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Saturday, August 15, 2009

1959 and the Musical Experience

Last night I DJed a 50th Class Reunion: the Class of 1959 of Portsmouth West High School. As I reviewed the music charts of 1959, chose the music, and played the selections, I realized that these classmates had graduated during a truly golden year of popular music. The wide variety of musical styles of the time included instrumental hits, country hits, vocal hits, middle-of-the road hits, rock'n'roll hits, soundtrack hits, folk hits, and r&b hits from a single chart. Today, many styles such as instrumentals and vocals never make the Billboard ratings. And, of course, many styles such as country, dance, r&b, and alternative have their own genres. As the evening progressed and the music played, I was transported back to a time when I first began to collect records. Being 58 now, I was eight years old when most of this music was introduced, and I remember buying 45 singles of many of the songs that made the hit parade. The quality and longevity of the music are testimony to the ability of the music industry to popularize songs for all ages and all tastes. Let me give you a taste of some of the great music of 1959. All of the following songs were in the Top 100 Billboard Year-ending Charts of 1959. The Battle Of New Orleans » Johnny Horton Mack The Knife » Bobby Darin Personality » Lloyd Price Kansas City » Wilbert Harrison Mr. Blue » Fleetwoods Sleep Walk » Santo & Johnny Put Your Head On My Shoulder » Paul Anka Stagger Lee » Lloyd Price Smoke Gets In Your Eyes » Platters Quiet Village » Martin Denny It's Just A Matter Of Time » Brook Benton Waterloo » Stonewall Jackson What A Diff'rence A Day Makes » Dinah Washington Hawaiian Wedding Song » Andy Williams Since I Don't Have You » Skyliners Peter Gunn Theme » Ray Anthony The Tijuana Jail » Kingston Trio Battle Hymn Of The Republic » Mormon Tabernacle Choir A Big Hunk O' Love » Elvis Presley What'd I Say » Ray Charles Many other hits from 1959 gained popularity to become classics such as "La Bamba" by Richie Valens, "A Teenager In Love" by Dion and the Belmonts, "El Paso" by Marty Robbins, "Only Sixteen" by Sam Cooke, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" by Buddy Holly, and "Misty" by Johnny Mathis. I feel helpless to somehow lead a reform to force the music industry to return to those days that seemed to honor and feature the artist and brilliant compositions. Who could deny this was the era when the musical ears of America were tuned to variety and appreciation of varied forms? As much as I miss the past in today's world of big corporate music, I know pop music is virtually gone. The only way to relive the glorious days of popular music is to play the 50 year old songs and reminisce. The songs remain for those who wish to delight in their artistry. I encourage everyone, even the very young, to explore those days when recordings were so deeply appreciated. So, I've decided to reminisce about 1959 for at least one more day. Included in this post is some non-musical trivia about this momentous year. 1. Who were the Hotties? Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Doris Day, Annette Funicello, Kim Novak, and Lana Turner. Marlon Brando, James Dean, Tyrone Power, and many musical Teen Idols. 2. What was the pop quote of the day? ""You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. " - Rod Sterling, narrating The Twilight Zone television series. 3. What was the media scandal? George Reeves (gunshot wound - murder or suicide?) George was television's Superman. And, of course, the tragedy of February 3rd and the plane crash of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. This was the infamous day the "Music Died." 4. What were the popular Christmas gifts? Barbie, and the game of Risk. 5. What was the Oscar winner for Best Film? Ben-Hur 6. What were the major news events? Cuban revolution occurred and Fidel Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba. Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union as U.S. states. The St. Lawrence Seaway opens. The first pictures of earth were taken from space by Explorer 6. 7. What were some costs of common items? Gallon of gas- 25 cents, movie ticket- $1.00, average cost of a new car- $2,200, Porterhouse steak- 95 cents a pound, but a Sylvania 21 inch tv- $148.95 and a Frigidaire automatic washing machine- $299.99 8. What position did the great Nellie Fox play? Second base. 9. What was among the greatest inventions? The internal pacemaker was invented by Wilson Greatbatch. Joseph-Armand Bombardier of Valcourt, Quebec, Canada, invented the snowmobile. The aluminum beer can was introduced by Coors of Golden, Colorado. The Nikon F 35-mm. single-lens reflex camera was introduced by Nippon Kogaku K.K. And, of course Barbie first appeared, but don't tell Ken she's currently 50. 10. What was new in civil rights? The Presbyterian church began accepting women preachers. Benjamin O. Davis Jr became the first black gen-major in USAF. But, Swiss males voted against voting rights for women in Sweden.
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