01 - BOOGIE WOOGIE: Its Origin, Subsequent History, and Continuing Development
by John Tennison — History of Boogie Woogie
(The web pages here on the BoogieWoogie.Com web site contain only a fraction of the material that I will eventually publish as a book. Never before published material from my own field research into Boogie Woogie will be in this forthcoming book. If you would like a copy, please contact me using the contact information on this page.)
“There is every reason for us to know something about Africa and to understand its past and the way of life of its peoples. Africa is a rich continent that has for centuries provided the world with art, culture, labor, wealth, and natural resources.” 73
“But perhaps most important is the fact that fossil evidence indicates that human beings originated in Africa” 73
“To be human is to be of African descent.” 73
— George C. Bond, Ph.D., Director, Institute of African Studies, Columbia University, (page 6 of the book, “Chokwe”) 73
Moreover, music historian, Dave Oliphant has written:
“Barrelhouse, boogie-woogie, and jazz all originate to some degree in the religio-sexual customs of primitive African societies, for Wilfrid Mellers 14 notes, one of the meanings of the phrase ‘boogie-woogie,’ and of the word ‘jazz’ itself, is sexual intercourse, even as the ritualistic-orgiastic nature of the music also represents an ecstatic form of a spiritual order.” 13
Thus, as I consider Boogie Woogie, I intend to remain ever mindful that we are all of African descent. Being mindful of this fact suggests certain questions: For example, does Boogie Woogie have its widespread and lasting appeal because of any universal, evolutionary and/or instinctual aesthetic that has been biologically inherited by all human beings? Is there historical and cultural evidence in Africa even today that suggest a common biological heritage and aesthetic sensibility among human beings? If so, what are the elements of this common aesthetic? Does Boogie Woogie share any of these elements? Have the pretensions of so-called “civilization” created historical contexts where some human beings have unknowingly denied their own capacity to appreciate Boogie Woogie?
To the extent that these questions can be answered in the affirmative, Boogie Woogie can be seen in a much larger context than merely being a popular music and dance form originating in the United States. However, before considering Boogie Woogie in such a broad historical context, I want to first examine its evolution within the United States.