Presentation on theme: "MUSI 3104 W12 Chansonniers, 1950s pop, Jazz. More Canadian historical context: biculturalism and modernization in the 1950s and 1960s… Canadian population."— Presentation transcript:
MUSI 3104 W12 Chansonniers, 1950s pop, Jazz
More Canadian historical context: biculturalism and modernization in the 1950s and 1960s… Canadian population and GDP increased greatly in the 1950s, to world competitor status. There was intense urbanization and growth of suburbs by the mid-to-late 1950s, but with considerable regional disparity. It was in the post-war years, and especially the 1950s, that the idea of Canada as "middle power" became entrenched in terms of foreign affairs (economic, diplomatic, and military). Also in the sense of having a conflicted cultural relationship both with British colonialism and with the U.S. It was also in this era that Canada became closely associated politically with a small-l liberalism. For example, national medicare was being developed between the late 1950s and 1966, and there was massive investment in universities and education in general.
In 1936 the CBC got its name and its crown corporation structure. It was also the main national broadcasting regulator until the end of the 1950s. The CBC French language network was established in 1937 and became a major component of francophone cultural life , Radio-Canada strike (including French TV) became a political issue. The federal government refused to intervene and many Québecers felt that one of their vital institutions was not receiving proper protection/concern. This went along with ongoing complaints such as the lack of specific support for French language and culture at the federal level, and also resonated with other particular moments of dissent such as those surrounding conscription in the world wars.
In general, during the 1950s in Québec there were two powerful political currents brewing: increased support for sovereignty and increased support for modernization on all levels. 1960, Jean Lesage defeated Maurice Duplessis to become premiere of Québec and the so-called quiet revolution began. This involved many things, including a less authoritarian governmental style, secularization of education, and nationalization of Hydro. However, at roughly the same time sovereigntism was gaining strength across the political spectrum, from the mainstream through to some new radical groups. For example, the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) formed in The question of Québec was one of many factors that caused national identity to come to the forefront in federal politics and popular culture in the early-to-mid 1960s.
In 1962, Lester B. Pearson demanded (and got) a Royal Commission on Bilinguialism and Biculturalism. Pearson was elected Prime Minister in He immediately started the debate and process to adopt a new flag, which became official in One project which demonstrated the new cultural mood in Canada was Expo '67. Overheads: Expo '67 architecture Expo '67 is also where Charles de Gaulle made his famous "vive le Québec libre" speech. This kind of mixture between optimism and conflict, modernization and continuation of old disputes, was typical of the 1960s more generally. Similarly, in Canada there was also a growing student protest/counterculture movement, but with some distinctive features relative to U.S. and U.K. versions. (Discuss).
1968, Pierre Trudeau elected. He was a strong federalist but also a believer in biculturalism. Very socially progressive – one of his first acts was to de-criminalize homosexuality. Interested in national identity, strongly committed to the idea of a charter of rights and freedoms and a repatriated constitution. Notice the parallel: Trudeaumania/Beatlemania. Although Pearson was crucial to the growing modernization and international reputation of Canada, Trudeau as a young, perhaps radical, and charismatic "superstar" Prime Minister played a large role in shifting Canada's image during the period (and for a time built a bit of a bridge between federal politics and the wider popular culture). The ideal of official multiculturalism was first floated in late-60s as an alternative to more established idea of biculturalism. For this reason it was sometimes resisted by francophone and pro-Québec intellectuals.
Overall points to keep in mind from all this in terms of framing what happened in Canadian popular culture going from the 1950s into the 1960s... Canada as a whole was investing in a modernized, liberal agenda. Began to be seen globally as a rational, peacekeeping middle power with good investments in areas like high tech, education, and health care, which created a reputation and a degree of notice that could benefit (and constrain) musicians. The Federal government, along with many intellectuals and the general public, began to be more interested in the question of how Canadian distinctiveness and achievement could be fostered, which would eventually lead to legislation that had a profound impact on the popular music market. Increased political debate and increased interest in sovereigntism within Québec created a charged climate in which new kinds of singer/songwriter would flourish.
Musically, we are going to cover three broad areas today: chansonniers, 1950s pop, and mid-period Canadian jazz. To generalize grossly, I will use them to illustrate three of the possible cultural stances we discussed in earlier lectures… A fairly distinctive indigenous development (the chansonniers). A fairly non-distinctive but successful assimilation into styles originating elsewhere (1950s pop). Several cases of distinctive inflections of styles from elsewhere which may, or may not, be particularly "Canadian" in nature (jazz).
