Monday, November 19, 2012

Jazz Music and Dancing of the Prohibition

Blaine Gibke 821006767
Jazz Music and Dancing of the Prohibition 

The Roaring Twenties brought about a radical change in the very fabric of American society. The economy was booming and the culture was quickly moving away from its conventional conservative roots to a more liberal country as a whole. Women were dressing more outrageously and straying farther from their traditional roles. However, with the Prohibition of alcohol, people were more contained and not able to act as crazy as they wanted to. Thus, speakeasies were born. These were secret places where one could obtain alcohol. For example, where on Manhattan Island could one buy alcohol during the Prohibition? The answer may be more surprising than you think. One could purchase alcohol in “open saloons, restaurants, night clubs, bars behind peepholes, dancing academies, drugstores, delicatessens, confectionaries, soda fountains”(Speakeasies 1) and more. This quote shows that even though it was an illegal substance, it was readily accessible through easy means to the general public. There was a need for entertainment at these illegal bars, and jazz quickly became the most popular type of music during the Prohibition. However, some people were not fans of jazz music. They thought that it was a “Bolshevik element protesting against law and order.”(Thinkquest 1) Jazz music was much more popular with the young folk, as dancing to jazz music at speakeasies became a popular way for kids to blow off steam. Furthermore, singers went to speakeasies as well, to perform. Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, and the Astaires were just some of many who performed in speakeasies across the nation.  A popular dance of this time period was the Charleston, involving swaying arms and kicking feet. Flappers soon started doing the dance in groups, or with partners. The jazz music of the 1920’s was born out a “new, post-World War I optimism, a prevailing sense that something new was happening, that America was finally breaking from European culture and coming into its own.”(NEA 1) Two larger ensembles that really grew and flourished during the Prohibition was the bands led by Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman. Together, they really paved the way for unsegregated blending of jazz music, then soon after Duke Ellington waltzed right down that paved road. The Duke’s uncanny ability to create new styles and forms of music was instrumental in his popularity worldwide. However, not even the  immense popularity of jazz could prepare America for what would come next: The Great Depression. 

Here is an example of the Charleston dance being performed by a flapper girl, first alone, then with an instructional and partner dance. 

This is a video of the song entitled The Mooche by Duke Ellington. Songs like this and other jazz pieces similar to this were performed in speakeasies all over the country. 

 This video is another example of popular R&B music of the time. However, as a female vocalist she did not receive as much recognition as the jazz hits of the same era. She is still noteworthy though, and greatly contributed to the music of the Prohibition. 

Works Cited
"2 The Jazz Age and The Swing Era - Lesson Essay." 2 The Jazz Age and The Swing Era - Lesson Essay. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <>.
"The Rise of Speakeasies." The Rise of Speakeasies. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <>.
"ThinkQuest : 404." ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <>.

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