When the stock market took a dive on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the country was unprepared and the resulting economic devastation was a key factor in beginning the Great Depression. In 1933, at the worst point in the Depression years, unemployment rates in the United States reached almost 25%, with more than 11 million people looking for work. Americans were searching for an escape for their hardship and they found it in the music of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and others. Jazz was the antidote to the waking spirits of the American public.
Although the country was facing unprecedented hardship, Swing music elevated jazz to new heights—making it the first and only time jazz was America’s popular music. This talk will illuminate the origins of the Great Depression and the key musicians who helped revive the American spirit.
Music of the 1930s and 1940s will illustrate the importance of this uniquely American art form and the cultural significance it has played in our country’s history. From the advent of V-Discs (victory discs) and the USO, evidence will be provided on music’s ability to heal a nation through economic devastation and the turmoil of war.
This program is funded by the Horizons Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.