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Cole Porter

Arts Days: June 09, 1891: The Great American Song Man
Composer/lyricist Cole Porter was playing violin by age six and the piano just two years later. He preferred the piano, and good thing, too. Some of the most sophisticated melodies and wittiest pop standards ever written came from Porter’s genius at the keys, everything from “Night and Day,” and “Begin the Beguine,” to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,”—songs that have been recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Fred Astaire. Oh, and there were the musical comedy shows he created, too, such as Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes, shows that are staged in theaters all over the world still today.

Porter was also one of the authors of “The Great American Songbook,” the body of musical works created for Broadway shows and musical theater between the 1920s and the 60s.
America, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Musicals

Marvin Gaye

Arts Days: May 21, 1971: Soul Man
In the 1950s and 60s, the silky tenor voice of Marvin Gaye moved easily from the pop stylings of “Ain’t That Peculiar” to the lush duet with Tammi Terrell “You’re All I Need to Get By.” But in 1971, Gaye released an album that showcased a new level of artistry and depth. What’s Going On was a concept album filled with songs that tackled the problems of the day: the Vietnam War, racism, environmental damage, unemployment, poverty, and other complex issues.

The album marked a groundbreaking achievement in recording history as Gaye’s phenomenal voice with its three-octave range coupled with difficult social and political issues. What’s more, with this album Gaye resisted Motown’s standard process of separating songwriters, singers, and producers on a project.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Bob Dylan

Arts Days: May 24, 1941: Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
When Robert Allen Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan he was a young college student playing local coffeehouses. Just like his folk hero Woody Guthrie, Dylan was obsessed with taking a road trip across the country.  And so two years later, Dylan dropped out of school and headed east, winding up in New York City, where he had two goals. First, become a professional musician, and second, meet Guthrie. He managed to do both.

He also managed to challenge the establishment and influence others with both his words and music. With protest songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and social commentaries including 1964's “The Times They Are A-Changin’” Dylan’s distinctive, nasal vocals became the voice of a generation. Bruce Springsteen has said Dylan essentially invented a new sound and “changed the face of rock and roll forever.”
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Ian Fleming

Arts Days: May 28, 1908: The Man With the Golden Pen
It’s hard to imagine that Ian Fleming, the writer who dreamed up the suave secret agent James Bond, also wrote the children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. These literary creations could hardly differ more.

“Bond, James Bond,” is the clever, debonair spy who uses a mind-boggling array of gadgets, weapons, and wildly expensive sports cars to fight lots of different bad guys and gals. Need proof? Check out The Man With the Golden Arm, Goldfinger, or Dr. No, among many others.

Chitty Chitty tells the story of a family whose car has amazing transformative powers. This car can fly, morph into a boat, and bail them out of all kinds of trouble. Well, maybe there is some connection between Fleming’s best-known flights of imagination. There can be little doubt Fleming’s time working for British intelligence inspired his creative writing.
Literature, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Star Wars

Arts Days: May 25, 1977: The Force at the Box Office
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...”

Almost as soon as those ten words began their crawl across movie screens around the U.S., a pop-culture phenomenon was  underway.

The first movie, A New Hope, was later revealed to be Episode IV in a six-episode series that tells the compelling story of good triumphing over evil. A simple-yet-complex science fantasy epic sprung from director George Lucas’ imagination, Star Wars—with its sequels, prequels, books, games, TV shows, and the toys it spawned— has become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects

Michael Jackson Moonwalks

Arts Days: May 16, 1983: A Marvelous Night for a Moon Dance
The crowd at the Motown 25th Anniversary Special erupted in shrieks. On stage was Michael Jackson, performing his song “Billie Jean.” Jackson spun on his heels, looked both ways, and then seemed to slide backward across the stage as though pulled by an invisible string.

