1920s Music – Your Party Playlist for a Great Gatsby Theme


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Since the release of the The Great Gatsby film last year you can't move for 1920s mania – and it's not just because Leonardo DiCaprio is pretty easy on the eyes!

Often referred to as the 'roaring twenties', the decade was defined by a boom in film, fashion, music and industry, as well as being the decade many women finally liberated themselves from strict convention by becoming 'flappers' – young, confident and fashion-forward women who flouted traditional standards of behaviour.

The 1920s was also coined 'The Jazz Age', producing some of the most distinguishable music of all time and famous singers such as Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.

If you want to be right on trend with your party planning this year, a Great Gatsby-esque theme is the way to go. Nothing sets the scene like the music – particularly when you have such amazing songs to choose from!

Here's our guide to your perfect 1920s party playlist...

Setting the Scene

1920 Al Jonson – Swanee
Penned in 1919 by George Gershwin, 'Swanee' is most often associated with singer Al Jonson who covered it in 1920. A cheery song that will get everyone in the mood for a party.

1920 Ted Lewis – When My Baby Smiles at Me
Recorded by Ted Lewis in 1920, 'When My Baby Smiles at Me' was the first big hit for the clarinettist, vocalist and comedian. The gentle melody of the song is guaranteed to put a smile on your guests’ faces.

1924 Marion Harris – It Had to be You
Stick on this gem and pretend that it's 1924 and Marion Harris' dulcet tones are echoing from the radio. A great song to sing along to.

1927 Ruth Etting – I'm Nobody's Baby
Now largely forgotten, Ruth Etting was a hugely popular artist in her day, producing more than sixty popular recordings. This catchy song simply exudes 1920s glamour.

1928 Bing Crosby – Makin' Whoopee!
Bing Crosby was one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, and he was famous for his trademark bass baritone voice. His version of the euphemistic 'Makin' Whoopee!' is a great starter to any party.

1929 Fats Waller – Ain't Misbehavin'
'Ain't Misbehavin' is a catchy song written in 1929 by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf. The larger than life Fats later claimed that he wrote the song whilst "lodging" in alimony prison and that this was the reason why he wasn't 'misbehavin'!

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In the Mood for Dancing

1925 Viola McCoy – Shake That Thing
Although lesser-known than some of her contemporaries, Viola McCoy was a seasoned recording artist, musical theatre performer and musical comedy act. 'Shake That Thing' is the perfect song to get everyone up on the dance floor.

1925 Art Landry – Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue
'Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue' was a hallmark tune of the mid-twenties and appeared on the soundtrack to the original The Great Gatsby film. A merry ditty to get your feet tapping.

1925 Coon-Sanders Nighthawk Orchestra – Yes Sir, That's My Baby
Written by legendary 1920s lyricist Gus Kahn, 'Yes Sir That's My Baby' also appeared on the soundtrack to the original The Great Gatsby film. A 1920s dance hall favourite, the song has lost none of its charm today.

1926 Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers – Black Bottom Stomp
This jolly jazz composition was recorded in 1926 by Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers and regularly appears on 'best of the 1920s' lists.

1928 Sam Coslow, The High Hatters – I Wanna Be Loved By You
'I Wanna Be Loved By You' is instantly recognisable, however this is largely due to Marilyn Monroe's cover of the song in the hit film 'Some Like It Hot'. This 1920s version is just as enjoyable.

1929 Cliff Edwards - Singin' In The Rain
Who hasn't heard of 'Singin' In The Rain'? The famous song earned singer Cliff Edwards a number one hit in 1929, and it was later covered by Gene Kelly in the famous scene from the 'Singin' In The Rain' movie. Everyone should know the words, so it should get them all singing along.

Winding Down

1928 Louis Armstrong – West End Blues
As the party begins to wind down, it might be time to put on some famous blues tunes. Don't be fooled by the name – the songs are wandering and calming rather than depressing! Louis Armstrong's version of West End Blues is one of the all-time classics.

1926 Bessie Smith – Lost Your Head Blues
You couldn't have a 1920s party without one of Bessie Smith's classic songs. The most popular of all the female Blues singers, her 'Lost Your Head Blues' is the perfect way to wind down at the end of the night.

1928 Paul Whiteman – Ol' Man River
Although lacking some Gatsby-esque glamour, this 1928 cover by Paul Whiteman is a great end of night tune. It was the most famous song from the 1927 musical 'Show Boat'.

If you're throwing a 1920s party this year, you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to the playlist. Coined 'The Jazz Age', the 1920s was one of the most famous decades in music and it certainly has the discography to prove it.

This party playlist should make sure that your event goes with a swing!