Dinah, Keep Blowing Your Horn

Last fall I wrote an essay for The Syncopated Times titled, “Reconsidering “Dixieland Jazz”, How The Name Has Harmed The Music”. It encouraged the remaining bands and traditional jazz clubs with “Dixieland” in their name to drop the word because of its inseparable ties to minstrelsy. I concluded that there’s no reclaiming “Dixieland”. I am open to all kinds of changes in language usage, including those around gender, and I’m glad for the conversations being had. But when we call for a change in national school music curriculum we need to make sure we are prepared with the best information possible. The enemies of progress are eager to point out any evidence of ignorance on our part Dr. Katya Ermolaeva’s viral essay, Dinah, Put Down Your Horn: Blackface Minstrel Songs Don’t Belong in Music Class calls for the removal of songs with ties to minstrelsy from the grade school curriculum. It sounds perfectly reasonable but the situation is much more layered than she seems to think. For one, when the origin of her example of a problem song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad", is thoroughly vetted, it turns out to be not only appropriate for the classroom but an excellent vehicle for teaching several important eras of Black history. What the article also misses is that nearly everyone involved in the sanitizing of American folk songs during the '40s and '50s did so
You've read three articles this month! That makes you one of a rare breed, the true jazz fan!

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Joe Bebco is available for liner notes and other writing. Reach him at [email protected]

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