Music history of the United States

Music history of the United States includes many styles of folk, popular and classical music. Some of the best-known genres of American music are blues, jazz, rock and roll, rock, hip hop, house, and country. The history began with the Native Americans, the first people to populate North America. The music of these people was highly varied in form, and was mostly religious in purpose.

Justin Timberlake at the 2017 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

With the colonization of America from European countries like France, Spain, Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales came Christian choirs, musical notation, broadsides, as well as West African slaves. West African slaves played a variety of instruments, especially drums and string instruments similar to the banjo. The Spanish also played a similar instrument called the Bandora. Both of these cultures introduced polyrhythms and call-and-response style vocals.

As the United States incorporated more land, spreading west towards the Ocean, more immigrants began to arrive in the country, bringing with them their own instruments and styles. During this time, the United States grew to incorporate the Cajun and Creole music of Louisiana, the Polynesian music of Hawaii and Tex-Mex and Tejano music. Immigrants brought with them the Eastern European polka, Chinese and Japanese music, and Polish fiddling, Scottish and Irish music, Ashkenazi Jewish klezmer, and other styles of Indian, Russian, French, German, Italian, Arab and Latin music.

In the 21st century, American popular music achieved great international acclaim. Even since the ragtime and minstrel songs of the 19th century, African Americans have greatly influenced American popular music. The rural blues of poor black Southerners and the jazz of black urbanites were among the earliest styles of American popular music. At the time, black performers typically did not perform their own material, instead using songs produced by the music publishing companies of Tin Pan Alley. African American blues evolved during the early 20th century, later evolving to create genres like rhythm and blues. During this time, jazz diversified into steadily more experimental fields. By the end of the 1940s, jazz had grown into such varied fields as bebop and jazz.

Rock and roll was soon to become the most important component of American popular music, beginning with the rockabilly boom of the 1950s. In the following decade, gospel evolved into secular soul. Rock, country and soul, mixed with each other and occasionally other styles, spawned a legion of subgenres over the next few decades, ranging from heavy metal to punk and funk. In the 1970s, urban African Americans in New York City began performing spoken lyrics over a beat provided by an emcee; this became known as hip hop music. By the dawn of the 21st century, hip hop had become a part of most recorded American popular music, and by the 2010s had surpassed rock music in overall listenership.


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Music history of the United States, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.