Sunday, November 1st at 3:00 p.m.
Speaker Prof. Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts Boston
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No history of American popular music in the Twentieth Century can be written without African Americans and Jews at the center of the narrative. From the early days of Tin Pan Alley, through the heyday of Brill Building pop in the 1960s (with which Paul Simon was associated early in his career), and up through the hip hop explosion of the 1980s and 1990s, African Americans and Jews have been complexly and productively connected. In this talk, Professor Melnick will outline this history, with a special focus on the complicated ways that Jewish Americans—as songwriters, producers, theater owners, and performers—have been crucially involved with the production of what has been understood as “Black” music. With a cast of characters including Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Sophie Tucker, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday Jerry Wexler, and the Beastie Boys, this presentation will engage the audience in a consideration of the difficult politics surrounding the Jewish involvement in African American music.
Jeff Melnick is Professor of American Studies at University of Massachusetts, where he specialize sin teaching about immigration and cultural history. His books include A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song, Black-Jewish Relations on Trial: Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the New South, and, most recently, 9/11 Culture: America Under Construction. Professor Melnick served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Popular Music Studies for many years and has lectured widely on American popular culture. He is currently writing a book provisionally titled Creepy Crawling with the Manson Family.