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    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.

    Multicultural Night - April 26

    Ms. Luke/Mrs. Wilson's 1st grade class will be singing (in Chinese) and playing instruments.  Here is a pronounciation practice track.

    Feng Yang song Pronounciation Practice


    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. Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five | Run-DMC | The Sugarhill Gang | Public Enemy | James Brown | Otis Redding | Sister Rosetta Tharpe | The Beatles | T-Bone Walker | Chuck Berry

    Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five (1976 - 1986)

    Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five (Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole, Keith Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio, and Rahiem) are some of the original sources of hip-hop music - they created it.  Grand Master Flash made the use of a pair of turntables into an art form and played them with the skill of a professional instrumentalist.  In early hip-hop the DJ (on the turntables) was in charge, creating the mood and running the show, letting MCs on the mic when he saw fit.  This group was hugely successful putting on live shows in the Bronx and elsewhere around New York City.  After the Sugarhill Gang released "Rapper's Delight" the saw the commercial possibilities for their music and signed a contract with Sugar Hill Records. 

    Their most renouned hit was "The Message" a song that was about the real life circumstances in which hip-hop was born: the poverty of the Bronx.  It paved the way for artists like Public Enemy, and others, who rapped about inequality and racial injustice.

    The lyrics don't use profanity, but describe the tough scene in the Bronx in the 1970s.

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    Run-DMC (1983 - 2002)

    Run-DMC (DJ Run - Joseph Simmons, DMC - Darryl McDaniels, Jam-Master Jay - Jason Mizell) is considered to be one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time.  They changed not only the sound but also the look of hip-hop.  Earlier artists were all about flashy elaborate costumes, beads, feathers, sequins and fur.  Run-DMC dressed like people from the street, their distinctive hats and Addidas shoes became their trademark. Their sound was similarly distinctive.  They stripped hip-hop down to minimalist percussive bones, and then added electric guitars, (see "Rock Box" below) creating a sort of fusion of hip-hop and rock that had crossover appeal.  
    They were the first hip-hop group on MTV, on the cover of Rolling Stone, and on American Bandstand. 

    The hit that brought them into the mainstream was a cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." 
    Here's "Rock Box"

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    The Sugarhill Gang (1979 - )

    Th​​e Sugarhill Gang was a one hit wonder in the United States, but what a hit it was.  "Rapper's Delight" was the first rap recording to hit the top 40 and it brought hip-hop music (previously a live-performance art form specific to the Bronx, NY)  into the public eye.  Ironically, there were 3 rappers (Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee) and no MC on this recording, and they were not part of the original hip-hop scene in the Bronx.  They were all from New Jersey.  Founders of rap were stunned and not a little bit upset that these were the first world-wide rap stars.  Many more succesful recordings from other artists followed suit and now hip-hop is everywhere, but this is the recording that started it.  The original is almost 15 minutes.  Here's a live, but shorter version.

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    Public Enemy (1986 - )

    We jumped ahead in time to hear just how enormously influential James Brown was.  It was the funky drum breaks in his (and other artists') music that gave us the name 'break dancing.' 
    Hip-hop music started with DJs in the Bronx using two turntables to cut between records, pulling out select parts (sampling) and repeating them, dragging the records back and forth under the needle (scratching) for rhythmic effect.  James Brown's records were sampled more than anyone elses. 

    Original line up for Public Enemy consisted of Chuck D. rapping, Flavor Flav as the hype man, emphasizing lyrics and adding humor, and Professor Griff as the M.C.  Personnel has changed but they are still releasing albums.

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    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

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    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."

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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