Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Forgotten Creative Genius No 3.

The next forgotten creative genius is a musician that created the building blocks of modern music, Louis Jordan.

During the 1940s and early 50s, this saxophone-playing singer and bandleader created innovative music in a style called jump 'n' jive, a frenetic fusion of jazz and blues. 

Louis Jordan took this style chopped it up, tossed it around and threw the pieces in the air. And down came the prototypes of Hip Hop, Rap, Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll.

Jordan possessed a unique singing style. His slang lyrics and cadence was what we know today as Rap.
While Rap can be traced to news singers of West Africa it was Jordan who experimented with this new singing style and put it to record.

In 1947 the tracks, 'Beware (Brother Beware)' and 'Look Out (Sister)', were spoken as rhyming couplets. The first true raps in popular music. The cadence, the rhyming, the attitude, the hipster slang is all there. Debbie Harry eat your heart out.

'Beware (Brother Beware.)'

If he drives you to the beach
and he starts to reach,
look out, sister look out

If he says you look fetchin'
and wants to go show you his etchin's,
don't go up there, you better not go up there.

And if he says you know you look good in a sweater,
go home and write him a leteer, hmm, hmmm,

'Saturday Night Fish Fry' from 1950 also features a rapid-fire, highly syncopated semi-spoken vocal delivery that Kanye West would have been proud of.

Now my buddy and me was on the main stem
Foolin' around just me and him
We decided we could use a little something to eat
So we went to a house on Rampart Street

We knocked on the door and it opened up with ease
And a lush little miss said, "Come in, please"
And before we could even bat an eye
We were right in the middle of a big fish fry

Although it's churlish to suggest that one artist was responsible for Rock and Roll, Louis Jordan has a case for taking more credit than most for this genre. 

Jordan was the greatest post-war exponent of the jump jive. He brought attitude with his gutsy lyrics, rockier beats and frenetic live performances. Music producers were quick to take this new sound to other bands.

Milt Gabler was Jordan's producer,  and spotting the potential in the rockier rollier beats that Jordan was performing, took them over to other Decca stable mates,  most notably to Bill Haley and The Comets. 

Haley recorded several of his songs, including "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (which Gabler co-wrote) and "Caldonia."

The dance floor  sound soon began to rock as teenagers went wild and gyrated like a pneumatic drills in suits and skirts. The joists of the wooden floors creaked and groaned a little bit harder.

Chuck Berry and Little Richard were huge fans of Louis Jordan.
Berry modeled his musical approach on Jordan's, changing the lyric  from black life to teenage life, and substituting cars and girls for Jordan's themes of food, drink and women. 

We all know the opening riff to Chuck Berry's Johnny B.Goode. 

Listen to  the intro played by Jordan's guitarist, Carl Hogan, on the 1946 hit "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" and you'll hear the similarities.

Jordan was a gifted player of the alto saxophone. He made the instrument wail and scream in a way that was unheard of for the time. 

He blew a unique energy that ripped each note with a fervor and passion that was compelling and inspirational. The sax became a progressive rock instrument in his hands.

As a songwriter, Jordan's output was phenomenal. He wrote or co-wrote over 100 songs, 57 of them were hits. 18 reached No1.

Although the methodology of gathering chart information has changed over the years, Jordan is still ranked by Billboard in the top 5 best selling artists of all time.

Jordan was at the forefront of the first music promos 

In the 1940s, he promoted his singles with soundies. Short three-minute films, shown on coin-operated video jukeboxes  in nightclubs.  He gatecrashed the MTV of the 1940's with charisma, style and passion and was fondly dubbed 'The King Of The video Jukebox' 

And with his comedic talent and fine acting skills he went on to appear in many mainstream films.

Modern music owes a huge debt to Louis Jordan. 
He was a true pioneer.And judging by the numerous playlists I see, Jordan is most definitely a forgotten genius.

James Brown, once cited  Louis Jordan as the major influence on his career.

" I identify myself with Louis Jordan more than any other artist. He could sing, he could dance, he could play, he could act. He could do it all."

 Louis Jordan 1908-1975.

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