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Traditional pop or Classic pop or Standards music denotes, in general, Western (and particularly American) popular music that either wholly predates the advent of rock and roll in the mid-1950s, or to any popular music which exists concurrently to rock and roll but originated in a time before the appearance of rock and roll, and its offshoots, as the dominant commercial music of the United Statesmarker and Western culture. (For a definition of "Traditional pop" see .) The terms pop standards or (where relevant) American standards are used to denote the most popular and enduring songs from this style of music. More generally, the term 'standard' can be used to describe any popular song that has become very widely known within mainstream culture.


Classic pop embraces the song output of the Broadwaymarker and Hollywoodmarker show tune writers from approximately World War I to the 1950s, such as Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter and a host of others. The works of these songwriters and composers are usually considered part of the canon known as the "Great American Songbook".

The big band era further developed the genre of "pop standards". Bandleaders like Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie continued to innovate. Big band singers, who had previously been considered instrumentalists and were rarely singled out, now became huge stars, like Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Shore.

The genre was embodied by a remarkable and diverse group of singers, writers and stylemakers. Jazz pioneers Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Paul Whiteman first popularized jazz music among a diverse audience. Meanwhile the Tin Pan Alleymarker and Broadwaymarker songwriters popularized the "Great American Songbook". Soon afterward, radio introduced millions of Americans to the same songs, often written by artists like Hoagy Carmichael, or sung in a more soothing, personal style by crooners like Rudy Vallee or Bing Crosby.

The distinction between pop standards and the broader popular music of the aforementioned time period lies in an enduring appeal of the greatest of these songs, long after their time of being "chart hits," although methods for measuring commercial appeal changed greatly over the course of the twentieth century. The songs of classic pop may also be said to possess certain ineffable qualities, including but not limited to an ease and memorability of melody, along with wit and charm of lyric. The greatest of the classic pop writers achieved this with regularity; at the same time, many classic pop standards, such as "Learning the Blues" by Dolores Silver, "Willow Weep for Me" by Ann Ronell were that era's version of the one-hit wonder: songs from writers who never again delivered an eventual standard.

In later decades, the standard-bearers were bands and orchestras led by such luminaries as Guy Lombardo, Nelson Riddle, and television friendly singers like Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin, and the cast of Your Hit Parade. Many artists made their mark with pop standards particularly interpreters like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr., Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan, Eydie Gorme, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson, Jack Jones, Steve Lawrence and Cleo Laine.

In other genres such as country music was Patsy Cline and classical artists like Victor Borge, made their biggest impact in creating crossover pop, or by performing on pop music shows like Toast of the Town.

Many contemporary performers have worked in the style of classic pop including Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, John Pizzarelli, Karrin Allyson, Madeleine Peyroux, Jane Monheit, Maude Maggart, as well as those known as cabaret singers such as Andrea Marcovicci and Bobby Short.

The advent of rock and roll

With the growing popularity of Rock and Roll in the 1950s, much of what Baby Boomers considered to be their parents' music, Traditional Pop, was pushed aside. Popular music sung by Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and their contemporaries was relegated in the 1960s and 1970s to Las Vegas club acts and elevator music.

A major change in popular culture came in 1983 when singer Linda Ronstadt, then considered the leading female vocalist of the rock era elected to change the direction of her career. She collaborated with legendary orchestra leader Nelson Riddle and released a hugely successful album of standards from the ’40s and ’50s, What's New. It reached #3 on the Billboard chart, won a Grammy, and inspired Ronstadt to team up with Riddle for two more albums: 1984’s Lush Life and 1986’s For Sentimental Reasons. The gamble paid off because all three albums were hits, the international concerts were a great success and Nelson Riddle picked up a few Grammys in the process. Linda Ronstadt's courage and determination to produce these albums exposed a whole new generation to the sounds of the pre-swing and swing eras.

Using the Ronstadt prototype, rock/pop stars singing Traditional Pop music for a large commercial market has become acceptable and bankable. Many of these examples include Cyndi Lauper, Sheena Easton, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson, Joan Osborne, Rita Coolidge and Rod Stewart who all have made forays into this once shunned territory.

In recent times, there appears to have been a union of rock n roll with traditional pop, as many current pop stars and musicians use rock and roll instrumentation but with arrangements and compositions in the spirit of predecessors from the earlier era. For an example of this, hear vocalist Michael Bublé's interpretation of the The Beatles rock n roll hit, Can't Buy Me Love, performed in more traditional pop arrangement.

Current adherence to traditional pop

The appearance of lounge culture in the mid-1990s in the United States helped to enhance the revival and interest in the music, style, and performers of popular music prior to rock and roll, such as the Rat Pack and recording artists associated with exotica, although the latter has only a cursory connection with classic pop traditions of the past.

At present, the history or historiography of Traditional Pop music is still a moving history, with vocalists still appreciating these timeless songs. In recent years, Rod Stewart has concentrated on reintroducing the "Great American Songbook", to a large scale audience in the same manner Linda Ronstadt did twenty years prior. His first album from the songbook series, It Had to Be You ... The Great American Songbook, reached #4 and its success led him to release three more albums. These commercial successes show not only the fine craftsmanship behind the creation of these types of popular songs, but also the desire and enthusiasm the public has when presented with a great song and melody.

Singers and groups generally associated with traditional pop

Male singers
Female singers
Male groups
Female groups

See also


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