Music education always & always looking forward.

It's Not All Fours: Changing Meter in the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'"

Changing up the beat so your feet won't fall asleep.

I feel as though as I get older, I have a greater appreciation for music that might have been considered uncool in my youth.  For decades, I never really "got" the Bee Gees and Barry Gibb's falsetto was always sort of off-putting to me.  

Of course, in the 1970s, The Bee Gees defined the decade.  Having been a harmony driven group in the late 60s, akin to the Beach Boys, they rode the disco train to selling millions upon millions of records and inspiring a whole lot of dancing.  All throughout, though, their musicianship really propelled them forward, and their skill as players and as songwriters is something I've only come to appreciate as I have gotten older.  (Teaching alert!  Not only is there cool changing meter here, but also some groovy syncopation that makes it a great listening example.)

“Jive Talkin'” - The Bee Gees

Intro: A famed group in their native England, second home Australia, and the U.S., the brothers Gibb who formed The Bee Gees made a transition with 1975's "Jive Talkin'." After moving to Miami and embracing the stylistic features of disco, the group solidified their second act with this song, which was their second American #1 hit (it reached #1 in Canada, as well). This signaled the band's shift to disco, a genre they would help to define with songs such as "You Should Be Dancing", "Night Fever", and "Stayin' Alive." Like all of their songs, "Jive Talkin'" was written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and having sold 220 million albums worldwide, have been cited by The Hall as the sixth largest selling musical act of all time.

Analysis: The verses and chorus of the song are heard in a straightforward 4/4 time. At 1:07 in the video recording here, the keyboard riff is played in changing meter. The keyboard riff is heard in eight measures, alternating between 3/4 and 4/4 time. The meter is obscured somewhat because of stress shifts and syncopation heard in the 4/4 measures, but there are marked rhythmic differences between each 3/4 and 4/4 measures. The keyboard riff is heard again at 2:17 in this recording. 

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no offensive material. It does make obvious reference to jive, a sort of dialect used in black culture at the time. This song could be used to discuss the influence of colloquial speech over the course of different decades.

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