The 1930s

by: Ashley Ridenour (6th period)

Due to the economic slump caused by the Great Depression and the stock market crash of 1929, the 1930s was full of music and entertainment, in endeavors to make lives happy during hard times. The 1930s was also an important period in black history, as the African-American population of the nation pushed harder and harder for fair treatment in their home. These desires for respect were portrayed through different types of protest artwork, such as Billie Holiday's song, Strange Fruit. Despite the rough nature of the decade, it elicited forth a vibrant culture of passion and hope that is remembered today.


Happy Days are Here Again by Ben Selvin

Just as President Roosevelt served as a beacon of hope for the nation, this happy tune did as well, with it's upbeat groove and message. The bandleader, Ben Selvin, was one of the most well known of the 1920s and the most recorded of all time, with a staggering number of about 13,000 recordings. In this recording, Selvin leads the Crooners in this hopeful rendition of "Happy Days Are Here Again". This song later became the theme of the newly elected president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday

In this famous protest song, Billie Holiday, a jazz musician of the 1930s, depicts a haunting story of the lynching of a black man. The song, originally starting as a poem by Abel Meeropol, addresses the cruelty and terrors of racism in the south, as well as the bravery shown by those who fight against it. Once sung by Holiday, the song became the chant for the anti-lynching movement.

Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway

This famous song was written Cabell (Cab) Calloway III and was a favorite among many jazz nightclubs. It's raunchy story about a belly dancing girl's opium daydreams, and it's call-and-response interaction with the audience, drew in a reasonable crowd to every performance. It came in as #1 for seventeen weeks on the U.S. Billboard singles charts in 1931, and in 1999 was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.


One of the things that makes the 1930's so significant was the Great Depression, a disastrous economic slump that was prompted by the stock market crash of 1929. This event is known as Black Tuesday, and is held responsible for the loss of billions of dollars.

In the 1920's, real estate prices were increasing and peaking quickly. Due to the nature of our economy, the stock prices rise and fall with real estate costs. Only to add, the roaring twenties led to many American's investing money they didn't have. This was all thanks to brokers who were lending investors outrageous amounts of money - enough money to result in 8.5 million dollars to be out on loan. This loaning worked well as long as the stock prices rose - if they fell, investors had no money to pay off their loans. Eventually, the prices did fall, and fast. Panic ensued as investors raced to sell stocks that no one wanted to buy. The once high priced stocks were now virtually worthless. Along with other flaws in the U.S. economy, such as overproduction and uneven distribution of wealth, this resulted in an economic downswing that became known as the Great Depression.

Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers, a legendary composer of the 1930s, was responsible for a career that spanned over six decades and produced over 900 published songs and forty Broadway musicals. Rodgers' career started in 1920, with several Broadway musicals of which he collaborated with Lorenz Hart. After writing several musicals in Hollywood, such as DEAREST ENEMY and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE, the two relocated to New York to write for Billy Rose's circus, JUMBO. Throughout the 1930s, in their new home of New York, the duo made dozens of Broadway hits, such as ON YOUR TOES and BABES IN ARMS. Unfortunately, this partnership ended in 1943 with Hart's life. This, however, sparked a new cooperation with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. Together, the two blended their different styles, comedic musicals and operettas, to form a unique and long-held new genre. As a team, they produced the renowned SOUND OF MUSIC. With their outstanding productions, they received high remarks, and many awards such as 15 Academy Awards, 34 Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards. But, once again, Rodgers outlived his partner, and with Hammerstein's death came a new time of solo work for Rodgers. By himself, he composed "No Strings" which earned him two Tony Awards. From 1960 to his death in 1979, Rodgers continued to work on his music, further influencing the world of musical theatre and composition.

Above is one of Richard Rodgers' and Lorenz Hart's compositions, titled "Isn't It Romantic" (1929).

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