Thursday, January 13, 2022

Sinful Jazz Soul Wreckage

One of my Jazz Course students just forwarded some choice quotes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of 1922. Written by upstanding, upright, moral citizens concerned about the debilitating effect of jazz, these choice quotes were the last stand of a prurient repressed Victorian Society terrified of the body’s freedom, fun and sex. In an article by Matthew J. Prigge (real name?) titled “The Year of the Flapper,” he notes: 


Early in 1922, the Journal described jazz a "decadent African rhythms moaned by a saxophone" while dismissing it as "a panacea for nagging housewives, Bolshevism and the sorrows resulting from the Volstead drought" - a reference to the Prohibition legislation. But when it became clear that jazz was the preferred form of dance music for the flappers and the "flippers", "goofs" and "dew droppers" (varieties of boys who chased flappers) she attracted, the matter became more serious. "The sooner we get rid of jazz, the sooner we shall have the return of real national prosperity, " the paper editorialized. "To let boys or girls become jazz addicts is to excite in them sentiments that handicap and debase. It may even be to ensure soul wreckage."


 It continues:  “To respond, as is inevitable, to the musical anarchy, the sensational sounds, the tom-tom of modern jazz," said a representative of the Federated Church Women of Milwaukee, "is to yield to close, improper positions and a series of fatuous squirmings and wrigglings and gyrations."


 To which the flappers of the 1920’s, the Lindy Hoppers of the ‘30’s, the Jitterbuggers of the ‘40’s and 50’s said, “Yeah! Bring it on!” And the musicians did. 


Today I taught two jazz pieces to 7th graders at a school and it gave me great satisfaction in knowing that I was introducing them to sinful jazz soul wreckage. Yeah!



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