David Brackett, 2017. "The Social Aesthetics of Swing in the 1940s: Or the Distribution of the Non-Sensible", Improvisation and Social Aesthetics, Georgina Born, Eric Lewis, Will Straw
Download citation file:
In discussions of jazz within the broader history of popular music in the United States, two verities are invariably asserted: (1) that the period 1935–45 represents the closest rapprochement between jazz and popular music, when jazz, in the form of “swing,” dominated the charts; and (2) swing music, and hence jazz, lost its influence over popular music at the end of the war with the demise of many of the most prominent swing bands. This article examines these verities through an analysis of both music industry discourse and a broad range of recordings that were ranked high in charts such as those featured in Billboard. Brackett suggests that on one level—consisting of songs in the late 1940s of the greatest measurable popularity—a sense of continuity can be heard with swing-based popular music from earlier in the decade. On a subtler level, however, during this period a decrease occurred both in the number of popular recordings associated with African Americans and in the general sense of inclusiveness and pluralism found in swing.