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Swingin' the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture Paperback – October 1, 1999

3.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture
  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226215172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226215174
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Swing was the only truly popular jazz style: starting in 1935, in the now legendary Benny Goodman digression, the swing style lasted for about a decade and during that time it was the American pop music style, its bandleaders and musicians enjoying a public recognition and popularity in most cases higher than movie stars, and only comparable to what would happen with rock artists some decades later. This brilliant book traces the history of swing in its political, social, and cultural aspects, analysing what it represented for youths in the America of the Great Depression. In its radical cut with the "sweet music" bands of the early 1930's, swing was adopted by young radicals as the expression of a more democratic and unprejudiced way of life. It embodied a move (although modest by present day standards) towards racial integration and equality that was several decades ahead of the same type of movement in society at large, and most of its more important personalities lend their support to New Deal and progressive politics, left wing causes, and the Popular Front movement. All this, and more, are described and discussed in a masterly way in this book. Besides, it also puts meat into the backbones by discussing at length concret cases, such as Benny Goodman, the Duke, Basie, and Gleen Miller. The change in swing brought about by the War, as well as the wars within Jazz in the second half of the 1940's between traditionalists, swing, and bebop fans, culminating in the abrupt end of the swing era and of the classical big band jazz scene is brilliantly analysed in the last chapters of the book. A truly admirable and engaging work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not a great book but I learned a lot. It is solidly written with much integrity and good information but somewhat lacking in anecdotal material which keeps you hooked. But since this is an era I had never before studied much about, it was extremely instructive.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I had wished that this was going to be a fantastic book. I would have been pleased that it turned out to be a good, entertaining reference book. I would have grumblingly accepted that it was a necessary overview which filled in many gaps in my knowledge.
Sadly, I dumped the sample that I had downloaded.
Dreadfully and unnecessarily intellectual. It is written with an openly hi- brow approach, the very opposite of what the era of that music was. It left me very annoyed and disappointed. I wanted to send a NASA pass to the author to re-join this planet.
Avoid this elitist tome’ without feeling any guilt. And shame on his Editors for not guiding the writer to be more accessible to general public. I am a Jazz radio presenter; another fellow jazz enthusiast has deleted the purchased book after only a chapter or so, as well.
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