The History of American Music
Focus Workshop

January 26, 2008
  Website: Description:

Kingwood College Library – American Popular Music before 1900

This chronological subject guide is arranged as an overview of American History through its music.  You will find 19th century sheet music, folk music of America and the British Isles, and links to music from the Colonial Era, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and more.  Some links have the songs that you can play, others will just include the lyrics.

Kingwood College Library – American Popular Music 1900-1950

Another section of the website above, this site includes American Popular Music from 1900-1950.  You’ll find popular children’s songs, links to historical songs from the Library of Congress, and sections on Blues, Jazz, and Big Band & Swing artists.

Yale University – Oral History of American Music
The Oral History American Music project is “dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral and video memoirs in the voices of creative musicians of our century.”  While the website doesn’t have access to their entire collection, you can hear interviews with artists such as Aaron Copeland and Duke Ellington.   Click on the video link to see a description of the program, the benefits of conducting the oral histories, and some great video clips and pictures.

The “Contemplator’s” Popular Songs in American History

Beware – while this page has a wealth of resources, music starts as soon as you hit the page and doesn’t stop until you are off!  You’ll find music and lyrics from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including event-specific songs and sea shanties.

History Matters – American Song Online

On the History Matters site, you’ll find sheet music and sound recordings from a wide variety of eras in American History.  For example, click on “Dismuke’s Virtual Talking Machine” for vintage phonograph recordings from 1900-1939.  (You may have to work through a few radio ads to get to the music, but it’s worth it.)

PBS – American Roots Music

This page begins with a description and historical background of American Roots Music.  Click on the lessons on the left side of the page for more information.

PBS – American Roots Music

This bibliography has many links for those looking to learn more about American Roots Music.  Choose from the categories of Folk, Blues, Gospel, Country, Bluegrass, Tejano, and Native American.

Scholastic – History of Jazz

A great section for elementary or middle school students learning about the history of jazz music.  This page includes a short timeline with places to click and learn more about a particular type of jazz or an artist, as well as audio clips. (Though I had a hard time opening these on the Mac.)

The History of Rock ‘n Roll
If you click on “frames” or “non-frames”, you’ll find an incredible list of links that illustrates events and developments in the history of Rock and Roll.  You can find biographical information about Roy Orbison, Neil Sedaka, Elvis Presley, and many, many more.

Library of Congress – Music in America

A huge list of wonderful links, divided into those for teachers and others for students.  For teachers, you’ll find teaching ideas such as “American Memory Sounds Off” and “Ragtime”.  For students there are video clips of dance styles from Renaissance to Ragtime, “Home Sweet Home” where students can listen to the music that families used to entertain themselves, and the “Jammin’ Jukebox” game.

History of Country Music
This site looks at some influential artists and songs from the late 1920s through 2000, including Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, and many more.  If you click on links on the left side of the page, you’ll find detailed biographical information, lyrics and some audio clips.


Click on one of the video categories to the left to find videos of artists from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, or type your favorite artist in the Search box at the top.  I tried Johnny Cash, and found several video clips to watch.

Yale New Haven Teachers Institute
This site has a lesson plan entitled, “The Evolution of Rap Music in the United States.”  This lesson plan is intended for middle and high school history students, and discusses rap music as well as the Hip Hop culture of which Rap is an integral part.  There is a long introduction with background information for the teacher – this narrative details the connections between rap and American social history.

Songs for Teaching       
A long list of songs that can be used to teach content across the curriculum - to students of all ages. There are lyrics, sound clips and teaching suggestions for math, reading/language arts, foreign languages, science, and of course, social studies.