Edited by Azizi Powell
This post presents information about the slang meanings of the words "jam" and "jamming" in the context of music.
This post also presents two YouTube videos that feature The Dazz Band's 1982 hit Funk record "Let It Whip", along with selected examples of the use of "jam" and "jamming" from the discussion threads of those videos.
The Addendum to this post showcases a 2006 commercial that features Grambling State University's marching band and dance line performing The Dazz Band's "Let It Whip".
My interpretations of the phrase "let it whip" (in the context of that song) are also included in this post.
The content of this post is presented for etymological, cultural, entertainment purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to The Dazz Band for their musical legacy and thanks to all others who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post. And thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
THEORIES ABOUT THE ETYMOLOGY OF THE MUSICAL TERMS "JAM", "JAM SESSION", AND "JAMMING"
Excerpts #1 & #2 (with selected comments) are given for informational purposes. I've numbered these excerpts for referencing purposes only and without any conclusions about which theory is correct.
1. From http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jam http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jam
...Jazz meaning "short, free improvised passage performed by the whole band" dates from 1929, and yielded jam session (1933); but this is perhaps from jam (n.1) in sense of "something sweet, something excellent."
2. From http://www.word-detective.com/2011/09/jam/
..."no one knows for sure why an improvisational performance or informal session by a musical group is called a “jam session.” This usage, which dates back to the 1920s jazz scene, may be using the “pile on” or “pressure” sense of “jam” to describe the effect of many musicians playing together without a score. Or it may be invoking the use of “jam” in the “jelly” sense to mean “something sweet; a very nice treat,” a usage that dates back to the 19th century (“Without Real Jam — cash and kisses — this world is a bitterish pill,” Punch, 1885). I tend to think this “sweet treat” sense of “jam” is more likely to have been the source of “jam” in the musical world, given that we are taking about the slang of musicians, to whom a “jam” represents a welcome opportunity for self-expression."
Comments from this article:
a. Dafydd, September 21, 2015
"For a musician, a “jam session” is a voluntary improvised treat, in contrast to a “bread and butter session”, i.e. paid work."
Frank, October 27, 2015
The term “Jam Session”, referring to musicians congregating to play improvised music, came from the late night sessions in the 1920’s, when black and white musicians would get together, after their regular paying gigs. Bing Crosby, a member of “The Rhythm Boys”, who performed with Paul Whiteman, would join Bix Biederbeck, and others, at these sessions. They got a kick out of Bing, who had a problem clapping on the 2 and the 4, and would end up “jamming”* the beat. A seminal moment in jazz, when whites and blacks weren’t allowed to play together in public, these became known as jam sessions.
This is the origin of the phrase, documented in Mezz Mezzrow’s “Really The Blues”.
I think that the implication is that “jamming” in that sentence means “messing up" or "blocking" something from entering, or leaving, or occurring (in that case: blocking the rhythmical expression/flow of the composition)
This isn't the definition of "jamming" that is used in musical contexts in African American (originated) Vernacular English.
DEFINITIONS OF "JAM" AND "JAMMING"
Jam (n) - a song, record, tune (meaning the complete song and not just the music)
[my] jam (n)- my favorite song/record or one of my favorite songs/records
the jam (n) - the most popular song/record (at that time); the best song/record (at that time or at any time)
jam (v) - musicians playing music (i.e. having a jam session)
Jamming; jam to ___ (v) - enjoy the music; dance to the music, and/or otherwise move to the music (i.e. roller skate to the music etc.)
Jamming (v) - a complimentary term that means "performing the music very well"
Jamming (v) - playing the music; playing the music loudly; blasting a record
SHOWCASE VIDEOS & SELECTED COMMENTS
The comments from these videos' discussion threads are presented in chronological order, with the oldest comments given first, except for replies. Numbers have been assigned to these comments for referencing purposes only. However, these comments may not be in consecutive order.
Example #1: Dazz Band - Let It Whip "HQ"
Rock Classic Published on Apr 22, 2016
Excerpt of This song's lyrics from http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/d/dazz_band/let_it_whip.html
..."We both are here
To have good fun
So let it whip
So let it whip
(Let's whip it, baby)
Try (let's whip it right)
Let it whip (let's whip it, baby)
(Whip it all night)"...
In the context of this record, I think that the phrase "Let it whip" means "to go all out", "to do something with all your energy & enthusiasm"; "to dance (move) really well".
"It" in the phrase "Let it whip" could also mean a person's (particularly a female's) butt. A person who is "whipping" her or his butt is rhythmically but quickly moving it from side to side.
In the context of this record, "Let it whip" might also mean "to go all the way", i.e. "to have sex".
Selected comments from the discussion thread of a video of that performance which was posted on YouTube in 2007 by Drake P: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE7-tWEEejU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE7-tWEEejU
"that was the jam!! i threw a house party back in the day and that was the most played song!"
"You cannot deny that this is a true jam."
"I was Florida A&M when they played this on the PA and the girls from the band was JAMMIN to this.... :-)"
Florida A&M (university), A historically Black university in the USA
PA = public announcement system (loud speaker)
"this is my jam...although im 21"
5. Dj Tennessee
"THIS was the THE friday nite jam in HS back in 82.
Ahh-whooo-HOOO! Let it Whip!
The Soul Train Line I saw to this song recently was ...beyond...80s Ladies , carrying on...
Thanx for posting this.
HS= high school
"Soul Train" was a very popular dance series in the 1970s and 1980s. The Soul Train line was a feature of that series where the dancers form two lines with a space in the middle for individuals or couples to dance from the beginning of that line to the end.
6. Nona Yabizness
"this song is the jam they wont ever make music like this again
"Class of 1982 - Ball High (Galveston, Tx)...wow, we used to jam to this!!!"
"This reminds me of when I was a little kid...And me and my friend would get dressed up and get on our bikes with a radio JAMMING this..We thought we were so COOL...Well im 35 now and just hearing this brings back SUCH AWSOME,INNOCENT,and MAGICAL feelings...GOOSEBUMPS"
9. Jack Black
"Back when many people were bumping these jams from there cars. Times change man, we will never here music like this on the radios again.... so sad."
"bumping" = playing; there = their; here = hear
10. David Rice
"Just plain smoothe, shakin' -what-your-momma-gave-you old-school jam here"
Example #2: Soul Train Line Let It Whip Dazz Band.mpg
steve3ri Uploaded, on Oct 16, 2011
Basketball guy is a show.
Selected comments from the discussion thread of a video of that performance
"All I can say is back in the day we had the very best music ever created. This of course was one of my jams. The girls dancing down the line here are OK. But I wish my girl Rosie Perez was going down the line. She danced a little like me. No time to be cute just get your dance on!"
2. "Back in the day you didn't waste no time when the jam came on you got down admittedly! LOL
The blogger probably meant "immediately" instead of "admittedly".
1. MissAaliyah J
"if I was there I would be jammin all night"
ADDENDUM- A COMMERCIAL THAT FEATURED THE DAZZ BAND'S LET IT WHIP" SOUNDTRACK
MrSwacGuy99Uploaded on May 1, 2008
Tampax was there
The Dazz's Band's "Let It Whip" is the soundtrack of this 2006 [?] Tampax commercial featuring Grambling State University's marching band and majorette dance line.
The commercial's (unspoken) message was that women could go all out in their performance regardless if it was "that time of the month" or not.
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