Easy listening … the American “standards” … the intimate sounds made possible by the development of microphones and mechanical amplification, so that singers didn’t have to belt out their words to be understood by listeners in the back of the hall … the style of singing we associate with Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby, and Andy Williams, and Robert Goulet, and Perry Como, and Andy Williams … or, in the beginning of the style, singers like Rudy Vallee, with his “As Time Goes By” and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” …
What could be more lovely, more virtuous, more praiseworthy, more wholesome than the singers whose music you may have heard your parents and grandparents listening to on the Lawrence Welk Show?
Well, let Edward P. Kimball, Tabernacle organist, writing on behalf of the Church Music Committee in the Improvement Era, in 1932, tell you —
A Reprehensible Practice
By Edward P. Kimball
The Latter-day Saints have always rendered that which they have offered to God in the very best kind possible. In the days when tithing was paid by the people from their flocks and crops they were taught to give to the Lord His tenth from the very best of all that was harvested or grown. In worship they have given their best to Him. Music has been no exception. The leaders of the church from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the present have insisted that the Saints be taught the best, and they have provided the means for it to be put into action in the congregations of worship. Men and women of talent have at various times accepted the gospel in the missions and, coming to Zion, have given their experience and talent freely to the people so that there was in the most isolated communities a remarkably fine conception and use of music in our worship.
Surely in the days of greater opportunity and progress we should continue to hold our standards high in this regard. But it is very difficult in these times of rapid transportation and radio to keep out of our practices and observances the everyday tendencies so prevalent in popular music. Music goes through fads and fashions – that is, popular music does. What was the rage a few years ago is never heard today, and that which seems so smart and appealing today will be passe tomorrow. These fads are kept going by professional entertainers and dealers in popular music for the same reason that the makers and sellers of clothes must keep the market moving by offering continually something new. As the human being is a great imitator, these fads sweep the country every time there is a new one turned loose. The untrained and thoughtless find a novelty and, presto! it becomes “the thing.”
There has crept into our popular music during the last few years a fad of so-called singing, called “crooning.” From every standpoint it is a most reprehensible prostitution of art. It violates every ideal and tradition of real singing, and makes its appeal purely because of sensual and too-often vulgar accentuation of sex, so frequently and flagrantly contained in the popular songs of the day. A man who would say to any respectable woman some of the things that are sung about by crooners, and say them with the inference that characterizes this vulgar kind of singing, would no doubt get his face slapped, and justly. And yet we have to dance to these sentiments, and, for fear we may lose some of the thoughts while we dance, the suggestive words are crooned to us in a more suggestive way. They are showered over our firesides from the air at any and all hours of the day and the night, and even (and most assiduously) blatantly furnish us with food for contemplation on the Lord’s day. We do not seem to be able to cope with commercial entertainment herein.
But one thing we can and must do – we can keep this type of singing out of our worship! One only needs to listen to the children’s hour over the air to realize how insidiously and thoroughly crooning is entering the singing of our children. And we even hear it in our organizations. It must be kept out of our worship. How? By those responsible for the programs. They must take the same relentless attitude in this as they would in keeping out of our service any other demoralizing influence. Ward choristers and choristers of the organizations must uphold the standards of the Church in this regard. There is no room in Latter-day Saint worship for anything but truth, and crooning is not truth; it is hideous error, as far as virtue and art are concerned. Its birth was not of the mind or the spirit, but of the flesh.
Let our solos and our choruses be sung in true musical style, in the way that great musicians and singers have made music. Let us offer to God our songs which in content and rendition are in harmony with truth. Let us give our best both in kind and manner – let us sing, not croon.