Sing is a little more raw and stripped down. Come fly With Me has a lot more harmony and interested musical aspects in the arrangement where Sing, Sing, Sing is more straight forward with a main theme and solo section. Instrumentation is similar with bass, drums and horn sections. Come fly with me has added strings and voice for a more produced sound. You can hear how this sound has stood the test of time with artists like Robbie Williams, Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jnr. You could even says these artists are more like pop stars in terms of genre as the music is even more stripped down and heavily influenced by the swing pulse and singing style of Frank Sinatra. Examples of work before would be Jazz artists like Count Basie, Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. All pioneers of Jazz and would have definitely influenced both tracks discussed in terms of rhythm, style, structure and melody. A good example would be the Duke Ellington hit ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ This rhythm would have definitely influenced ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’.

In conclusion both songs are definitely swing songs but prove you can go with a different structure. Also that you can have a melody that is sang or played on an instrument. This wouldn’t work for other genres making swing very unique. Unlike other genres for example punk which relies on the voice as the main tune as their music is usually political and have a point to say and get across to their audience.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog I hope you found it useful and of some interest.

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[1] Benny Goodman,, retrieved 09/11/17

[2] Sing Sing Sing,, retrieved 09/11/17

[3] Frank Sinatra,$4062, retrieved 09/11/17

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