By Jeffrey Melnick
All too usually an incident or coincidence, corresponding to the eruption in Crown Heights with its legacy of bitterness and recrimination, thrusts Black-Jewish family members into the inside track. A volley of dialogue follows, yet little within the means of development or enlightenment results--and this can be how issues will stay until eventually we greatly revise the way in which we expect in regards to the complicated interactions among African americans and Jews. A correct to Sing the Blues deals simply this sort of revision. "Black-Jewish relations," Jeffrey Melnick argues, has in most cases been a manner for American Jews to speak about their ambivalent racial prestige, a story jointly built at severe moments, while specific conflicts call for a proof. 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 many years of this century. He indicates how Jews akin to George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, and others have been in a position to painting their "natural" affinity for generating "Black" tune as a made from their Jewishness whereas at the same time depicting Jewishness as a reliable white identification. Melnick additionally contends that this cultural task competed without delay with Harlem Renaissance makes an attempt to outline Blackness. relocating past the slender concentration of advocacy staff politics, this publication complicates and enriches our knowing of the cultural terrain shared through African americans and Jews.
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Additional info for A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song
Louis and Sedalia, Missouri, to the development of ragtime piano by pointing to the large number of brothels in those cities offering employment to pianists. 18 The other social space which encouraged ideas about race mixing was the dance hall. 19 The truly new aspect of these ragtime and jazz dances was the quite public claim of ownership made on them by African Americans in urban settings. Ragtime and jazz, and their dance counterparts, relied on visible African American players. In the dance world, white performers such as the husband and wife team of Vernon and Irene Castle (and later Fred and Adele Astaire) established careers by taking what was perceived as overt sexuality out of the supposedly freer African American dance forms.
104 In the period under consideration here it was Jewish Americans who most successfully merged Blackness and nostalgia for a mythical homeplace: this homeplace, of course, was situated somewhere in a mythical South—a South which has plenty of local color but no race problems. As members of a newer immigrant group, Jewish composers—however long their own families had been in America—were able to draw on the perception that they personally and perpetually experienced the break from a lost homeland.
The most common expressions of the miscegenation theme have focused on the mixed African and European heritage of ragtime and jazz. 31 The mixture at the heart of concerns around jazz and ragtime was that of African Americans and Jews, who were widely held to be responsible—in varying ways—for the new music. As Berndt Ostendorf has shown, Jews and African Americans were imagined by the mainstream public as ~gures of sexual danger. 32 A few points might be added to these insights. 33 Also, African Americans and Jews were not only objects of this discourse; the musical world provided a space where African Americans and Jews could speak to, and about, each other.
A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song by Jeffrey Melnick