Did Folk Music Kill Jazz? - JazzWax

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December 07, 2010


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1958 might have been a great time for music and art culture, but that is where it ends. It would have been a horrible time for African-Americans, including all those who contributed greatly to the said music and art culture. Life sucks when you don't have civil rights and the law doesn't even view you as a human being.


A lot of great jazz was created in '58, but most of the musicians were scuffling. Today jazz musicians have opportunities in the universities, training the next generation of...jazz educators. Folk music, unfortunately, appears to be truly dead. However it's corpse can be seen trolling, zombielike, on PBS pledge breaks.

Joel Lewis

Although I don't sense that the jazz community viewed the emergent rock n'roll scene of the 50s with alarm (Chuck Berry played Newport Jazz Festival & even participated in the jam sessions, I do think it created teh shift in music which accounts for jazz's continual marginality. Those rock and roll kids ended going to college and switching to the more "mature" folk scene (a prime example being Bob Dylan who was a rock and roller before discovering folk at U of Minn). I have seen comments by Orrin Keepnews complain that audiences were shrinking by the early 60s. The coup de grace was not the Beatles, but adventourous rockers like Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, the Dead and Cream, who were certainly nowhere in the league of their jazz contemps were far more culturaly relatable to the young white middle class audience who only a decade early packed college theaters to see Miles, Brubeck and the MJQ

Doug Zielke

While visiting NYC this October, I had the good fortune to see and hear the Bill Charlap Trio at the Village Vanguard. If jazz is "dead", I must have been having a wonderful dream, swinging with Bill, Peter and Kenny!
And if jazz ever goes "mainstream", that's when lovers of the music will really have to worry.

Minhquan Nguyen

I think jazz, like classical music, will always have a place in the world. And like classical music, musicians who appreciate and study jazz will be much stronger, innovative, and well-rounded than those who don't.

Ian Carey

Damn you Burl Ives! [Shaking fist at sky]

Richard Salvucci

It's only dead if there's no one left to care.

Allen Lowe

there's always something more. Spend a day listening to Roswell Rudd, Julius Hemphill, Mary Halvorson, Steve Bernstein, Darius Jones, Randy Sandke, Lewis Porter, Marc Ribot, etc and THEN tell me jazz is dead.

John P. Cooper


The first black face I have ever seen on here and immediately you skip over the music and begin whining about civil rights 52 years ago. That song is played out.

John P. Cooper

Except for the years between 1948 and 1951—when people were seeking release from wartime emotions and there was no competitive music for young people—jazz never really had a commercial vogue in the U.S.
There's some new stats! 'Between 48 and 51'? "Wartime emotions"? What? Korea?

Many musics have a vogue. Jazz had it's vogue with the general populace. And it got plenty of press in the mainstream media. Now, it doesn't, but there is still lots of Jazz out there. Few MSM outlets write about classical music and performers, but there is a huge 'industry' of classical recordings, performances and artists.

Folk and rock killed very little.

Ian Carey

Atane's point is solid. You can't idealize the golden age of jazz without acknowledging that for a huge percentage of the country's population (including most jazz musicians) it was a pretty demoralizing time to be alive. Mentioning this fact is hardly "whining."

John P. Cooper


Atane's point is an aside at best.

"A demoralizing time to be alive"? How can you speak for millions of people like that? How do you know how demoralized they all were?

When I am listening to music, I am listening to music. I can idolize that age of music without getting caught up in the social situations of the time.

C. Claiborne Ray

I recently saw the brief film "The Cry of Jazz," circa 1959, in which an another jazz musician declared jazz dead, but for political and cultural reasons. Worth a look. The man who made it, Edward Bland, is still amongst us and might make an interesting interview. Anthology Film Archives could probably put you in touch.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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