Roy Eldridge’s style is universally recognized as the all-important link between the playing of Louis Armstrong and the achievements of modernist Dizzy Gillespie. Roy’s daring harmonic approach and his technically awesome improvisations provided guidance and inspiration for countless jazz musicians, but he was also a star performer in his own right, whose recordings as a bandleader, and with Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw, gained him a durable international reputation. The indignities he experienced and overcame during the 1940’s while working in otherwise all-white ensembles proved he was as bold a social pioneer as he was a performer. […] Continue reading »
In the final column of his thirty year career as jazz critic of the Village Voice, Gary Giddins wrote, “I’m as besotted with jazz as ever, and expect to write about it till last call, albeit in other formats. Indeed, much in the way being hanged is said to focus the mind, this finale has made me conscious of the columns I never wrote.” […] Continue reading »
Bayard Rustin is one of the important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement.
Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual.
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For those living during the sixties, personal perspectives on the era’s tumultuous world routinely changed instantly. For some, images of civil rights and Vietnam war protestors being beaten brought new meaning to the idea of justice and provoked active participation, while for others a numbered ball picked out of a lottery barrel would alter an entire life’s journey. Morley Safer’s television reporting from the front lines of Vietnam and Walter Cronkite’s nightly reading of the body count stimulated hope and pride in some, fear and rage in others — and often a little of both in everyone.
In They Marched Into Sunlight, Washington Post reporter David Maraniss draws together in one interwoven story the disparate worlds of soldiers in Vietnam, student protesters in the United States, and government officials in Washington.
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With just forty-one recordings to his credit, Robert Johnson (1911-38) is a giant in the history of blues music. Johnson’s vast influence on twentieth-century American music, combined with his mysterious death at the age of twenty-seven, has allowed speculation and myths to obscure the facts of his life. The most famous of these legends depicts a young Johnson meeting the Devil at a dusty Mississippi crossroads at midnight and selling his soul in exchange for prodigious guitar skills. […] Continue reading »