Together, these experts tell the story behind the soundies and explain what made the programs so popular. For many people across the nation, the soundies started a musical revolution. The panoram allowed viewers to see for the first time many of the nation's greatest musicians - as well as the very first footage of black and white musicians performing together. This rare exception to segregation was an important milestone that foreshadowed the 1960s civil rights movement and underscored the fact that music is a catalyst for bringing people together.
This musical compilation of soundies traces the history of this revolutionary viewing device and how it helped launch the careers of musicians as diverse as Doris Day
(who made her first film appearance in a soundie), Liberace
and Nat King Cole
. The next time someone mentions MTV as the cultural phenomenon that "invented" music videos, PBS viewers can note that the giants of jazz, big band and swing set the stage some 40 years before with soundies - a genuine musical innovation.
"Ever since I was a kid, I've loved what we now call American Popular Standards. My parents played them around the house, and it was music that resonated with me at an early age," notes Soundies
host Michael Feinstein
, "and that's why I think the soundies are so compelling because you see amazing performances from the past that are unique and special and deserve to be preserved. It's why I'm very excited to be a part of this project."
Feinstein, one of the premiere interpreters of American popular song, has been a household name since the success of his 1988 one-man show Isn't It Romantic. He enjoys an active performance schedule, performing with symphony orchestras and at major concert halls, intimate jazz clubs and college campuses. More than a mere performer, he is nationally recognized for his commitment to American popular song, both celebrating its art and preserving its legacy for the next generation. Feinstein is currently producing a CD for his friend Liza Minnelli
, based on the music of her renowned godmother Kay Thompson, the author, singer and arranger. He also has written the score for a new stage musical, The Gold Room, opening soon in London's West End.
The classic black-and-white musical performances in Soundies: A Musical History
" Duke Ellington
and his orchestra performing "Hot Chocolate" with Arthur White's Lindy Hoppers - an exhilarating dance performance.
" Cab Calloway
and his orchestra performing "Blow Top Blues."
" Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five performing "Jumpin' at the Jubilee" - a song considered one of the roots of rock 'n' roll.
" Musical legend Les Paul
playing "Baby Don't Cry" - a sizzling performance by an indisputable guitar legend - and comments and commentary from Paul.
" Merle Travis
and Carolina Cotton
playing "Why'd I Fall for Abner."
" A wonderful performance from singing legend Kay Starr
of "Stop That Dancin' Up There," including Starr's first-hand account of the filming of this performance.
Soundies: A Musical History will be airing throughout March on PBS. Check your local listings or visit www.pbs.org/stationfinder/
to find a PBS station near you. If Soundies is not airing on your local PBS affiliate, please contact them and request it. They rely on viewer input to determine their programming so let your voice be heard!