Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 1, page 1 of 11)

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Chapter 1

Elvis Presley took the music world by storm in 1956 with such hits as "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog," and over a hundred more that sold over 350 million records in his career worldwide, that earned him the title "King" of Rock-­and-Roll. Tracing the origin of rock and roll however, we find its roots imbedded in jazz.

Jazz grew out of the pain, suffering and degradation of African slaves. In 1619, a Dutch sailing ship with a consignment of fifty slaves left Africa for the colonies. After months of tossing and pitching on the rolling seas, twenty surviving black men finally arrived in Virginia in greatly deteriorated condition. They had spent months behind the ship's oars rowing until they thought their backs would break. They had shared filthy, cramped quarters with rats, flies and fleas. They were dehydrated, starved and exhausted. Some showed the scars of whips or other instruments of torture on their backs.

Yet, through the entire long voyage, they sang. They sang of homes and families they would never see again. They sang, like the ancient Israelites, of their captivity. With sweat pouring from greasy heads, with chains of captivity cutting into black ankles, and with moans of pain and fatigue escaping from their lips, they sang. The words, in their native language, were made up as they sang them. The melodies were familiar tunes handed down from many generations, and these tunes were their only link now to the land of their birth.

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