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He'll fix you up a drink, just won't quit, it'll make you fight a circle saw, make you slap the lady down, and make you pick a fight with your pa - Jim Jackson, Bootlegging Blues

Author Topic: Without a Song  (Read 528 times)

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Offline Chezztone

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    • Steve Cheseborough 1920s-30s-style blues
Without a Song
« on: September 01, 2017, 04:07:13 PM »
This is not a new book but it's one that I recently discovered: Robin D. G. Kelley?s Without a Song: New York Musicians Strike Out Against Technology. It's one third of Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century. I found it while searching for books by Howard Zinn, who wrote one of the other two chapters. Published 2002.
The Kelley chapter is about the musicians' union's reactions to the elimination of live music from movie theaters, which eventually included a strike (this was before the better-known Petrillo-led musicians' strike of the WWII era). Tens of thousands of musicians lost work from the late 1920s through the late '30s, as talking pictures became standard, and a corporate-controlled, all-white-male studio orchestra replaced the local musicians. Of course that coincides with the era of the blues we listen to -- not that all of our blues stars worked in movie theaters, although I'm sure many of them did. There were movie theaters in all regions and all kinds of urban neighborhoods. The change had grave impact on the moviegoers' experience as well as the musicians' livelihoods. I don't want to give away any more of the story, but I highly recommend reading it. Besides being educational it's thought-provoking and timely, as mechanically reproduced music continues to displace live performance. And the questions remain: What is the relationship between the artist and the market? What percentage of the multi-trillion-dollar global music industry's income should go to the musicians?

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