Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Prohibition Blues

by Len Hart

With the crash of the stock market in 1929, the American Dream turned nightmare, ushering in an era defined by images of poverty, hunger, unemployment and lines of hungry hopeless lined up at soup kitchens. In farming communities, the Dust Bowl added to the problems of the Great Depression.

The 'depression era' was lightened and often defined by a soundtrack: jazz and eventually the big bands. Conventional wisdom dates the end of the long depression to U.S. entry into World War II. There is some truth to that; interestingly, much music associated with the war years is 'sweeter' than the often earthy, sexy, bluesy jazz era of flappers, strippers and growling blues.

Pre-war jazz was most surely affected by 'Prohibition', a government crackdown on alcohol, an experimental attempt to legislate morality. It failed! Liquor flowed in 'speakeasies' where was also found strip shows and often easy sex. As always, music is both a product and a reflection of the times in which it is made.

Prohibition Blues

The Great Depression

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