Those who master the move seem to be walking forward and sliding backward at the same time. Others had done the moonwalk, or backslide, but Michael Jackson made the move his very own. Every time he did it, his fans went crazy. As a solo artist, the moonwalk was only one of Jackson's incredible moves; throw in his dance-floor hits like “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Thriller,” his singing, that single, spangled glove, and his mysterious persona, and you had a celebrity of nearly-unparalleled global fame.
Dance Legends, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Dance, Music

Grammy

Arts Days: May 04, 1959: A Record-Breaking Event
Only 28 awards categories existed when the first Grammys were handed out at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel. Two categories—Best Country & Western Performance and Best Rhythm & Blues Performance—had only one nominee each, which pretty much locked up those winners. Still, the event, then called the Gramophone Awards, sought to recognize the year’s finest vocal, musical, and spoken-word performances.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the industry group that sponsors the awards, decided from the start that the winners would be chosen by others in the business and that a recording’s popularity on the charts would have no effect on its chances of winning. Nowadays, the Grammys are more than just an awards show, with 108 categories and a global reach.
Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Music

Multiplane Camera

Arts Days: May 01, 1940: Animation Toon Up
When Walt Disney invented the multiplane camera, the art of animation took an official giant leap forward.

This special camera used stacks of glass. The lower stack was painted with objects that do not move, such as furniture, and the upper stacks displayed figures that do, including a certain famous Mouse. When these elements work together, the result was a screen filled with detailed characters that moved realistically, scenery that cast “shadows,” and the visual richness we’ve since come to take for granted in today’s animation.

In 1937, the short, The Old Mill, became the first animated work created with the multiplane camera. But because it was so expensive to use, from then on Disney and his staff reserved the multiplane camera for feature film projects only.

By the way, the American Film Institute has named Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the greatest animated film of all time.
Inventions, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Rajaharischandra

Arts Days: May 03, 1913: Hooray for Bollywood
“Bollywood” is a catchy term for the Hindi-language film industry featuring big dance numbers, lots of emotion, and many attractive actors. The nickname is a play on the words “Hollywood” and “Bombay,” a city in India now known as Mumbai, where most filming takes place.

When Raja Harishchandra premiered on this day, crowds flocked to see the film about an Indian king who sacrifices his kingdom and family in honor of a wise man named Vishvamitra. The silent movie was such a smash that more copies had to be printed. Overnight, the Bollywood phenomenon was born.

Today’s Bollywood movies typically run for two or three hours; are filled with song and dance; tell interwoven stories about boys and girls falling in love; and almost always have a happy ending. Many have become hits around the world. Outside of India, the highest-grossing Bollywood film to date has been Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, filmed in New York City, of all places.


India, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, World Cultures

Stevie Wonder

Arts Days: May 13, 1950: Wonder Boy, Wonder Man
Stevland Hardaway Judkins may have been blind from birth, but his musical gifts were beyond compare.

He started playing piano at seven; he learned bass, drums, and harmonica; and he sang in church choirs. At 11, he was heard singing on a street corner by someone who knew someone at Motown Records. Introductions were made, and Little Stevie Wonder, his stage name as a youth, had a record deal and a hit record by the time he was 13 years old.

Wonder has never stopped working: writing songs for others, acting, and making hit record after hit record, including Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life. There are 22 Grammy Awards® on the mantel at his house, more than any other won by a solo artist.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

George Lucas

Arts Days: May 14, 1944: Hollywood’s Sky Walker
Growing up on a quiet walnut ranch, George Lucas seemed about as far removed from a life making Hollywood blockbusters as you might imagine. But his career as an award-winning filmmaker was launched at the University of Southern California, where he won a prize for one of his early sci-fi shorts. More career-making breaks followed, including Lucas’s turn directing and helping to write American Graffiti.

