Swingin' the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture

Swingin' the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture

by Lewis A. Erenberg
     
 

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During the 1930s, swing bands combined jazz and popular music to create large-scale dreams for the Depression generation, capturing the imagination of America's young people, music critics, and the music business. Swingin' the Dream explores that world, looking at the racial mixing-up and musical swinging-out that shook the nation and has kept people dancing…  See more details below

Overview

During the 1930s, swing bands combined jazz and popular music to create large-scale dreams for the Depression generation, capturing the imagination of America's young people, music critics, and the music business. Swingin' the Dream explores that world, looking at the racial mixing-up and musical swinging-out that shook the nation and has kept people dancing ever since.

"Swingin' the Dream is an intelligent, provocative study of the big band era, chiefly during its golden hours in the 1930s; not merely does Lewis A. Erenberg give the music its full due, but he places it in a larger context and makes, for the most part, a plausible case for its importance."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

"An absorbing read for fans and an insightful view of the impact of an important homegrown art form."—Publishers Weekly

"[A] fascinating celebration of the decade or so in which American popular music basked in the sunlight of a seemingly endless high noon."—Tony Russell, Times Literary Supplement

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Few musicologists give much acknowledgment to musical styles popular before the bebop explosion of the late 1940s. Mindless commercial entertainment for the masses seems to be the consensus of most serious critics. But Erenberg (Steppin' Out, Greenwood, 1981) makes the case that the era between 1935 and 1948, when big bands dominated popular culture, was a golden age when American music finally shed the constraints of European influence. Making its greatest impact during the stormy periods of the Great Depression and World War II, this music, a collaboration between African Americans and the children of immigrants, changed not only culture but American society as a whole. The effect of the fans shaping the course of the music hints at the influence young people continue to have on popular culture to this day. This book is a thorough chronicle of a vibrant music that provided the soundtrack for some of our most troubling times, and along the way changed our country's view of itself. Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, PA
Booknews
Erenberg (history, Loyola U., Chicago) details the cultural and social significance of the swing music subculture in New York City and its relation to the economic, racial, and political realities of depression era America. Contending that at key points in the history of the creation of swing audiences and critics interacted with musicians and promoters to determine the form the music took, he concludes that the swing band explosion suggests that the preoccupation with democratic cultural forms that marked the New Deal years was wider and deeper than had previously been thought. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
William Kenney
Vividly written, with an impressive and graceful historical erudition, "Swingin' the Dream" demonstrates how audiences participated in creating a memorable movement in popular music and in the history of the country. -- William Kenney
Kirkus Reviews
Erenberg (History/Loyola Univ.) picks up the history of American popular culture where he left off at the end of his previous book, Steppin' Out: NY Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture (not reviewed). From the middle of the 1930s through the early years of the postwar period, the so-called swing era, American popular music was dominated by the sound of the big bands, both jazz bands and "sweet" bands. For the first time in the history of American popular culture, African-American forms came to the fore, and the success of big-band jazz made it possible, albeit with considerable difficulty, for some musicians to push a pioneering racial integration on the bandstand and even in the audience. At the same time, Erenberg argues, swing helped revive a potentially moribund youth culture, verdant in the '20s but battered by the economic realities of the Depression. A combination of forces, particularly the repeal of Prohibition and the rise of radio, made the brief triumph of swing possible. And a brief triumph it wasþthe war and the social forces it unleashed, the Red scare of the postþWW II era and a series of rapid socioeconomic changes doomed the big bands. This story has been told many times before, and Erenberg does make some significant contributions to enriching the picture, most notably in his occasional focus on audience reaction and participation. But overall this is a disconnected and often repetitive collection of essays. Moreover, the book is marred by numerous errors, such as attributing "Bidin' My Time" to Hoagy Carmichael. The most egregious error, however, points up the major source of its failure. Erenberg repeats the tale that Bessie Smith"died as a result of segregation in medical facilities." Recent scholarship has disproved this version. A perusal of his footnotes reveals that while Erenberg is knowledgeable in his own academic field, he has failed to keep up with the literature of jazz. A disappointing and, frankly, rather dully written effort.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226215181
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
09/08/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
344
File size:
3 MB

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