This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life

Forties Music

  • July 18, 2012 6:30 am

I was brought up on rock and roll—Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and later, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was the music I choose as the background throughout my life from my pre-teens and into my adulthood.

Lately, thanks to Sirius radio, I’ve discovered the Forties radio station. And now I’m head-over-heels in love with it.

I’m sure some of the songs are etched in my memory from when I was very young. They are the songs my Mom loved and sang along with on the radio in her lovely alto voice. Mom listened to the crooners: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, the Andrews Sisters, and the Dorsey Brothers. She even gave me a Sinatra LP as birthday gift when I was in my twenties.

There’s something about great songs with words that make sense sung by people with melodious voices. I love the witty lyrics in many of the songs, too. And it’s really cool to hear legendary singers like Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, or Marlene Dietrich sing their hits. I am even getting to be pretty good at imitating Dietrich’s accent and voice quality—she had a smoky, “whiskey” voice—I’m sure for the times, it was quite exotic.

When I listen to this music, I am transported to a simpler time and place. I can imagine my Mom, a beautiful young woman, swooning over these artists and romantically dancing with a special someone to it. The music and lyrics are timeless, and lose nothing in the interpretation by modern artists like Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, and even Rod Stewart who have recorded them.

This music soothes me, and it’s fun to sing along with Bing Crosby as he sings “Mairzy Doats”—one of the many novelty songs of that era. Forties music is different from listening to “smooth jazz” or show music. The songs need no context to make sense—they’re about love lost and found and relationships and about life. It’s no surprise that younger artists like Michael Buble’ and Harry Connick Jr. love this music and have made careers promoting it.


I love this music, too. And when I feel that I need an escape from the turmoil that surrounds me, I reach for the tiny Sirius remote and tune in the Forties radio station and let the iconic music whisk me away.



  1. Jane says:

    Oh, Kathy, I swoon along with you. I also like the Sinatra station on Sirius. I grew up on Forties music because my father had an orchestra before I was born called Ray and his Collegians. They used to play at an Ohio dance hall called Mill Hollow. He told me that the road into the hollow was so steep that to get back up to the main road, cars would have to back out of the hollow in reverse, I guess a more powerful gear at the time.

  2. Linda Young says:

    Music speaks to us in so many ways. I too remember music of the 40’s since I listened to it on the radio which my mother always had on. There is a woman here in Buffalo named Rose Bond that sings music of the 40’s which she writes herself. That seems silly because of course her music was not in existence in the 40’s but when you hear it you cannot tell the difference. It sounds like you have just tuned into the 40’s station. It is as if she takes the room back in time.

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