But even the film’s hit reception paled in comparison to the attention Lucas got for writing and directing 1977’s Star Wars. The film’s intergalactic storyline and technological achievements piled up Academy Awards® and broke most box-office records. The movie’s sequels and prequels, from The Empire Strikes Back to The Phantom Menace, trace the paths of characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader—now household names across the world.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects, Popular Culture

Karaoke

Arts Days: May 10, 1940: Karaoke King
A self-taught drummer who played with bands in Kobe, Japan, Daisuke Inouye had a light-bulb moment one day when asked to provide music for a corporate party. While he could not accept the gig, he made a recording of music for party-goers to sing along with. It was so well-received that Inouye got the notion to attach an amplifier to a car stereo and fit it with a coin box. That way, people could feed money to sing along with the pop tune of their choice.

This was the first karaoke machine; nowadays, setups are more elaborate. For one thing, there is a color-coded video display of the lyrics to prompt the performer through the song, thousands of pop tracks minus the lead vocal to choose from, and microphones plugged into a public-address system so the entire club can hear the amateur singer do his/her stuff.
Popular Culture, Music, Japan

The Bride of Frankenstein

Arts Days: April 22, 1935: Monster Love
This 1935 horror film opens with an actress playing Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the book from which the Frankenstein movies are based, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. “Shelley” is explaining what happened when the Monster tells Dr. Frankenstein he wants a mate. While this was a subplot in Shelley’s book, the makers of this movie managed to get a whole motion picture out of it.

The actress who played Mary Shelley—and who played the bride, too—was Elsa Lancaster, and her role vaulted her to stardom. The Monster’s loneliness in the first Frankenstein movie makes us feel sympathetic toward him, and in The Bride of Frankenstein, we also feel a little bit sorry for him when the Bride rejects him shortly after being brought to life by Frankenstein. Still, when he goes on to kill everyone around him and destroy Frankenstein’s laboratory, we’re reminded that this is no ordinary love story.
Tragedy, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & Movie Stars

Willie Nelson

Arts Days: April 30, 1933: Part Hippie, Part Outlaw, All Talent
He’s a songwriter and singer, an activist, actor, and author. And yes, Willie Nelson, whose hit songs run from “Always on My Mind” to “Good Hearted Woman,” is also an American icon. His grandparents got him music lessons through the mail when he was a very young boy, and he landed a spot playing guitar in a band at the ripe old age of nine. In addition to playing and singing his own music, flecked with jazz, folk, and rock influences, Nelson wrote monster hits like “Crazy” and "Pretty Paper.”

He conceived the Farm Aid concerts in 1985 as a way to bring awareness to the financial and agricultural problems faced by American farmers. These concerts were hugely successful and helped pass laws protecting farmers from foreclosure. Wearing his signature long braid down his back, Willie Nelson continues to sell out stadium shows, write music, and support many charity organizations.
Music, Popular Culture, Music Legends

Carrie

Arts Days: April 05, 1974: The King of Scary
Sitting at a desk and using an old typewriter in his trailer in Maine, Stephen King worked nights pouring over Carrie, a freaky story about a teenage girl. He threw the first few pages in the trash, but his wife plucked them out and encouraged him to keep at it. In the book, the title character is teased at school—but when she uses her special psychic powers in order to fight back, mayhem and murder result.

The book launched King’s career as a writer of really, really scary horror and sci-fi novels and short stories. Now, decades and dozens of books later, he’s still writing from his house in Maine, minus the trailer. King’s work ethic is famous; he forces himself to write thousands of words every single day. It’s that dedication that has translated into millions of books being sold to terrified readers everywhere.
America, Literature, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Billie Holiday

Arts Days: April 07, 1915: The Lady Sang the Blues
Although vocally untrained, Billie Holiday possessed talents and characteristics far more critical to singing the blues—a natural ear for music and a life of turmoil and sorrow. Holiday changed the art of pop vocals with her smoky voice, unique word phrasing, and dramatic interpretations of classic songs. Her poignant renditions of love songs and ballads are considered classic; no one “carried a torch” like Holiday.