Overhead: Félix Leclerc Félix Leclerc "Bozo" (written 1950) Leclerc had debuted on CBC in 1939, and had hits in Québec throughout the 1940s. In 1950 he became an international star, especially in France where he spent much of his time after this (often billed in early days as Le Canadien). He was a very large influence on Canadian chanson, and also in France. Félix Leclerc "En Muet" (1966)
Leclerc is usually seen as the first of the chansonniers in the modern sense (although note, the word is also sometimes used to denote traditional singers in a more general sense). This was a movement of the 1950s but their aesthetic remained central to Québecois identity after the quiet revolution (1960 and after). Some features… A primarily aesthetic, poetic stance. Several were polymaths (performers and composers and poets and actors and novelists). The word translates roughly as "song maker" and is usually taken to be evocative of the troubadour tradition of medieval and renaissance France. It is also very close to singer-songwriter in the anglo folk community sense (composer and performer of original songs, on modern themes but in folk-derived styles, also a certain adultness or sophistication is implied). Lyrics rooted in the everyday, but subjected to close poetic scrutiny.
In the 1960s the chansonnier image began to acquire a more political significance for some, because it was so distinctively French-Canadian, and also because it involved rootedness in the particularities of one's own environment (physical and cultural). Connected to this, they were the quintessential performers in the boîtes à chansons. These began to appear in mid-1950s, and were essentially what would be called coffeehouses in anglo communities: tiny, informally run, usually coffee rather than alcohol, lots of students. Maybe the best-known was Chez Bozo, opened in 1959 on Crescent St. in Montreal (this is a clear Leclerc reference, as was one group of chansonniers who called themselves Les Bozos.
Out of the chansonnier tradition the genre of chansons engagés had evolved by about Main themes: celebration of Québec culture and protest against marginalization of francophones. One key figure in this development was Gilles Vigneault. Overhead: Gilles Vigneault circa Gilles Vigneault was initially as much a writer and publisher as a songwriter and singer. This continued: for example in 1966 he won the Governor General's award for poetry. In the late 1950s he became more interested in folk song and he began publically performing in His songs should be understood as part of his overall literary project of exploring and advocating for Québec culture (and more generally, he was an early example of the kind of very close literature-music relationship that would be seen with other Canadian artists such as Leonard Cohen and Lillian Allen).
"Mon Pays" (written 1964) became his signature song and a major Québec anthem (not official, but in the sense of a widely-known song that many took to summarize the essence of their political and social situation). It was originally commissioned by the National Film Board for a soundtrack. Gilles Vigneault "Mon Pays" (1965 recording) One thing to note: the politics here are somewhat implicit, but were very clear to listeners. Discuss: political/social implications of the lyrics. Also: Notice how this general approach to framing the issues can be linked to aesthetic points we've already made about the chansonniers.
Unlike the culturally distinctive chansonniers in Québec, Anglophone popular artists were having success in the 1950s but were not for the most part developing strikingly original styles, although many did manage to put forward incremental and sometimes influential changes to existing ones. Overhead: The Four Lads The Four Lads "Moments To Remember" (1955) From Toronto, debuted on CBC radio in 1949, and in the early 50s got work as background singers for recordings by some fairly successful American pop artists. Began to have their own hits by around Stylistically influential in the pop world because of their precise close-harmonies. Never really made the leap to becoming a rock and roll vocal group, but important for bridging the earlier glee- club-style pop vocal approach with what happened later in the 1950s.
Overhead: The Crew Cuts From Toronto, met at a cathedral choir school. Discovered in 1954 by Mercury records, made several hit records. They were one of first white groups to succeed in the doo-wop style. Thumbnail history: doo-wop. More thumbnail history: the cover phenomenon. The Crew Cuts were among the first to participate in the cover phenomenon of the 1950s and to create hits of this kind. Biggest hit was a cover of this Chords song, The Chords "Sh-Boom" (1954) The Crew Cuts "Sh-Boom" (1954) Quick discussion: what's similar and different between these recordings?
Another Canadian vocal group to have success during this time with an R+B-derived style were The Diamonds, also from Toronto. In this case, they also kicked off a dance craze (didn't originate the dance, but this song helped to make a fad out of it). The Diamonds "The Stroll" (1957) YouTube: "The Original Stroll -- February 1958"
Overhead: Paul Anka Thumbnail history: teen idols. Paul Anka "Diana" (1957) Originally from Ottawa, began performing here locally. In 1957 signed a recording/songwriting contract with ABC. "Diana" was his first hit, and remains one of the best-selling pop singles of all time. Anka rapidly became one of the most popular teen idols, and in 1960 became the youngest headliner to that date at the Copacabana. He was also one of the very few teen idols who managed to re- brand himself as an adult pop singers and to sustain his original levels of success. Anka rarely returned to Canada after this. Among his many hits, maybe the best known was "My Way" (in Frank Sinatra's version).
Thumbnail history: jazz to the mid-1950s. New Orleans/Chicago bands, swing era, bebop. Since early jazz overlapped so much with travelling shows, there were many instances of jazz or jazz-like performances in Canada from the 19-teens onwards. We've already seen the significance of Shelton Brooks in early jazz history. It is also worth noting that as early as the 1920s and 1930s Montreal was an important jazz city (i.e., almost from the beginning of jazz). But having said that, prior to the late 1940s there were almost no Canadian jazz artists who had achieved the kind of success and/or stylistic distinctiveness that would make them major figures (apart from Guy Lombardo). This began to change by the 1950s and 1960s, when there were a few individual Canadian artists who began to develop widely- respected and influential variants on jazz styles. We'll look at some of these individually...
