When Jews Met the Blues

When Jews met African-Americans in the early part of the 20th century the collision created American popular music. Both groups were immigrants to the great cities of America’s north – Jews came from Eastern Europe and Blacks from the American South. But their desire to get away from oppression to economic opportunity wasn’t the only thing they had in common. Their cultures were deeply rooted in music and music of a particular kind: crying out and soulful and syncopated. In this cultural history from the FRDH archive, Michael Goldfarb traces out how talented people in both communities met, borrowed, occasionally stole musical ideas and along the way created the American songbook, as well as rock and roll and and rhythm and blues. He also tells the story of the coming together and then fracturing of the great alliance for political progress in 20th century America … the alliance between African-Americans and Jews.

It is an alliance that can be traced at least as far back as Harlem in the 1920’s and disintegrated after the Civil Rights successes of the mid 1960’s amid acrimonious accusations of exploitation and appropriation. An argument that continues.

This FRDH podcast is a cultural history with lots of music and thoughtful interviews.

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