Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 12-Oct-07
Madonna switches record labels, accelerating a return to a new Big Band Era

Web Log - October, 2007

Madonna switches record labels, accelerating a return to a new Big Band Era

Madonna is leaving Warner Music, her long time record label, for Live Nation, the concert promoter behind the Live 8 events. The switch happened after Warner refused to match the $120 million ten-year deal offered by Live Nation.

The switch from Warner Music to Live Nation is more than just a label switch. It's a symbolic of the music business' rapid change from making money by recorded music (records, CDs, etc.) to making money principally from live performances.

As I wrote in my 2003 article, "Return of the Big Band Era," we're rapidly approaching a time, around the mid to late 2010s, when it will be possible to have a computer with a disk file containing every song ever recorded. And with network bandwidths and disk sizes increasing exponentially every year, it will be possible to download hundreds of new recordings every day.

Basically, there will no longer be any technical limitation to listening to recorded music. The only real limitation will be the quaint fact that a normal human being isn't capable of listening to more than a few songs a day.

What this means is that the big money in the music industry will come from live performances -- just as was the case when bobby soxers -- teenage girls -- mobbed venues where Frank Sinatra was crooning. Five years from now, there may be little money to be made from sales of a Madonna recording, but there may be huge amounts to be made from a live Madonna concert playing live to a worldwide concert over the internet.

Few people seem to understand what the Big Band Era of the 1930s was all about. It came about because of the Big Depression of the 1930s. A bandleader could afford to hire a big band of 10-20 instruments because out-of-work musicians were willing to work for a dollar a week -- and happy to have the opportunity. It was only after the economy recovered in the mid-1940s that the big bands disappeared.

Also, few people seem to understand the KIND of music that was played in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The view is almost of demented robots who could only understand the simplest music possible, not the complex music that sophisticated people listen to today.

One song that became very popular after the war was an old Al Jolson song with the following lyrics:

    When the red red robin
    Comes bob bob bobbin' along, along
    There'll be no more sobbin'
    When he starts throbbin' his old sweet song

Wake up, wake up you sleepy head Get up, get up get out of bed Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red Live, love, laugh and be happy

What if I've been blue Now I'm running through fields of flowers Rain may glisten But still I listen for hours and hours

I'm just a kid again Doing what I did again Singing a song When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbin' along, along

It's hard to believe that this is anything but a silly children's song, but in fact that was a very popular song among adults for a number of years after the war.

The 1930s and 1940s were times of enormous hardship. Starvation and homelessness were all around. And then people learned of their loved ones being tortured and maimed by the Bataan Death March in 1942, or mowed down blades of grass on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Today we have scandals when someone Cindy Sheehan loses her son in the Iraq war. Imagine how women must have felt when the news filtered back that tens of thousands of their sons, their husbands, their brothers and their fathers had all been tortured or killed in Europe or Asia?

People did not want complex music during this period. They went down to the local dance hall to listen to the Big Bands play simple, carefree music that would take their minds off of what was going on in the world.

Actually, Big Band music really WAS very complex and sophisticated in another way, because it conveyed sexuality without the need for explicitness that came into vogue in later decades. The songs were light and carefree, with lyrics that are sometimes absolutely hilarious if you stop to listen to them.

Here are the lyrics to a couple of Big Band Era songs:


I double dare you to sit over here. I double dare you to lend me your ear. Take off your high hat, and let's get friendly. Don't be a scare cat, Say what-d'ya care, can't you take dare?

I double dare you to kiss me and then, I double dare you to kiss me again. And if that look in your eye means what I'm thinking of I double dare you to fall in love with me, I double dare you.


I stand at your gate and the song that I sing is of moonlight. I stand and I wait for the touch of your hand in the June night. The roses are sighing a Moonlight Serenade.

The stars are aglow and tonight how their light sets me dreaming. My love, do you know that your eyes are like stars brightly beaming? I bring you and sing you a Moonlight Serenade.

Let us stray till break of day In love's valley of dreams. Just you and I, a summer sky, A heavenly breeze kissing the trees.

So don't let me wait, come to me tenderly in the June night. I stand at your gate and I sing you a song in the moonlight, A love song, my darling, a Moonlight Serenade.

Incidentally, who's greatest pop star of the 20th century? The Beatles? Naaaaah. It's Frank Sinatra.

After the war ended, people were still traumatized for the rest of their lives by what had happened. As philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote in 1949, reflecting the mood of America at that time, "Two world wars in one generation, separated by an uninterrupted chain of local wars and revolutions, followed by no peace treaty for the vanquished and no respite for the victor, have ended in the anticipation of a third World War between the two remaining world powers. This moment of anticipation is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died. ... Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest -- forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries."

So now go back and reread the lyrics of "Red Red Robin," and you'll see that it's a very touching song with a message: "The war is over. It's time to start living again."

The song was still being sung on television as late as 1957, as shown by the following TV clip, where Ethel Merman and Perry Como sing the song with a comic twist:

The music of the era reflected the attitudes of the people of the era.

People today think of the early 1950s as a time of ultra-conformity and oppression of women. Nothing could be further from the truth.

During the 1930s, families became homeless and were forced into the streets. During the war, tens of millions of women lost their husbands to the war, and women who would have liked to stay home and take care of the kids were forced to take "Rosie the Riveter" jobs that they hated, but took them anyway out of patriotism.

By the time the 1950s came around, the "American way of life" meant that every woman could have a husband, a couple of kids, and a nice home (with a nice picket fence), and women wouldn't be forced to work unless they wanted to. 1950s women didn't want their daughters to suffer as they had, and they considered it to be a gift to their daughters that they handed them a country where all that was possible.

