From the ’40s to today, things have certainly changed, but this isn’t a history lesson; just consider it as a view of pop culture and how it has reflected on the culture of St. Paul’s School over the years.
The ’40s and ’50s – Through the Eyes of Bro. Jeffrey
Music has been, and will always be, an influential part of our culture. Bro. Jeffrey Calligan, FSC, offers a look at mass media entertainment in the ’40s and ’50s. He noted during World War II, many songs were written to boost troops’ morale. Groups like the Andrews Sisters would go to military camps and perform. Post World War II was fused with songs of victory and glory that American men and women would soon return home.
According to Bro. Jeffrey, most of the popular music was something people could dance to, typically very fast-paced. Jazz was very popular. Crooners like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin were tops on the list. Some singers, in fact all of the ones listed, also acted in movies and on TV shows in the ’50s.
Bro. Jeffrey remembers that Friday night movies would have a “serial” before the movie. The serial was typically a cartoon in which, at the end, the protagonist died…at least that’s what you would think, until next Friday when you sat in your seat, and the serial came on explaining how the hero survived.
Bro. Jeffrey liked the movie “Sign of the Cross,” but said a lot of the movies during and after WWII would be a war movie where the German soldier played the part of a dumb evildoer. He also enjoyed comedians like Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis. The cool thing he stated was that a comedian would often team up with a singer and form a comedy duo. The first comedy duo he remembers was of two comedians, named Abbott and Costello. The plot of each routine was something called a “foil.” A foil was an act where the smarter guy would always play the joke on the dumber guy. He says that later comedy teams, like Hope and Crosby, would include a song and dance to go with their jokes. The final comedy duo he remembers, Martin and Lewis, did just about the same thing, but made their act appeal to children, as well. Jerry Lewis once described their act as “the handsome man and a monkey bit.” He described making the 10-year-old boys laugh while Dean Martin’s singing and charm wooed the women.
Bro. Jeffrey said, “Things were much simpler then; now things are so complicated.” He also noted that Walt Disney had a big influence on the music and movies of this time, as well.
The ’60s and ’70s – Through the Shades of Bro. Ray
Bro. Ray Bulliard, FSC, described how things had changed during the ’60s and ’70s. Musically, the British Invasion took place with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Bob Marley movement would soon take flight, since peace was a big thing. The war in Vietnam influenced the rock-and-roll genre then. It was described as a special time for music, with events such as Woodstock. Of course, Bro. Ray said, “I wasn’t too big of a fan of the Hippie Music.” The “Hippie Music” really took off in the late ’60s and in the early ’70s, when bands like Led Zeppelin started to form — although Bro. Ray didn’t really listen to too much of that either.
Bro. Ray said some of his favorite movies of that time were “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Ten Commandments.” He said he could always get a laugh out of Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart, some of the funniest men in show business at that time. He explained that comedy would be presented through a TV show and carried out through a plot with the characters in the story of the show. An example he gave of this was “All in The Family.”
Another tidbit is that a lot of iconic figures from the ’40s and ’50s, like Martin and Sinatra, had their own late night show during this time period. This led to a show that is still running today: “The Tonight Show,” with it’s original host, Johnny Carson. Carson was a popular comedian and actor in the ’60s and ’70s, but this show was the defining point of his career.
The ’80s – As Coach Simpson Recalls Them
Religion teacher and coach Robert Simpson described the ’80s. Simpson said musically, there were a lot of “one hit wonders.”
“There was a lot of popular songs, but only a few popular bands and artists,” he said.
Some musicians who did not fall into the “one hit wonder” category would be Michael Jackson and Prince. Simpson noted that Tom Cruise was just starting his rise to stardom, and a popular movie starring Cruise he remembers from that time was “Risky Business.” He said the shows “Magnum P.I.” And “M*A*S*H” were a couple he remembered enjoying. He also said Eddie Murphy was becoming a well known comedian and appeared on Saturday Night Live regularly.
The ’90s – Dart Remembers Them Like They were Yesterday
Art Teacher Andrew Dart acts as the Paper Wolf liaison to the ’90s, the final stop on our rundown through time. He noted “grunge” music was popular, with bands like Nirvana. No doubt the ’90s had a strong “Scent of Teen Spirit.” However, the song he remembered being most popular was “Don’t Speak,” by No Doubt.
According to Dart, Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz were very popular actresses during that time, but the hit movie of the decade goes to a favorite that will never sink from our minds and our hearts…“Titanic,” of course.
Dart said, “Everyone is still crazy about that movie.”
Dart noted that during this time period, comedians mostly came from movies and TV shows. But, funny is funny any way you serve it, and Dart said Bob Saget was funny. Dart remembered that early on in their rise to stardom, Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider would often appear on “Saturday Night Live.” Now, they are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
The Pop-Culture Carrousel
What will be of this current century is yet to be seen. However, there are some popular stars and some future stars under the radar today who mimic stars of the 1900s.
Jazz standards, such as those from the ’40s and ’50s, may not be common on campus today, but are still around for relaxing tunes. Michael Bublé is one of the more commonly known artists of this genre. He sings all of the old songs beautifully to where young and old alike can enjoy them. Even if you do not care for Bublé’s jazz crooning, he has a great Christmas album on iTunes. Harry Connick, Jr., is another current day star who would’ve fit right into the ’40s and ’50s. An actor and a musician from New Orleans, he has been in family movies like the “Dolphin Tale” series, is a judge on Fox’s “American Idol,” and has been singing jazz since he was a boy. Maroon 5 also covered Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” and it sounds great.
Comedy duos are still a part of the entertainment world today. Some funny guys who continue to follow the “foil” plot scheme are the comedy duo Key and Peele on Comedy Central.
Although now on its third host, Jimmy Fallon, the “Tonight Show” is still going strong. Fallon is exceptionally funny, and his work never fails to resemble the original late night comedy shows.
Decades after the British Invasion, the Brits are still rolling along. Of course there are one too many British boy bands, but another artist whose music resembles that genre is Jake Bugg. Though their music falls more under the ’90s grunge genre, another popular British band is Green Day.
Kevin Gates claims to be Michael Jackson reincarnated, but Justin Timberlake might beg to differ. He sings a lot like Michael and, no doubt, can dance. His latest hit, “Love Never Felt So Good,” features Jackson before his death.
Crime shows like “Magnum P.I.” are still around. Ironically, Tom Sellick, the star of “Magnum P.I.,” stars in one of them as a police chief on CBS’s “Blue Bloods.” “Modern Family” is a popular comedic show that is somewhat similar to Bob Saget’s “Full House” series, showing that the family sit com can still make people laugh.
Some modern day religious movies like “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “The Ten Commandments” show that biblical stories still draw interest. Also, a lot of movies today follow a type of “Romeo and Juliet” plot, illustrating how some things never change, even if the name does. Apparently, a rose is still a rose.
For those who want more of a feel for an earlier time period, “Mad Men,” does a great job of historically portraying time periods from the early ’60s to the early ’70s. Not only is “Mad Men” historically correct, but it is also madly entertaining.
Disney is still influencing the SPS culture today. In fact, since Disney has been around so long, it is common for them to reference an older movie of theirs, or an older time period, in their current day films, while still tying in modern day entertainment.
So in closing, nothing ever gets old. It just waits a little while before it is new again.