Overhead: Gil Evans (with Miles Davis) Thumbnail history: Miles Davis up to mid-1950s. Early bebop years, cool jazz (late 1940s), hard bop and blues (early 1950s). Gil Evans is one of those people where it is interesting to ask whether his Canadianness was a factor in his style or not. He was born in 1912 in Toronto and grew up in rural Ontario. By his early 20s he was working and living entirely in the States. But he always stood out from the crowd with his arranging skills and style. Evans came to fairly widespread notice with his arrangements for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. These stood out because he was one of the few people who had success with adapting the bebop style to a larger group. His house in the 1950s was a crucial meeting place for experimental arrangers, which is how he became central to Davis' cool jazz project in the late 1940s.
Davis' albums with Gil Evans of the late 1950s are seen as another major period in his work, and of great importance for jazz history overall. (Thumbnail sketch, jazz-classical crossovers). Main albums with Gil Evans: Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), Sketches of Spain (1960). Gil Evans and Miles Davis "Will o' The Wisp" ( ) Consider all this in relation to things we've said before about the classical/popular crossover and the hybridity of the Canadian cultural scene.
One tune we can't skip in a discussion of Canadian jazz is this one, simply because it was so successful... Moe Koffman "Swinging Shepherd Blues" (1958) Koffman had a more conventional style than Evans, and apart from some extended stays in the U.S. was mostly based in Canada (Toronto). He was one of the first Canadian jazz musicians to embrace be-bop (early 1940s). The success of this particular recording (both in Canada and in the U.S.) helped to popularize the flute as a jazz instrument. Also worth noting: during the 1960s CBC radio began to frequently use light jazz as theme and cue music. A lot of it showed heavy influence from the Koffman flute style and from Lenny Breau's guitar style (to be discussed soon). This added to their influence on the Canadian soundscape of that era, and was in turn part of modernizing the CBC image in line with other things we've said about Canada in the 1960s.
Gil Evans is one of the most influential Canadian jazz artists, but primarily as an arranger rather than a performer. Two instrumentalists who have also been widely respected and are associated with particular innovations are Oscar Peterson and Lenny Breau. DVD: Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson (Piano Legends, starting 14:20) Peterson was from Montreal and was a local celebrity by the early 1940s. Compared to other jazz pianists he had an unusually extensive classical training and an unusually high dedication to developing technique. His reputation grew rapidly and soon he was receiving invitations to move to U.S. from people as famous as Count Basie. In 1949 he made a very successful appearance at Carnegie Hall and quickly became one of the best-known, most honored, and widely- recorded jazz piano players of all time. His style was a mix of boogie-woogie, Art Tatum, and bebop. He is known both for startling technique, and great depth in ballad playing.
In his own compositions, Peterson mixed the above-mentioned jazz influences with impressionism and romantic classical music. His compositions are similar at times to those of Duke Ellington in the way they paint pictures of people and places. Not all of them are Canadian in focus, although interestingly the Canadiana Suite (1964) was nominated for a Grammy (i.e. in the U.S.). Oscar Peterson "Wheatland" (1964) His home base has always been Canada: Montreal until 1958, and then Mississauga. One interesting feature of his career is not musical, but says something about the degree to which Canadian culture had moved towards self-aware celebration of its artists by the 1970s. Compared to jazz musicians in the U.S., who are generally not accorded much official (i.e. government, civic) recognition, Peterson was extremely well-connected in Canadian society/politics and received many high Canadian honours on a pretty much continuous basis during the last few decades of his life. Just one example... Overheads: Oscar Peterson statue
One of the most clearly innovative jazz musicians from Canada is also one of the least known outside of the circle of guitarists, although within that circle he has untouchable cult status. Lenny Breau was born in Maine and died in LA, but lived much of his life in Canada. Began playing as a child in a group with his parents, who were middle-tier country musicians. By 12, in Winnipeg, he was being billed as a child prodigy In the early years he was heavily influenced by Chet Atkins (i.e., jazz plus country fingerstyle) but with elements of flamenco and other original touches as well. Overhead: Boy Wonder album cover Lenny Breau "Cannonball Rag" (circa 1956)
Breau was generally seen as a master of jazz, folk, flamenco, and other styles by the age of 20. The fingerstyle approach he developed to jazz guitar was quite influential, since before that jazz guitarists tended to stick to the pick. This allowed him to incorporate several elements from piano style: wide and lush chord voicings (also because of his innovative use of the 7-string guitar), and textures with up the three independent layers (bass, melody, and chords all at once). Overhead: Five O' Clock Bells & Mo Breau album cover Lenny Breau "My Funny Valentine" (1977)
Breau also had ties to rock, partly through his friendship with Randy Bachman. Part of the significance of Lenny Breau is the way his work continues to resonate with rock guitarists, and more generally guitarists in a wide range of genres. Overhead: Now! album cover Lenny Breau "Visions" (1977) Discuss: Are there clear (or implicit) Canadianisms in Breau? Consider all elements, including geography and subculture.