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Hip, Hep, Jazz, Beatniks, Hippies

Updated on September 15, 2013

Music and Poetry Reflections

Give me some music; music, moody food

Of us that trade in love--Shakespeare: Anthony and Cleopatra

From the poetic writings of Shakespeare to music romantic love's moodiness is expressed. The theme of moodiness in music suggest styles like the blues, or the soulful sound of a sax playing jazz...slowly.

The twang of a country guitar player, hitting licks for a cry in your beer song reflects the human psyche and the need for a release of sadness. If you've ever heard the playing of taps, even just in a movie, you are touched by the doleful notes.

Jazz and Poetry Dance

Poetry and music had quite a fling in the 20th century. Call it 'the fling of the beat." It was a dance between jazz and poetry. The subject of jazz poetry is jazz--the poet describing the street musician or the player in a smokey club. Some poets of the Harlem Renaissance like Langston Hughes wrote this genre of poetry.

The Beats

The Beat Poets or the Beat Generation were poets and writers that became popular in the 1950's. Encyclopedia Britannica explains in Beat Movement that the beat poets tried to free poetry from fastidious polish. One technique they used to accomplish this feat was reading their poetry supported by progressive jazz. The beatniks were the hip people before the hippies came on the scene in the middle to late sixties.

The most well known members of the Beat Generation were Allen Ginsburg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. The writers and poets of the Beat Generation changed American Literature by creating an iconoclastic artistic vision. Their revolution was literary.

Inception of Hep

In the 1800 century, hep was a herding and teamster term to get animals on their feet and moving. There are literary examples of hep, hip, hurrah from 1818.

In the 1930's big horn bands—swing bands like Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's were said to be hep. Hep meant wise to or informed according to The Straight Dope. It meant that they were in the know. People called jazz fans hep-cats. Hep is said by William and Mary Morris, compilers and authors of Morris Dictionary and Phrase Origins to come from soldier slang of about 1900. They got it from the drillmaster's cadence count which went: Hep, two, three, four. Anyone familiar with old war movies will remember that phrasing. So anyone in step with the times was hep.

the Great Louis Armstrong

Cool Jazz

Cool jazz emerged in the 1940's in New York. It was a mixture of jazz influenced by white jazz players and black musicians bringing a more abstracted sound and heartier tempo called bebop. Though some people associate hard bop with the east coast and the west coast with cool jazz. When the 1940's rolled to an end hep was taken over by hip.

A song was written in 1947 called It Ain't Hep, the lyrics were about the change of the slang from hep to hip. It was the creation of Harry “The Hipster” Gibson.

The Origin of Hip

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that hip as an adjective materialized in 1904 in black slang. But hip referring to a roof's sides "a hipped roof" meaning that each side slopes downwards dates to the the late 17th century. Also called a "hip roof."

The root of the word hip is disputed by some. The History of Morphine claims that it was a phrase of opium addicts in England that used pipes so long they rested on their hips. Supposedly, when someone wanted to know if someone else smoked opium they asked if they were hip. Some entomologists think this idea is a puff of smoke.

A 1914 novel The Auction Block by Rex Ellington Beach used the word hipped. Here is the quote from his novel: "His collection of Napoleana is the finest in this country; he is an authority on French history of that period - in fact, he's as nearly hipped on the subject as a man of his powers can be considered hipped on anything"


Hippie was originally a jazz jargon of the 1950's states the Random House, Word of the Day. It meant a person trying to be hip, but not cutting it, if used as a put down, but could refer positively to someone considered actually hip.

In 1963, in the Montreal Gazette on June 11th, syndicated columnist Dorothy Killgallen articulated that "New York hippies have a new kick - baking marijuana in cookies."

On September 5, 1965, Michael Fallon a San Francisco journalist called the newer beatniks hippies, referring to the ones that trekked from North Beach to Haight-Ashbury, both are districts in San Fransico. His article "A New Haven for Beatniks," he talked about their appearance at the Blue Unicorn Coffeehouse and their counterculture ideas about pot, sex, and a communal lifestyle.

Drama, music, poetry, and novels have a connection to the generation of new terms or new uses of words that help us express new ideas and universal emotions. In a newer generation hop has been joined at the hip and as Sonny and Cher sang "and the beat goes on."


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    • Deltachord profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the comments. Sounds like you're way into music.

    • lxxy profile image


      8 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      Useful article. I love, love, love music. Listen, like, compose, review, and adorn my own musings with it.

      Horns, guitars, synthes, alternative instruments..all do quite well to emote the thoughts of a well in-tune player. Thanks for sharing.

      Ah, and nothing beats..err...a beatnik. =)

    • Deltachord profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from United States

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks for the kudos. Wow! Blogged it--great. appreciate that. Hey, get on here and tell people all about jewelry--you're a great jewelry artist.


    • alycnwonderland profile image


      10 years ago from Pensacola, FL

      Hey there, great article. I blogged it for you! Thanks for inviting me.



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