Songs like "Red Red Robin" were appreciated by the survivors of WW II, but was not appreciated by those born after the war, in the Baby Boomer generation.

The Boomers rebelled against their parents and their music. 1960s women's libbers humiliated their mothers by rejecting their message. They were mad at their mothers for telling them to wear girdles and not to have sex before marriage. They burned their bras in rebellion against their mothers. But women were never discriminated against.

As we look back over the whole period, we see that the carefree music of the 1930s and 40s gave way to the sweet, romantic music of the 1950s, which gave way to the Boomer's rebellious music of the 1960s, which gave way to the Generation-Xer's nihilistic music of the 1990s.

Now Madonna is leading the way as we enter a new 1930s style Great Depression. Once again, live performances will be the important things. Once again, there'll be Big Band Era. It'll be called something else, of course, but it'll be based on the same economics as the 1930s: With lots of people unemployed, live performances by groups of musicians will become popular again, and we may even see huge audiences of teenage girls squealing with delight at some new hot young crooner. (12-Oct-07) Permanent Link
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail
Donate to Generational Dynamics via PayPal

Web Log Pages

Current Web Log

Web Log Summary - 2016
Web Log Summary - 2015
Web Log Summary - 2014
Web Log Summary - 2013
Web Log Summary - 2012
Web Log Summary - 2011
Web Log Summary - 2010
Web Log Summary - 2009
Web Log Summary - 2008
Web Log Summary - 2007
Web Log Summary - 2006
Web Log Summary - 2005
Web Log Summary - 2004

Web Log - December, 2016
Web Log - November, 2016
Web Log - October, 2016
Web Log - September, 2016
Web Log - August, 2016
Web Log - July, 2016
Web Log - June, 2016
Web Log - May, 2016
Web Log - April, 2016
Web Log - March, 2016
Web Log - February, 2016
Web Log - January, 2016
Web Log - December, 2015
Web Log - November, 2015
Web Log - October, 2015
Web Log - September, 2015
Web Log - August, 2015
Web Log - July, 2015
Web Log - June, 2015
Web Log - May, 2015
Web Log - April, 2015
Web Log - March, 2015
Web Log - February, 2015
Web Log - January, 2015
Web Log - December, 2014
Web Log - November, 2014
Web Log - October, 2014
Web Log - September, 2014
Web Log - August, 2014
Web Log - July, 2014
Web Log - June, 2014
Web Log - May, 2014
Web Log - April, 2014
Web Log - March, 2014
Web Log - February, 2014
Web Log - January, 2014
Web Log - December, 2013
Web Log - November, 2013
Web Log - October, 2013
Web Log - September, 2013
Web Log - August, 2013
Web Log - July, 2013
Web Log - June, 2013
Web Log - May, 2013
Web Log - April, 2013
Web Log - March, 2013
Web Log - February, 2013
Web Log - January, 2013
Web Log - December, 2012
Web Log - November, 2012
Web Log - October, 2012
Web Log - September, 2012
Web Log - August, 2012
Web Log - July, 2012
Web Log - June, 2012
Web Log - May, 2012
Web Log - April, 2012
Web Log - March, 2012
Web Log - February, 2012
Web Log - January, 2012
Web Log - December, 2011
Web Log - November, 2011
Web Log - October, 2011
Web Log - September, 2011
Web Log - August, 2011
Web Log - July, 2011
Web Log - June, 2011
Web Log - May, 2011
Web Log - April, 2011
Web Log - March, 2011
Web Log - February, 2011
Web Log - January, 2011
Web Log - December, 2010
Web Log - November, 2010
Web Log - October, 2010
Web Log - September, 2010
Web Log - August, 2010
Web Log - July, 2010
Web Log - June, 2010
Web Log - May, 2010
Web Log - April, 2010
Web Log - March, 2010
Web Log - February, 2010
Web Log - January, 2010
Web Log - December, 2009
Web Log - November, 2009
Web Log - October, 2009
Web Log - September, 2009
Web Log - August, 2009
Web Log - July, 2009
Web Log - June, 2009
Web Log - May, 2009
Web Log - April, 2009
Web Log - March, 2009
Web Log - February, 2009
Web Log - January, 2009
Web Log - December, 2008
Web Log - November, 2008
Web Log - October, 2008
Web Log - September, 2008
Web Log - August, 2008
Web Log - July, 2008
Web Log - June, 2008
Web Log - May, 2008
Web Log - April, 2008
Web Log - March, 2008
Web Log - February, 2008
Web Log - January, 2008
Web Log - December, 2007
Web Log - November, 2007
Web Log - October, 2007
Web Log - September, 2007
Web Log - August, 2007
Web Log - July, 2007
Web Log - June, 2007
Web Log - May, 2007
Web Log - April, 2007
Web Log - March, 2007
Web Log - February, 2007
Web Log - January, 2007
Web Log - December, 2006
Web Log - November, 2006
Web Log - October, 2006
Web Log - September, 2006
Web Log - August, 2006
Web Log - July, 2006
Web Log - June, 2006
Web Log - May, 2006
Web Log - April, 2006
Web Log - March, 2006
Web Log - February, 2006
Web Log - January, 2006
Web Log - December, 2005
Web Log - November, 2005
Web Log - October, 2005
Web Log - September, 2005
Web Log - August, 2005
Web Log - July, 2005
Web Log - June, 2005
Web Log - May, 2005
Web Log - April, 2005
Web Log - March, 2005
Web Log - February, 2005
Web Log - January, 2005
Web Log - December, 2004
Web Log - November, 2004
Web Log - October, 2004
Web Log - September, 2004
Web Log - August, 2004
Web Log - July, 2004
Web Log - June, 2004

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.