1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers...on the verge of Rock 'n Roll
EASY-POP Songs of the Fifties
The cultural impact of rock ‘n’ roll was so
dramatic that it eclipsed the under-appreciated EASY-POP
songs of the fifties.
versatile singers, the unique arrangements that backed them, the infectious lyrics, and the finger-snapping beat, characterize the
recordings we remember as quintessential 50s EASY-POP songs.
The music appeared as early as 1948 and lasted for decades, but during the 1950s there was an astonishing variety of singers, arrangements, and lyrics that produced records more innovative than the sum of their parts.
While fifties EASY-POP recordings encompass a wide variety of
influences—swing, country, show tunes, rhythm & blues, jazz,
gospel, folk, calypso, ragtime, and international sounds—they are
recognized in four ways: (1) the singer is the preeminent element of
the recording; (2) the infectious musical accompaniment supports the
vocalist, often using unusual instruments, back-up singers, and unique
recording tricks; (3) the catchy lyrics reflect a youthful idealistic
view of love and the world; and (4) there is a melody you can hum—set
to a finger-snapping beat.
The concinnity of singers, arrangements, and lyrics create a memorable sound—quintessential 50s EASY-POP.
The harmonious relationship between vocalist and lyric is epitomized in the recording of Tenderly. Jack Lawrence and Walter Gross provide the memorable lyric, “I can’t forget how two hearts met breathlessly” and Rosemary Clooney, with her husky delivery, conveys a perfect earthiness in the word ‘breathlessly.’
In I Went to Your Wedding, Jessie Mae Robinson wrote “You came down the aisle, wearing a smile, a vision of loveliness” and Patti Page’s slight Oklahoma accent was delightful for the word ‘loveliness’ in this perfect marriage of vocalist and lyric.
Nat King Cole’s smoky delivery in his recording of Ray Evans and Jack Livingston’s Mona Lisa was remarkable—combined with Les Baxter conducting Nelson Riddle’s lush arrangement—it is unforgettable.
The McGuire Sisters bring their perfect harmony to the words Sincerely oh yes Sincerely in their extraordinary recording of the hit song written by Harvey Fuqua and rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey Allen Freed.
And who can imagine a more ideal choice to record That’s Amore than handsome, Italian singer Dean Martin.
Often considered a restrictive decade, the 1950s actually welcomed all forms of popular music—much more so, in fact, than the rockin’ decade to follow. Rather than isolate certain musical styles as ‘out of the mainstream,’ the decade of the 50s seemed open to anything. The pop standards of the fifties evolved from the musical styles of the big bands that preceded them and foreshadowed the tempo of the up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll sounds.