Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Down South Camp Meeting" - Benny Goodman

That's My Jam!

When two guys as brilliant as Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman put their heads together, you get songs like "Down South Camp Meeting."

You might be more familiar with Benny Goodman.  He was, after all, the King of Swing and helped to bring Swing Jazz into public acceptance. This was the 1930's and conservative whites were not comfortable with their children listening and dancing to what they considered to be "colored people's" music. Benny Goodman began a trend that happened again and again in every generation of the 20th century - he was the white guy playing the black people's music who helped bridge the gap. Some would consider him the Elvis of his time.

What you might not know is that the musical genius behind the scenes who composed much of Goodman's music was a man named Fletcher Henderson who did not happen to be white. Together Henderson and Goodman would influence the entire progression of popular music.

If you pull up my Great Lindy Hop and Balboa Playlist on Spotify and sort by artist you'll see a whole bunch of songs by Benny Goodman. "Down South Camp Meeting" stands out to me because of just how dance-able it is.

First, it swings. It swings hard. The syncopations fall right into the pocket. It's one of those songs that just feels right. It feels comfortable. It rises and falls. It grows and shrinks. The themes repeat, but with enough variety that they are playful and familiar, not annoying or dull. It's a tune that makes you want to move your feet.

If you're interested in learning more about Henderson and Goodman I'd recommend checking out Ken Burn's documentary "Jazz" which is on Netflix currently, or the BBC documentary "The Swing Thing" which I've poste
d below. Both touch on this topic among a host of other awesome stories about swing.

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