A brief history of Popular Music before Rock Music

Blues, Country, Cabaret, Ragtime, Film Music, Soul, European, Latin, Jamaican, African, Arab, Indian...

by Piero Scaruffi (ISBN 978-0-9765531-2-0)
About the author
See also the The History of Jazz Music and the The History of Rock Music

TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.

To purchase the book

  • European beginnings

    Napoli: the Aria

    Vienna: the Waltz

    Paris, Vienna, London: the Operetta

    Paris: the Cabaret

    Berlin: the Cabaret

    Britain: the Music Hall

    Roma: the Canzonetta

  • The USA up to World War II

    New York: Tin Pan Alley

    New York: the Minstrel Show

    New York: the Revue

    New York: the Night Club

    St Louis: Ragtime

    USA: Ballroom Dancing

    Memphis: Jug music

    New Orleans: Spasm

    Lafayette: Cajun

    Texas: tex-mex

    London: Mood music

    USA: TV Variety Show

    USA: the Soap Opera

    USA: Remaking the Music Business

    The Origins of the American Domination

  • The Musical

    New York: The Musical

  • Film Music

    Hollywood: Film Music

  • Blues Music

    The South: Negro Music

    Negro Music: the African Perspective

    Negro Music: the European Perspective

    New York: the Birth of a Black Nation

    New Orleans, Kansas City, Memphis

    The Delta: Blues Music

    Chicago: Urban Blues

    Chicago: Gospel Music

    Chicago: Boogie-woogie

  • Country Music

    Southern States: Hillbilly Music

    New York: Dissent

    Texas and Tennessee: Country Music

    The Importance of Country Music

  • Jazz Music

    ...see the book on jazz music...

  • Rhythm'n'Blues

    New York: Jump Blues

    Los Angeles: Sophisticated Blues

    Interlude: Rocking Around the Clock

    Chicago: Rhythm'n'blues

    Post-war Gospel Music

    Kansas City: the Shouters

    Roaring Divas

    Chicago: Post-war Blues Guitar

    Blues Guitar Elsewhere

    Memphis: Post-war Blues Crooning

    New Orleans: Piano Blues and Swamp Blues

    Post-war Vocal Groups


    The Importance of Rhythm'n'Blues Music

  • Latin America

    Argentina: the Tango

    Brazil: the Samba

    Cuba: the Son

    Trinidad: the Calypso

  • Post-war Pop Music in the USA

    USA: After Tin Pan Alley

    New York: Easy Listening

  • World Music on the Rise

    Jamaica: the Mento

    Ghana: the Highlife

    Congo: the Soukous

    South Africa: the Mbaqanga

    Brazil: Bossanova

    USA: Latin Pop

    Arabs: Maqam

    Indian Classical Music

    France: the Chansonniers

    France: the Ye'ye Generation

    Algeria: the Rai

    Russia: the Intelligentsia

    Latin America: the Nueva Cancion

  • Post-war Country Music

    The Nashville Sound

    Nashville Songwriters

    Bakersfield: Honky-tonk

    Nashville: Country-pop

  • Soul Music

    The Founding Fathers of Soul Music

    Soul Singer-songwriters

    Soul and Rock

    Soul Styles

    Southern Soul

    Detroit Soul

  • The Post-war Musical

    New York: The Post-war Musical

    New York: Concept Musical

  • Post-war Film Music

    Hollywood: The New Wave of Film Music

    Film Music as Ambience

    Videogame Music

    Film Music of the 1990s

  • Rock Music

    ...see the book on rock music...

  • Alphabetical Index
  • Appendix: A Chronology of Popular Music
  • Appendix: Chronology of the USA
  • Appendix: Chronology of Britain


Having written a book on rock music and a book on jazz music, and being in the process of writing a book on the classical music of the 20th century, i felt the need to put somewhere the many musical genres and movements that do not quite fit either of these categories. I also felt that i needed to research the beginning of the industry of popular music in Western Europe and the USA in order to better understand the dynamics of the industry of jazz and rock music. I also felt that ethnic music has become so pervasive that one should trace its parallel development next to Western European and USA musical genres. This book aims at filling all these gaps. I did my best to give it an organic feeling, although it is obvious that musicians from such diverse regions of the world had very little in common. Only after the synthesis of the 1970s can we talk of a global history of popular music. This book is about the foundations of that synthesis.

It was not terribly difficult to decide how to separate jazz music from pop music. It was much more difficult to decide how to separate rock music from the rest of popular music, because rock music has absorbed just about everything. Bits and pieces of this book were originally written for my 2003 book on rock music. The borderline is really more temporal than stylistic. Anything that happened after the 1960s is or will be in the book on rock music. Thus reggae and salsa are not in this book, nor is country music of the 1970s. The idea is that you should read this book first, then the history of jazz music and the history of rock music.

piero scaruffi, january 2007


Hardy, Phil & Laing Dave: "Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music" (1990)
John Kenrick's History of the Musical
Melody Lane
Thanks to Chris Ford for proof-reading the whole text.
To purchase the book
Rock | Germany | Japan | Italy | France | Scandinavia | Latin America | Africa | India | Jamaica | Country | Soul | Musical | Film Music | Blues | Jazz

TM, ®, Copyright © 2002 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.

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