Discovered singing in a jazz club in the early 1930s, Holiday soon signed a record deal and began collaborations with musicians like Artie Shaw and Lester Young (who nicknamed her “Lady Day”). She shattered racial barriers by being the first black woman to front a big band composed of white musicians and by singing about lynching in the haunting “Strange Fruit.” Songs Holiday wrote with others, like “God Bless the Child,” rocketed to the top of the charts. Sadly, Holiday’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction led to her untimely death at the age of 44.
Art Venues, Blues, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

Nickelodeon studios

Arts Days: April 01, 1979: I Want My KidTV!
Originally airing only in Ohio, the first cable TV channel “just for kids” was named after old-fashioned movie theaters that showed short films all day long. “Nick” has become a worldwide phenomenon loved by kids of all ages. Whether it’s their gooey green slime or quirky characters including Sponge Bob Squarepants and Carly, Sam, and Freddie, Nickelodeon and its sister channels entertain its dedicated audience with educational programs, silly cartoons, teen shows, and classic TV series.

The Nickelodeon network brand has grown to include Nick Jr., NickToons, Nick at Night, and Noggin, plus you can enjoy the rides featuring Nick stars at theme parks in Europe, Australia, and here in the U.S. It’s Nick—all kids, all the time.
Television, Popular Culture

Marlon Brando and Man

Arts Days: April 03, 1924: The Godfather of Acting
Though he never cared for the glitz and glitter of fame, few would question that Marlon Brando was perhaps the most accomplished actor of his day—or of any period since movie making began. While studying at the Actor’s Studio in New York City, Brando adopted the “method acting approach,” where he disappeared into the fictional characters he was asked to portray.

His unforgettable performances including Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire or Vito Corleone in The Godfather, stuck with viewers long after the movies ended because of Brando’s believable performances. A rebel by reputation, Brando was described by some directors and fellow actors as difficult to get along with while other colleagues said he was funny, generous, and professional. But his reputation didn’t stop him from racking up awards, including winning two Academy Awards® and being nominated for eight.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Theater

Supremes

Arts Days: April 08, 1964: Talent Times Three
When another girl group, the Marvelettes, passed over the chance to record “Where Did Our Love Go,” the Supremes—Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard, three teenagers from the gritty streets of Detroit—got their big break. A few months after they recorded the tune, the song hit the top of the U.S. pop and rhythm and blues charts.

That’s how the most popular girl group in history kicked off their hit-generating prowess: “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and others were not far behind. The Supremes’ star was on the rise. Since then, every all-female group owes a debt to the Supremes.
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors

Arts Days: April 12, 1945: Anime Nation
Anime, a special kind of movie animation unique to Japan and often inspired by Japanese comics called manga, has a huge following these days among kids and grownups alike all over the world. But on this day, when Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors was screened for the first time, director Mitsuyo Seo had just followed the orders he was given by the Japanese government: make a film promoting the heroic exploits of the Japanese navy.

Seo’s 74-minute movie, which features a character named Momotaro— an important figure in Japanese folklore whose name translates to “Peach Boy”—was full of talking animals wearing military uniforms and spouting propaganda. But his creation planted the seeds for decades of anime to come, created now by hand or more often with computer software.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Japan

Dan-One

Video: Dan-One: Alphabetical Engineer
Graffiti artist Danny ‘Dan-One’ Polonco, a self-described “Alphabetical Engineer,” talks about graffiti art form as a means for self-expression.
Hip-Hop, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

Hand on turntable

Video Series: DJ 101: The Basics
In this podcast series, DJ Kuttin Kandi shows students the basics of Turntablism, how to scratch records as a DJ, and the differences between Vinyl and Digital DJing.
Hip-Hop, Popular Culture

Stephen Schwartz

Video Series: An Evening with Stephen Schwartz
From his time at Juilliard to his grand success on Broadway, follow the path of Stephen Schwartz, the composer/lyricist of such legendary works as Godspell, Pippin, and his most recent Broadway hit, Wicked. Excerpted from the Kenndey Center event moderated by Michael Kerker, ASCAP Director of Musical Theater, this series invites you into the world of one of the American theater's most talented artists.
Theater, Music, Popular Culture, Broadway, Composers, Musicals, Backstage

