Swing Jazz & Society in America


Swing Jazz & Society

Swing jazz is a form of American music that emerged in the early 1930s. By the 1940s the music had become very much distinctive from other forms of jazz and music (Giddins & Scott 10). Swing jazz encompasses a strong rhythm section of the double bass and drums as the main instruments of the lead section of the brass instruments that are used for swing. The name swing was derived from a common phrase ‘swing feel’. The paper focuses on swing jazz and the influences it had on society at the time it was developed.

Great Depression

The stock market crashed in 1929 and led to the great depression. Since the civil war, the great depression was categorized among the worst crisis that America has ever experienced. One out of four wage earners was out of jobs. In 1932 on a single day, one-quarter of the United States was auctioned off. During this time, a new kind of jazz came to raise, the swing jazz.  The impact that swings jazz had on America was revolutionary.

The swing jazz rescued America’s recording industry. By 1932, around 10 million swing jazz records were sold within the United States. This improved the economy of the recording industry during the great depression. Swing jazz also helped the nation get through the hard economic times they were going through by listening to the music.

World War II

World War II and jazz music had a substantial impact on each other. The soldiers fighting abroad had their morale boosted by listening to swing. The swing also soothed and encouraged their loved ones back at home. Quite a number of soldiers were jazz musicians. Swing artists also traveled abroad to entertain the US troops that were abroad fighting. World War II impacted swing jazz in numerous ways. Due to the war, there was rationing on rubber and gasoline hence making it difficult for the musicians to travel.

Most buses and trains were used by the servicemen leading to less available means of transportation for the musicians. The twenty percent entertainment tax had an impact on the music as ballrooms were being shut down countrywide and the production of musical instruments and jukeboxes came to a halt. In 1942, a recording ban was implemented on the American Federation of musicians until a time when record companies would pay the musicians for their songs that were played on the radio.


After the development of swing jazz, a number of technological advancements in the music industry were made. From the popularity of photographs and jukeboxes, the technology employed radio discs. The production of the radio discs increased from 25,000 units in 1933 to around 300,000 in 1939 (Tumpak 89). This growth has patented the development of musical consumer culture around swing jazz.


During this time racial segregation was very intense in America. Jazz was greatly influenced by African Americans. Through the swing, jazz was commonly accepted by people of all races. White people listened and enjoyed black music and both African and white Americans produced the swing jazz. Swing symbolized a kind of freedom for America (Ballantine 152). The breaking of barriers that separated Americans from each other for centuries is accredited to swing.

America’s Popular Music

Swing jazz is considered America’s popular music. The music was accepted and listened to everyone in America. Besides the entertaining aspect of swing jazz, jazz opened and prepared avenues for civil rights movements in America.  Jazz musicians had a lot of fans. Some fans would follow the musicians whenever they went (Tumpak 175). The number of records that were sold during the swing era shows how much jazz was a popular kind of music in America.

Difference between Early Jazz and Swing Jazz

One major difference between early jazz and swing jazz is that with the swing jazz, the orchestra is at most times bigger as compared to that of early jazz. The popularity of swing jazz was far much greater as compared to that of early jazz. This is evident through the number of swing jazz records that were sold.

Interesting Thing about Swing Era Jazz

The pop aspect of swing jazz is the most interesting fact about the swing era.  This is because the pop aspect is considered to have greatly influenced and helped to popularize most of the American standard. The impact of swing during its era is another interesting fact. Through music, barriers that existed between Americans were broken down.


Works cited

Ballantine, Christopher J. Marabi Nights: Jazz, ‘race’ and Society in Early Apartheid South African.             Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2012.

Giddins, Gary, and Scott K. DeVeaux. Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

Tumpak, John R. When Swing Was the Thing: Personality Profiles of the Big Band Era. Milwaukee, Wis:             Marquette University Press, 2008.

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