From 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. Recommended.?Dan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, PA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In many ways, the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s ignited a cultural revolution more significant than the celebrated transformations of the 1960s. Erenberg concentrates on the social and political forces that the great swing bands and much of their audience embodied. Instead of practicing musical analysis (fine sources of that are cited in his notes), he considers how such bandleaders as Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Artie Shaw were crucial in breaking down racial stereotypes, heralding integration, and championing American folk culture. Erenberg also spiritedly surveys how a cross section of the American population responded to these musicians. The fans' enthusiasm for popular music helped build the youth culture still active today, and radio stations and publications arose at this time to nurture that culture, a development Erenberg treats humorously as well as informatively. Today's fans and jazz writers may find themselves longing for the days when, Erenberg says, Down Beat
critics displayed "a nonsectarian leftist populism that fit with the magazine's screwball democratic ethos." Aaron Cohen