Real Men Don't Sing: Crooning in American Culture
“A Supine Sinking into the Primeval Ooze”: Crooning and Its Discontents, 1929–1933
The widespread backlash against crooners in the early 1930s resulted in revised norms of middle-class white masculinity being applied to popular voices for the first time on a national scale. This chapter contextualizes these attacks within a more conservative turn in Depression-era America regarding gender and sexuality. At a time of increasing censorship in the mass media, live performance, and public life generally, crooners’ gender fluidity and popularity, especially among women, were seen as culturally threatening. The chapter details charges of crooners’ effeminacy and suspect homosexuality in attacks by a broad range of cultural authorities: religious and secular, urban and suburban, scientific and industrial, highbrow and lowbrow. It also analyzes the mass media’s ridicule, stigmatization, marginalization, and censorship of crooner characters and high-pitched male vocalizing in the radio, novels, songs, and films of the time.