Skip To ContentSkip To Content

    K-5 Vocal Music Class News

    There is always a lot of activity in the Stevens music room. We sing, dance, play instruments and try to keep it all fun and engaging while building technical skills, expanding our musical vocabularies and taking care of each other.

    Building a Web of Musical Connection

    The bulletin board outside the music room is a growing network of musicians and how they influenced each other. Each week at the beginning of 3rd-5th grade classes we hear a song from an artist, and then I explain how they connect with the previous artist.

    I'm reversing the order of the artists so the most recent addition appears at the top of this list.

    James Brown | Otis Redding | Sister Rosetta Tharpe | The Beatles | T-Bone Walker | Chuck Berry

    James Brown (1933-2006)

    James Brown grew up extremely poor and didn't go past 6th grade in school. He sang and danced as a child but formed his first band, a gospel singing quartet, in reform school (juvenile jail). They changed their name, added instrumentalists left gospel behind and went on to create Soul. James Brown's live act was intense - in the style of Little Richard but with constant dancing. His music evolved into funk and his later 60's repertoire is almost rap. His music has been sampled (used in other's recordings, like for rap and hip hop) more than any other artist.

    Here's a 1966 performance that combines 2 of his big hits, "I feel Good" and "Pappa's got a Brand New Bag"

    And here is an earlier live performance. He was very strict with his band and back up dancers and would charge them fines for mistakes on stage.

    Ain't It Funky Now

    Mother Popcorn

    Back to top

    Otis Redding (1941-1967)

    Otis Redding started out trying to sing just like Little Richard. Like Little Richard, he also had deep roots in gospel music. He went on to help create the genre of Soul music. Soul has many gospel stylings, in addition to overlapping with the blues and rock and roll. Redding was a gifted songwriter - he wrote Aretha Franklin's hit RESPECT. His most famous song, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" was a direct response to The Beatles Sargent Pepper's album. It took his music in a new direction, but he died in a plane crash before anyone heard where else he would go.

    Here's a live performance (in Norway) of "Try a Little Tenderness."

    and here is his biggest hit, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay."

    Back to top

    Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973)

    We stepped back in time to hear another of Chuck Berry's influences. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a child prodigy on the guitar, performing on the gospel circuit when she was 6. She was a renowned gospel musician who helped create rock and roll with her unique (at the time) guitar technique. She drew large numbers of non-gospel fans to her performances, but stuck to the traditional music of her church. Here's a live performance in a train station in England. Her playing starts at 0:55.

    Back to top

    ​The Beatles (1960-1970 - the band's dates, not the players)

    John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison & Ringo Starr

    Chuck Berry's influence influence can't really by under-emphasized. The Beatles eventually created their very own style of music, but they started out covering American rock and roll songs from him, and similar bands. Here they are playing his signature tune, "Roll Over Beethoven."

    The masses of screaming teenagers that I described in class are especially audible in this performance of the same song.

    The Beatles stopped performing live after their 1966 tour, but didn't stop playing and the freedom to do anything they wanted in the studio led to some amazing music. Here's "A Day in the Life" which features an orchestra playing an improvised build up of sound as a transition to the middle of the song.

    Back to top

    T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)

    Chuck Berry got some of his guitar stylings from blues players, and named T-Bone Walker as a particular influence. T-Bone was one of the earliest players of electric guitar, especially as a melody instrument.

    Here's T-Bone playing one of his most famous tunes "Stormy Monday." T-Bone's influence can be heard in any blues you hear played on electric guitar.

    Back to top

    Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

    Chuck Berry - Roll Over Beethoven

    Chuck Berry was one of the creators of Rock and Roll, known his distinctive guitar solos and stage showmanship​, including the duck walk.

    This video of a later Chuck Berry features a great guitar solo and duck walk starting at 1:12.

    Back to top