By Jeffrey Melnick
All too usually an incident or twist of fate, resembling the eruption in Crown Heights with its legacy of bitterness and recrimination, thrusts Black-Jewish family into the scoop. A volley of debate follows, yet little within the method of growth or enlightenment results--and this can be how issues will stay till we greatly revise the way in which we expect concerning the advanced interactions among African american citizens and Jews. A correct to Sing the Blues bargains simply any such revision. "Black-Jewish relations," Jeffrey Melnick argues, has ordinarily been a manner for American Jews to discuss their ambivalent racial prestige, a story jointly developed at serious moments, whilst specific conflicts call for an evidence. Remarkably versatile, this narrative can arrange diffuse fabrics right into a coherent tale that has a strong carry on our mind's eye. Melnick elaborates this concept via an in-depth examine Jewish songwriters, composers, and perfomers who made "Black" song within the first few many years of this century. He indicates how Jews comparable to George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, and others have been in a position to painting their "natural" affinity for generating "Black" song as a made of their Jewishness whereas concurrently depicting Jewishness as a reliable white identification. Melnick additionally contends that this cultural task competed at once with Harlem Renaissance makes an attempt to outline Blackness. relocating past the slender concentration of advocacy staff politics, this e-book complicates and enriches our realizing of the cultural terrain shared through African americans and Jews.
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Extra info for A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song
Modern music was at once redolent of a racialness frequently imaged in sexual terms, while it was also produced and marketed in urban centers, with the attendant images of standardization and mechanization. Waldo Frank—one of the minority party of secular Jews hostile to jazz—was also one of the very few contemporary commentators able to articulate a link between the seemingly dissimilar themes of sexual license and modernization. In a 1925 essay for The New Republic, Frank called jazz the “music of a revolt that fails” and insisted that it was “the song of our reaction from the dull throb of the machine .
One prime indicator of the _exibility of musical categories comes from the information on printed versions of popular songs, particularly those which marked the “blues craze” of the middle to late teens. Edward Berlin calls attention to the signi~cant example of W. C. ” Copyright © 1999 The President and Fellows of Harvard College The Culture of Black-Jewish Relations 27 Ex am Co py Handy’s “Yellow Dog Blues” was ~rst titled “Yellow Dog Rag” (1914). Gunther Schuller observes that Artie Matthews’s standard “Weary Blues” (1915) is actually closer to ragtime than blues.
15 Also important in this equation is the assumption that whatever men were involved with such a sordid business were likely to be racial or sexual outsiders of one sort or another. Jazz and ragtime, as many people understood them, owed their existence to the sordid environment of the brothel. ”17 It is tempting to explain the focus on brothels as a simple case of white people projecting their own sexual impulses onto Black music. Even so, brothels did play some role in the dissemination of African American popular music.