Western music originated as a form of American folk music. Originally composed by and about the people who settled and worked throughout the Western United States and Western Canada. Directly related musically to old English, Scottish, and Irish folk ballads, Western music celebrates the life of the cowboy on the open ranges and prairies of Western North America. The Mexican music of the American Southwest also influenced the development of this genre. Western music was associated with country music only because of Billboard chart classification. For the artists that wrote and performed Western music, this association as a sub-genre of country music is erroneous. Western music shows no historical origination with the music that came from the southeastern parts of the United States (e.g. Appalachia).
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Western music became widely popular through the romanticization of the cowboy and idealized depictions of the west in Hollywood films. Singing cowboys, such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, sang cowboy songs in their films and became popular throughout the United States. Film producers began incorporating fully orchestrated four-part harmonies and sophisticated musical arrangements into their motion pictures. Bing Crosby, the most popular singer of that time, recorded numerous cowboy and Western songs as well as starring in Rhythm on the Range (1936). During this era, the most popular recordings and musical radio shows included Western music. Western swing also developed during this time.
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