By Jeffrey Melnick
All too frequently an incident or twist of fate, reminiscent of the eruption in Crown Heights with its legacy of bitterness and recrimination, thrusts Black-Jewish kinfolk into the scoop. A volley of debate follows, yet little within the means of development or enlightenment results--and this is often how issues will stay until eventually we considerably revise the way in which we predict concerning the advanced interactions among African american citizens and Jews. A correct to Sing the Blues bargains simply this sort of revision. "Black-Jewish relations," Jeffrey Melnick argues, has generally been a manner for American Jews to speak about their ambivalent racial prestige, a story jointly developed at severe moments, whilst specific conflicts call for an evidence. Remarkably versatile, this narrative can manage 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" track within the first few a long time of this century. He indicates how Jews akin to George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, and others have been capable of painting their "natural" affinity for generating "Black" song as a made from their Jewishness whereas concurrently depicting Jewishness as a reliable white id. Melnick additionally contends that this cultural job competed without delay with Harlem Renaissance makes an attempt to outline Blackness. relocating past the slender concentration of advocacy crew politics, this ebook complicates and enriches our realizing of the cultural terrain shared through African americans and Jews.
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Additional resources for A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song
In other words, not only did Jewish productions elbow African Americans out, but also this same success in the marketplace allowed Jews to begin positioning themselves as the most accomplished composers of African American music. “Cheek to Cheek”: Al Jolson and the Jewish Switchboard Ex am Jews did not invent a wholly new place for themselves in American popular culture but instead made their ~rst major incursion into the market as blackface performers. ”89 Jews were quite successful at selling themselves in blackface: Irving Howe argues that by 1910 or so, Jews had more or less taken over blackface entertainment.
For every actively partisan Jewish club owner or artist manager who showed honest concern for an African American performer, we can ~nd an equally corrupt and exploitative one. 86 By contrast, we ~nd Dutch Schultz, who, as a backer of the 1929 cabaret revue Hot Chocolates, menaced Waller’s songwriting partner Andy Razaf. Razaf’s widow has recalled that while watching a rehearsal, Schultz became convinced the show lacked something and “asked” Razaf to write a comic song about a “colored girl” complaining about how tough it is to be colored.
78 The putative protection of law and ASCAP did not stop African American songwriters from being exploited. Writers without steady jobs often sold songs—complete with the rights to them—to well-capitalized publishers who could afford to wait for deferred payments. 79 Even more disturbing is the real possibility that African Americans were systematically used to write songs without being given the credit which would lead to future earnings. Sam Wooding, an African American bandleader of the 1920s, insisted that the apparent exclusion of African Americans from Tin Pan Alley was illusory.
A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song by Jeffrey Melnick