You are likely thinking I’ve lost my mind tagging 1940s music as appropriate to an intergenerational group, but hear me out.

Music can spur a lot of memories and conversation whether you were alive in an era or not. For those who lived in a period, music is tied to events and emotions. For those not alive during a period, it is a wonderful way to learn about an era – what people felt, experienced, recurrent themes, and more. The 1940s are filled with memorable events – both good and bad.

Here are some thoughts (both musical and non-musical) for sharing the 1940s with young, old or both together. Consider the following:

Big Band Music

Artie Shaw

Cover of Artie Shaw

Big band music can be used for dancing, background music, or conversations starters. Consider selections by Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and the Dorsey brothers (just to name a few). Make use of biographical info like this on Artie ShawWith the use of solos in a lot of big band music, exploring instruments and identifying the sounds can be included. Find out is any of the adults or teens have played these instruments. This PDF has CD’s and Jeopardy type questions that might be helpful in your groups.

Country Music

Woody Guthrie

Cover of Woody Guthrie

Country music was also big during the period. Sing hits by Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers, and Tennessee Erie Ford. Discuss the history of The Grand Ole Opry. Find out who has listen to it or visited it.  Sing “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie which was a hit in this period. This book has history and interesting images for the song.

Other 1940’s material

  • The Slinky and Silly Putty were toys created in the 1940’s. The metal Slinky can be used as a percussion sound.
  • Teens through adults might enjoy looking at classic children’s books from the 1940’s. Have you read any of them? There are also many fictional books set in the 1940’s.
  • Radio was where the family gathered. Consider listening to old radio shows: Abbott and Costello, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, The Lone Ranger, Hop-a-long Cassidy and The Shadow. Listening to these classics can be fun for all ages.
  • Check resources from the Library of Congress and Reminisce magazine.
  • The video at this site has sound clips of music and news to go with lots of visual images from the period along with  fun facts.
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