At the beginning of the 1940’s America’s charts were pretty much dominated by big bands, (rather than soloists or duos – which were popular in the 1930’s), that still played swing and jazz. Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman led some of the more famous bands. Eventually, many of the singers in these big bands struck out on their own. Bing Crosby’s extremely ‘smooth’ voice made him one of the most popular singers, along with Frank Sinatra. Dinah Shore, Kate Smith and Perry Como were also all very popular in their own individual ways. Be-Bop and Rhythm and Blues originated out of the big band era towards the end of the decade. Although these were distinctly only back sounds, made by people such as Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, The Thelonious Mon, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Woody Herman.
During the 1940’s in Britain, more and more American styles of songs were being played, and during this decade, there were also a lot more American artists singing the songs that reached the charts. The most popular styles therefore in the 1940’s in Britain were big band swing (as in America) - the most popular big band was led by Benny Goodman (an American singer), Pop and swing (also as in America – but it was not as popular over there) - the most famous pop and swing performers were Tommy Potter and Miles Davis (these two were not American though), Jazz composition (not as popular in America) – Duke Ellington and Art Tatum were two of the most famous jazz composers (both American), Be-bop (as in America) – most popular be-bop performers were of both American and British background. The most significant musical artists of this decade in Britain were equally American and British. They were Benny Goodman (most famous Clarinettist), Miles Davis (most famous Trumpet player), Lester Young (most famous Tenor saxophone player), Duke Ellington (most famous piano player) and Charlie Parker (the most famous alto saxophone player in Jazz). The fact that there were more Americans in the music of this era, really shows us that America was gradually influencing Britain more and more each decade. We know that the styles of popular music were the same though for each era in both America and Britain which shows that indeed, America was influencing Britain a lot.
When the 1950’s are mentioned, most people automatically think of rock ‘n’ roll. This is because rock ‘n’ roll was the most popular type of music in both Britain and America. Rock ‘n’ roll was developed from a blend of Southern blues and gospel music with an added strong back beat. This type of music was mainly popular with teenagers who were trying to break out of the mainstream American middle class mould. Rock ‘n’ roll was mainly popular with the rebellious young people in society. Popular artists were Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. The influence of these early rockers had been felt in popular music world wide (including Britain).
Rock ‘n’ roll was one of the best-known styles of the 50’s in Britain. It was defined as popular music that was usually played on electronically amplified instruments and it was characterised by a persistent, heavily accented beat. There was much repetition of simple phrases and there were often elements of country, folk and blues. Bubblegum was also very popular in Britain, it was rock music that was characterised by simple repetitive phrasing and was intended especially for young teenagers. R&B (Rhythm and Blues) was very popular music with elements of blues and Negro folk music. Some of the most famous artists in Britain were Elvis Presley – he was an American artist and was famous for swinging his hips and strumming a guitar at his concerts! One of his most famous songs was Jailhouse Rock. Harry Belafonte was a Calypso singer and he was one of the most famous recording artists of the decade. Peggy Lee was a famous female artist in the 50’s. She performed jazz, blues, swing and rock music. Two of her most famous songs were “Big Spender” and “Lover”. In this era, it is quite obvious that American culture was continuing to influence the music that was popular in Britain in the 1950’s. The styles in America and Britain were almost exactly the same, and the amount of American singers in Britain was also very high.
Elvis returned from the US army in the 1960, joining the other white male singers at the top of the charts – Bobby Darin, Neil Sedaka, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Anka, Del Shannon and Frankie Avalon. However, America was ready for a change. The Tamla Motown record company had come onto the scene, and this company was specialising in black rhythm and blues, also with the help of Bob Dylan, they helped bring around a folk revival. The Beatles, who all came from England, burst into popularity with innovative rock music that appealed to all of the ages. There was a major change in the popular music in the mid 1960’s, caused partly by the drug scene. When the Beatles turned their style to acid rock, their audience narrowed down to the young. The musical phenomena of the whole decade was Woodstock. This was a three day music festival that drew 400,000 hippies and featured peace, love and happiness……… and drugs!
In the 60’s in Britain, there were many popular styles of music. Two of the most popular were Folk and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Folk music was generally performed with an acoustic 6-string guitar and one singer. Most commonly the singer and guitar player were the same person. The music had an uneasy flow to it, unlike the songs of today. Also at this time, rock ‘n’ roll was slowly becoming more and more popular. In the 1950’s only traces could be found, but popular artists were emerging, and no matter how rebellious the style was, the teenagers all loved it. In this decade, the Beatles and Elvis Presley, were very well known performers who were bringing the popularity back to rock ‘n’ roll. It was not uncommon for these songs to be in ballad form, but most were not. They contained little moral value (unlike the folk songs) and were more for entertainment than storytelling. The most significant musical artists of this decade were the grateful dead, Elvis Presley, The Doors, Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
By the 1970’s in America, the term Rock ‘n’ Roll had become nearly meaningless. This decade saw the break-up of the Beatles and the death of Elvis Presley, robbing rock of two of their most famous musical acts. Pop music split into a multitude of styles: soft rock, country rock, folk rock, punk rock, shock rock and the dance craze of the decade – disco! Among the top names in popular music were Aeorosmith, the Bee Gees, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Alice Cooper, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Bob Segar, Bruce Springstein, Rod Stewart and The Who.
In the 1970’s in Britain, the styles were also almost the same as in America, and there was again a variety of British and American artists at the top of the charts. Some of the biggest names in music in Rock were Boston, Queen, Rolling Stones, Styx, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull. One of the most popular names in funk was Tower of Power, and three of the most popular names in Disco were village people, the Bee Gees and Cher. As we can see, the styles and artists of the 1970’s in America and Britain were also very similar, and because of this we can imply that America was indeed, still influencing British music.
In America in the 1980’s, cable was born, and so was MTV – it was originally intended to be promoting albums, but it had an enormous impact on young people. Pop, rock, new wave, punk, and especially rap or hip hop became popular in the 80’s, however rap was mainly new in the late 80’s, and early 90’s. It had started in prison 20 years earlier by jailed black inmates who, in the absence of instruments, turned poems into musical rhythms.
The styles of music in Britain in the 1980’s were extremely similar to the styles in America. But, as well as all of the American singers, there were also many British singers which got to the top of the charts. Some of the most famous groups in Britain in the 80’s were Van Halen, Queen, Beachboys, Blondie, Boston, B52’s, Dire Striaits and the Village People. As we can see from the amazing similarity in the styles of music that were being listened to in Britain and America in the 1980’s, America was still having an awful lot of
influence on the songs listened to by the British.
Overall, as a final response to the question in the title, one of the things that America had an increasing influence on in Britain was the music that people listened to. We can tell this because slowly but surely the music that people listened to in Britain became more and more like that which was listened to by the American citizens. And also, more and more bands spread their music over from America and became very popular in Britain too.