Very old news! Here’s what the music makers and music lovers of 1927 were talking about

In Partnership with Netflix 

The world of 1927 in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – one of medicine shows, cabaret clubs, swinging jazz and white-hot blues – looks like a riot.

The world of 2020 – one of closed-down venues and ‘lockdown albums’ – less so.

But what else was going on for music’s movers and shakers all those years ago? We dusted off the Melody Maker archives to find out.

Dmitri Shostakovich (Getty)

Dmitri Shostakovich – favoured composer of algorithm & blues band Muse – premieres his first symphony for a live audience in Berlin.

2020 version: Bon Jovi premiere their new album, ‘2020’, with a live streamed gig.

Poster for The Jazz Singer

Hit movie The Jazz Singer opens. On the plus side, it’s wildly popular and innovative – the first motion picture to synchronise its musical score with the action on screen. On the down side, the action on screen has loads and loads and loads of blackface.

2020 version: That day in lockdown you cracked and watched Gaga and Cooper’s A Star Is Born again.

Blind Lemon Jefferson (Getty)

Blind blues was having a moment: Blind Lemon Jefferson released ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ and ‘Matchbox Blues’; Blind Willie McTell made his debut with ‘Stole Rider Blues’ and ‘Writing Paper Blues’. Before you Google it, yes, they really were both blind.

2020 version: Celebrity Masterchef has its first blind contestant, Amar Latif.

The Grand Ole Opry (Getty)

Legendary country venue The Grand Ole Opry gets its name during a Barn Dance Radio broadcast, in Nashville, Tennessee.

2020 version: The venue is still going strong, albeit only on Fridays and Saturdays right now, due to the pandemic.


The BBC takes over stewardship of the annual musical beano The Proms, following the withdrawal of music publishers Chappell & Co.

2020 version: The bizarre week over the summer where the question of whether someone was going to sing the lyrics to ‘Rule Britannia’ out loud became a covid straw man for both sides of the Brexit debate – and somehow was deemed newsworthy.

Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five (Getty)

Beloved jazz singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong begins recording with his new group, Louis Armstrong And His Hot Seven, successors to his Hot Five, pictured above.

2020 version: Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ is the sound of the Christmas Lego ad, which challenges kids to “rebuild your world”, because someone has to.

The Carter Family (Getty)

The Carter Family begin recording, committing to wax one of America’s great musical dynasties, and a major inspiration on modern alt-country. Their first release is double-sided hit ‘Wandering Boy’ and ‘Poor Orphan Child’.

2020 version: Alt-country artist Ryan Adams decides 2020 is the right year to end his post-cancellation exile and release a new album.

George Gerschwin (Getty)

A George Gershwin recording session is plunged into jeopardy when a row breaks out between conductor Paul Whiteman and Gershwin himself over the correct tempo for the track, ‘Rhapsody In Blue’. Gershwins.

2020 version: A row breaks out over Rita Ora’s 30th birthday party, because she had one.

Florence Mills (Getty)

Cabaret singer Florence Mills – known as the ‘Queen of Happiness’ – dies in New York at 31. The music world is reeling, and more than 10,000 fans visited the funeral home to pay respects.

2020 version: Where do we even start?

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is on Netflix now