The twenties was a period of transformation culturally and technologically. Culturally, countries began to shed their Victorian ideals, enabling egalitarian ideas such as women's suffrage to significantly change the role of women and society. Modern artistic styles such as Surrealism, Art Deco, and Expressionism flourished, and the new music of Jazz was enormously popular. The movie industry skyrocketed in the 20s during the Golden Age of Silent Film and the birth of the Hollywood studio system. Technologically, the Twenties was an era of innovation not seen since the Second Industrial Revolution— the decade witnessed the first large scale use of automobiles and telephones, and saw the genesis of the public radio and talking pictures. The 1920s was a period of economic prosperity and rapid urbanization, marking the first time in the United States that the population in the cities surpassed the population of rural areas.
However, not all countries enjoyed this prosperity. The German Weimar Republic faced a severe economic downturn in the opening years of the decade due to the enormous debt caused by the war and its reparations, and other economic conditions which resulted from the Treaty of Versailles. Such a crisis would culminate with a devaluation of the Mark in 1923, eventually leading to severe hyperinflation, in the long term favoring the rise of the Nazi Party.
Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) was an American jazzcornetist, jazz pianist, and composer. He was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. He helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. Beiderbecke taught himself to play cornet largely by ear, leading him to adopt a non-standard fingering that some critics have connected to his original sound. He first recorded with a Midwestern jazz ensemble The Wolverines in 1924, after which he played briefly for the Jean Goldkette Orchestra before joining Frankie Trumbauer for an extended gig at the Arcadia Ballroom in St. Louis, Missouri. Beiderbecke and Trumbauer both joined Goldkette in 1926. The band toured widely and famously played a set opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in October 1926. The following year, Trumbauer and Beiderbecke left Detroit to join the best-known and most prestigious dance orchestra in the country: the New York-based Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Beiderbecke's most influential recordings date from his time with Goldkette and Whiteman, although they were generally recorded under his own name or Trumbauer's. Beiderbecke left the Whiteman band in 1930 and the following summer died in his Queens apartment at the age of twenty-eight.