Unit 3 Notes - Introduction Doo-wop was a dramatically...

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Introduction Doo-wop was a dramatically different style that grew out of the traditions of African American church music, popular vocal groups like The Mills Brothers and The Ink Spots, and street corner harmony singing, which was a major part of teen culture in America’s inner cities. Most important, it would be the first African American popular style to find acceptance in the mainstream. Doo-wop was group harmony music performed a cappella or with modest instrumental backup. The focus was on harmony singing and the complex vocal arrangements that typified the style. Unlike the earlier harmonies of gospel and popular vocal groups like the Ink Spots, doo-wop was based on what came to be known as “blow harmonies” or sounds created by blowing air out of the mouth rather than humming. Harmonies were usually sung as repeating sets of meaningless words like “doo-bop sh-bop” ( “I Only Have Eyes For You” ) and “shoo-doo’n shoo-be-doo” ( “In The Still Of The Night” ), often as a substitution for instrumental accompaniment…and became the source for the term “doo- wop.” By-and-large, doo-wop was “kinder and gentler” than the rest of early R&B and told stories of romantic love and longing, courtship and marriage, and innocence and youth rather than sex and physical gratification. Although there were exceptions like The Dominoes’ “Sixty Minute Man,” doo-wop was music that played to adolescents rather than adults and was less threatening to adult sensibilities in the popular mainstream. In 1951, “Sixty Minute Man,” not only entered the mainstream pop charts, it managed to climb all the way to Number Seventeen. However, in 1954, two certifiable doo-wop recordings, “Gee” by The Crows and “Sh-Boom” by The Chords, became mainstream pop hits. “Earth Angel” by The Penguins was released in late 1954 and was covered by The Crew- Cuts, whose cover of “Sh-Boom” had gone to Number One a few months earlier, but this time the original recording managed to hold its own against the cover version. In 1955, “Only You (And You Alone)” and “The Great Pretender” by The Platters entered the Top Ten without serious competition from cover versions and “The Great Pretender” became the first doo-wop record to capture Number One on the mainstream pop charts. By mid-1955, doo-wop recordings by black artists had become an established fixture in the mainstream charts and what would come to be known as the Golden Age of Doo-wop began. However, doo-wop had roots that sink deep into the traditions of African American music and the story of doo-wop properly begins before the Civil War in the dark days of slavery.
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The Roots of Doo-Wop The traditions of African American close harmony singing reach all the way back to the early nineteenth century and emergence of the Negro spiritual. The Negro spiritual came about when black church groups in the South adapted European gospel hymns to their own experience and musical heritage. Call-and-response singing was already a part of
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This note was uploaded on 02/24/2009 for the course INART 116 taught by Professor Jeffvanfossan during the Spring '08 term at Penn State.

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Unit 3 Notes - Introduction Doo-wop was a dramatically...

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