Rokafella from Full Circle Productions

Video Series: Hip Hop To Da Head
Members of Full Circle Productions demonstrate different types of hip hop dance and music
Hip-Hop, Popular Culture, Dance, Young Artists

Wakamaru

Video: Japanese Robots!
At the forefront of hyperculture, Japan's robots are at once amazing works of art and fantastic feats of engineering. Japan has been at the vanguard of global robot development and technology since the 1970s and continues to invent new ways these machines can aid, entertain, and inspire mankind.
Asia, Visual Arts, Popular Culture, Japan, Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Science, Puppets

Koji

Video: Koji Kakinuma: Otsukimi
JAPAN! culture + hyperculture was marked by a festive Otsukimi (Japanese moon-viewing) evening featuring a special Millennium Stage performance of Trancework and Eternal Now by shodo performing artist Koji Kakinuma, accompanied by the taiko group AUN.
Asia, Visual Arts, World Cultures, Japan, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Music

Koji

Video: Koji Kakinuma: Trancework
Calligraphy artist Koji Kakinuma presents one of his trademark innovations, Trancework, in which he paints countless repetitions of a simple, powerful phrase, producing a giant calligraphic work.
Asia, Visual Arts, World Cultures, Japan, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture

Latin Dance

Video Series: Latin Dance Level 2
These five minute Level 2 video lessons will help you learn new moves for four Latin dances: the Merengue, Salsa, Bachata, and Cha Cha Cha. Learn some history of these styles and how to hold while turning.
Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Latin America

Tango Feet

Video Series: Latin Dance Level 1
These five minute video lessons will help you learn three Latin dances: the Merengue, Salsa and Bachata. Learn the history of these styles and how to be a good partner.
Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Latin America

Mayawa Denke

Video: Maywa Denki
Founded in 1993 by two brothers, Maywa Denki is a performance art troupe with a unique style. Each piece of their work is called a "product" and a live performance or exhibition is held as a "product demonstration." Although they're known and appreciated as artists, their promotion strategies are full of variety - besides exhibitions and live stage performances, they produce music, videos, writing, toys, stationery, and electronic devices.
Asia, Visual Arts, Inventions, Japan, Popular Culture, Science

OK Go

Video Series: OK Go @ the Kennedy Center
The band rocks the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
Music, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Shin Tanaka

Video: Shin Tanaka: Paper Toys
Shin Tanaka is a Japanese artist, graffiti writer, paper toy creator, designer who has worked with some of the biggest names in street fashion and designer toys.
Asia, Visual Arts, Japan, Popular Culture

Swing dance

Video Series: Swing Dance
Get on the dance floor with dance instructors Nina and Bobby! Learn East Coast Swing, Charleston, and Lindy Hop in three instructional videos.
Dance, Music, Jazz, Popular Culture

The Flying Legs Crew

Video Series: The Flying Legs Crew
The US Department of State and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts offer professional development opportunities to energize the work of emerging international artists in their own countries by bringing them to the United States and providing them with instructive and informative experiences in their arts discipline, exposure to the creation and performance of world-class art, and opportunities to develop relationships with U.S. arts professionals. This video series captures the sights and sounds of performing artists from Venezuela, Turkey, Bolivia, Palestine, Morocco, and Indonesia.
Dance, Geography, Hip-Hop, Latin America, Music, Popular Culture, World Cultures, Young Artists

Matt Alt

Video Series: Matt Alt: Jumbo Machinders
Matt Alt walks you through his extensive collection and explains the art and history of Japanese jumbo machinder toys.
Japan, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Puppets

Blues Journey

Audio Series: Blues Journey
Out of the hardships of Black Americans at the turn of the 20th century came the blues, a music that helped ease their suffering.
Rock & Roll, America, Blues, Geography, Music, Popular Culture

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