Some of the best musicians ever born had their heyday in the 1930s. No one will ever forget the sweet sounds of Louie Armstrong, or the beautiful voice of Billie Holiday.
Most people did not have televisions, so the radio was the primary source of entertainment throughout the decade. And radio wasn’t exactly like it is now, where DJs play song after song after song. Radio was filled with entertainment of all sorts: stories, poetry, news, live music, variety shows and more.
Songs in the 1930s were sometimes more popular than the artist. It wasn’t strange for a song to become popular by one artist, and then re-done by another artist a month later. Because of this, we tend to focus on the songs more than the artists who performed them, because often times the song was popular and performed by several artists.
Music from the 1930s was generally upbeat and sometimes very relaxing. Humor was an important element in popular music.
Billie Holiday was singing with everyone and Glenn Miller was at the top of his game. And although many of the songs from the 1930s are not well known today, that doesn’t mean they don’t soothe your soul after a stressful day at work.
Some of the most classic songs from the 1930s were: In The Mood, God Bless America, Over The Rainbow, Silent Night, Minnie the Moocher, Strange Fruit and Stormy Weather.
The was truly the era of big band, because the 1920s jazz sound had permeated everything, including orchestras. No longer was jazz limited to the traditional 3-piece combo — now it was being played by very large ensembles. The thirties witnessed the rise of big band.
If you head to the record store I’m sure you can find an awesome collection of 30s music back in the dusty section where they sell the 18-record set by Reader’s Digest for $2.
Over The Rainbow
Everyone knows this song. “Over the Rainbow” was written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg for Wizard of Oz.
It was sung by Judy Garland about 5 minutes into the movie. The song is now known as her signature song.
It was released in 1939, obviously, the same year as the movie.
The song is number one of the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The American Film Institute also ranked “Over the Rainbow” the greatest movie song of all time on the list of “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs”.
It was adopted (along with Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”) by American troops in Europe in World War II as a symbol of the United States—in fact, Garland even performed the song for American troops as part of a 1943 command performance.
In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp recognizing lyricist Yip Harburg’s accomplishments. The stamp pictures the opening lyric from “Over the Rainbow”.
In The Mood
“In the Mood” is a big band era #1 hit recorded by American bandleader Glenn Miller. It topped the charts in 1940 in the U.S. and one year later was featured in the movie Sun Valley Serenade.
No big band-era mixtape/mashup is complete without this one in the rotation. Gotta jukebox?
Like many awesome things in the 1930s, this recording was ALSO released in 1939. What an unbelievable year!
In 1999, National Public Radio (NPR) included the 1939 Glenn Miller recording on RCA Bluebird on the NPR 100, the list of “The 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century”.
The recording by Glenn Miller is one of the most recognized and most popular instrumentals of the 20th century. The song even appeared in The Beatles “All You Need is Love” #1 single in 1967.
Music in 1930
Hit Songs in 1930
Body and Soul
Georgia on My Mind
The Battles of Jericho
Beyond the Blue Horizon
What Is This Thing Called Love?
Walkin’ My Baby Back Home
I Got Rhythm
Bidin’ My Time
Little White Lies
On the Sunny Side of the Street
Love for Sale
St. James Infantry
Top Records in 1930
Tiger Rag by Mills Brothers
You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me by Maurice Chevalier
Ten Cents a Dance by Ruth Etting
Let Me Sing and I’m Happy by Al Jolson
Three Little Words by Ipana Troubadours
Puttin’ On the Ritz by Leo Reisman
Kansas City Kitty by Rudy Vallee
Sing You Sinners by Smith Ballew
Jazz and Big Bands in 1930
Duke Ellington recorded Mood Indigo. Paul Whitman is still considered the “King of Jazz.” Another popular group is the Nichols Band with Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Jack Teagarden.
Music in 1931
Hit Songs in 1931
Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries
Minnie, the Moocher
All of Me
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Dancing in the Dark
Dream a Little Dream of Me
Of Thee I Sing
The Thrill is Gone
Lady of Spain
Live is Sweeping the Country
Top Records in 1931
The Peanut Vendor by Don Azpiazu
Where the Blue of the Night by Bing Crosby
Goodnight, Sweetheart by Ruth Etting
When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain by Kate Smith
You Rascal You by Jack Teagarden
Just a Gigolo by Bing Crosby
I Found a Million Dollar Baby by Ben Pollack
Jazz and Big Bands in 1931
Freddie Martin performs at the Bosser Hotel in Brooklyn, New York. 1931 also saw the introduction of Eddie Duchin, Don Redman and Henry Busse.
Music in 1932
Hit Songs in 1932
Night and Day
April in Paris
I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town
Shuffle Off to Buffalo
I Told Every Little Star
How Deep Is The Ocean
You’re an Old Smoothie
You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me
Top Records in 1932
New Tiger Rag by Louis Armstrong
Reefer Man and The Man from Harlem by Cab Calloway
If You Were the Only Girl by Rudy Vellee
It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing by Duke Ellington
Music in 1933
Hit Songs in 1933
It’s Only a Paper Moon
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Everything I Have Is Yours
Inka Dinka Doo
Let’s Fall in Love
Top Records in 1933
Stormy Weather by Ethel Waters
I Cover the Waterfront by Eddy Duchin
Forty-Second Street by Hal Kemp
Gold Diggers’ Song by Dick Powell
Honeymoon Hotel by Freddy Martin
Heartaches by Ted Weems
Sophisticated Lady by Duke Ellington
Music in 1934
Hit Songs in 1934
Blow, Gabriel, Blow
I Only Have Eyes for You
Cocktails for Two
What a Diff’rence a Day Made
On the Good Ship Lollipop
You and the Night and the Music
You’re the Top
I Get a Kick Out of You
Isle of Capri
The Very Thought of You
Top Records in 1934
Honeysuckle Rose by Dorsey Brothers
Moonglow by Duke Ellington & Benny Goodman
Limehouse Blues by Fletcher Henderson
Sweet Georgia Brown by Earl Hines
Star Fell On Alabama by Jack Teagarden
Down Yonder by Gil Tanner
The Darktown Strutter’s Ball by Luis Russell
Let’s Fall in Love by Eddy Duchin
Jazz and Big Bands in 1934
Benny Goodman, 24, brings swing to big audiences on his National Biscuit radio series, “Let’s Dance.” His band includes Bunny Berigan, Jess Stacy, and Gene Krupa, with arrangements by Fletcher Henderson.
