American Popular Music in the Postwar Decade

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The postwar decade of pop music was susceptible to many evolutions primarily because of the cultural shift and inherent complexity of a society both post and mid-war (Starr & Waterman, 2010). Pop music of the time was more or less a success story of timing, economic growth, cultural renewal, prevalence, and inherency with the radio providing news of the war abroad (Starr & Waterman, 2010). Considering that World War II was unexpectedly beneficial to the economy altogether (in part to the FDR Presidency), it is hardly surprising that the music industry benefitted from this. The radio gained a certain ubiquity in that its presence allowed listeners immediate access to both news and entertainment (Starr & Waterman, 2010)—meaning that after the war ended, Americans were swept up into a cultural rejuvenation, which would naturally be reflected in the art of the period. The new generation of vocalists such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole were in the spotlight, instead of the bandleader, resulting in publishing houses receiving bigger earnings (Starr & Waterman, 2010). Subsequently, it was a golden age both financially and developmentally.

The excitement that came with the United States’ victory was joined with a sort of widespread economic proliferation as well—with radios rapidly sculpting this new cultural generation alongside more commonly available records and turntables (Starr & Waterman, 2010), so music became a prevalent facet of American life. Capitol, still a juggernaut in the contemporary music industry, was the beginning of major music companies founded elsewhere than New York (Starr & Waterman, 2010). Because of the war, music, if not American culture in its entirety, began to evolve. These dynamic changes stem from the incredibly quick leaps that its culture took. Many parallels to modern music could first be seen here—particularly in the idolization of singers such as Amy Winehouse or the Grateful Dead, and targeting the younger listener (Starr & Waterman, 2010), which is certainly visible in contemporary popular music. Post-war pop music was already on the cusp of change during its inception. Thus, it seems that the excitement of peace reigning was infectious and evident in the music.


Starr, L., & Waterman, C. A. (2010). American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3 (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.