Music in 1935
Hit Songs in 1935
Begin the Beguine
The Music Goes ‘Round and ‘Round
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
It Ain’t Necessarily So
I Got Plenty O’ Nuthin’
Lovely to Look At
Red Sails in the Sunset
Stairway to the Stars
These Foolish Things Remind Me of You
I Loves You, Porgy
You Are My Lucky Star
When I Grow Too Old to Dream
Top Records in 1935
Cheek to Cheek by Fred Astaire
I’m in the Mood for Love by Frances Langford
It’s You I Adore by Russ Morgan
The Oregon Trail by Ozzie Nelson
Lullaby of Broadway by Dick Powell
Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart by Victor Young
June in January by Bing Crosby
Footloose and Fancy Free by Dorsey Brothers
Music in 1936
Hit Songs in 1936
I’m an Old Cow Hand
Is It True What They Say About Dixie?
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
The Night is Young and You’re So Beautiful
Sing, Sing, Sing
Stompin’ at the Savoy
There’s a Small Hotel
You’ve Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby
Top Records in 1936
Let’s Face the Music and Dance, Let Yourself Go, The Way You Look Tonight and Pick Yourself Up by Fred Estaire
Pennies from Heaven by Bing Crosby
In the Chapel in the Moonlight by Ruth Etting
No Regrets by Billie Holiday
Love is Like a Cigarette and Welcome Stranger by Eddy Duchin
Indian Love Call by Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald
Jazz and Big Bands in 1936
Jo Jones and Buck Clayton join Count Basie. Mildred bailey sings with the new Red Norvo band. Popular boogie-woogie piano includes Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons and Bob Zurke. Lester Young plays with the Count Basie combo in Chicago.
Music in 1937
Hit Songs from 1937
A Foggy Day
The Donkey Serenade
Nice Work if You Can Get It
Whistle While You Work
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
Johnny One Note
The Lady Is a Tramp
My Funny Valentine
September in the Rain
Thanks for the Memory
In the Still of the Night
Where or When
Top Records in 1937
Bei mir bist du Schoen by Andrew Sisters
They Can’t Take That Away From Me, They All Laughed, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off and Shall We Dance by Fred Estaire
Someone to Care for Me by Deanna Durbin
Ebb Tide by Bunny Berigan
Have You Met Miss Jones? by Sammy Kaye
Sweet Leilani by Bing Crosby & Lani McIntire and His Hawaiians
Jazz and Big Bands in 1937
Benny Goodman records Sing, Sing, Sing. Charlie Parker joins the Jay McShann Band. Mary Lou Williams plays with Andy Kirk’s Kansas City Band in New York. Harry James plays with Benny Goodman. Top performers included Hal Kemp, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen Mastren Bob Haggert, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Chu Berry and Harry James.
Music in 1938
Top Songs in 1938
Falling in Love With Love
This Can’t Be Love
You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
Get Out of Town
My Heart Belongs to Daddy
Spring is Here
Top Records in 1938
Love Walked In by Kenny Baker
I Married an Angel by Larry Clinton
It’s Wonderful by Shep Fields
Thanks for the Memory and Two Sleepy People by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross
You Go to My Head by Kay Kyser
Love in the Starlight by Dorothy Lamour
One O’Clock Jump by Harry James
Begin the Beguine by Artie Shaw
Jalousie by Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler
Beer Barrel Polka by Will Glahe
A-Tisket, A-Tasket by Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald
Boogie Woogie by Jimmy Dorsey
Jazz and Big Bands in 1938
Benny Goodman gives his first Carnegie Hall concert. The first John Hammond “From Spirituals to Swing” concert is given at Carnegie Hall with Count Basie and Joe Turner. Billie Holiday joins Artie Shaw’s band.
Top performers include Casa Loma, Benny Heller, Bob Haggart, Bob Zurke, Bud Freeman and Harry James.
Music in 1939
Hit Songs in 1939
All the Things You Are
South of the Border
I Concentrate on You
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
I’ll Never Smile Again
If I Didn’t Care
Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!
Top Records in 1939
Oh, Johnny Oh by Orrin Tucker, with Bonnie Baker
Miss Thing by Count Basie
It Don’t Mean a Thing by Lionel Hampton
Body and Soul by Coleman Hawkins
Indiana by Earl Hines
Some Like it Hot by Gene Krupa
Little Brown Jug, In the Mood and Sunrise Serenade by Glenn Miller
That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine by Gene Autry
Ciribiribin by Harry James
Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday
Tuxedo Junction by Erskine Hawkins
Cherokee by Charlie Parker
Jazz and Big Bands in 1939
Charlie Parker goes to New York and plays at Monroe’s Uptown House. Charlie Christian joins Benny Goodman. Jimmy Blanton, Billy Strayhorn and Ben Webster join Duke Ellington. Sy Oliver leaves Jimmy Lunceford to join Tommy Dorsey. Billy Eckstine joins Earl Hines.