Against the Current, No. 99, July/August 2002
Conventional Wisdom and Nuclear Wisdom
— The Editors
Is Working a "Major Life Activity"?
— Barbara Harvey
Oregon Farmworkers' Decade of Struggle
— Michael Connor
GE's PCBs: Who Will Tell the Fish
— Marlaine Browning
KFC: Corporate Fetishism and Fecal Soup
— Purnima Bose and Laura Lyons
Race and Class: The Color-Blind Myth
— Malik Miah
— Karin Baker
After Jenin, An Eyewitness Report
— Charity Crouse
Vieques: Hasta La Vista, Navy!
— Sara Peisch
Revelations in Digna Ochoa Murder
— from Mexican News and Analysis
A French Left Revival from the Ashes?
— Patrick Le Trehondat and Patrick Silberstein
Radical Rhythms: Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road
— Kim D. Hunter
Camera Lucida: Progressive Fantasies
— Arlene Keizer
Rebel Girl: The Price of Assimilation
— Catherine Sameh
Random Shots: Of Drugs and Diamonds
— R.F. Kampfer
A Critical Look at Empire
— Charlie Post
Militant Islam in Central Asia
— Dianne Feeley
When Poetry Ruled the Streets
— Christopher Phelps
Victor Serge: The Course Is Set on Hope
— Bryan Palmer
Before Motown, Back in the Day
— David Finkel
- In Memoriam
An Appreciation of Stephen Jay Gould
— Ansar Fayyazuddin
John Watson and Tommy Flanagan, Special Detroiters
— Herb Boyd
A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-1960
by Lars Bjorn with Jim Gallert
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001,
239 pages, $24.95 paperback.
TOMMY FLANAGAN’S FINAL Detroit performance, fittingly, was at the city’s annual International Jazz Festival, Labor Day weekend 2001.
It was a memorable and heroic effort: Flanagan played an hour of transcendent solo piano, fighting through not only obvious fatigue but repeated electric shocks from a malfunctioning heart pacemaker. Many of us may have been in some degree of denial, but must have realized we were seeing this beloved master for the final time.
In Before Motown, Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert chronicle the musical and social culture that nurtured Flanagan and hundreds of other better-or-lesser-known giants. The city’s explosive growth — in the 1920s Detroit’s area expanded fivefold to its present boundaries — brought with it both opportunities and sharp racial and ethnic conflicts.
Incredibly, not until 1950 did an openly interracial night club, Club Juana, operate on the main thoroughfare Woodward Avenue (Before Motown, 71). Yet the Detroit African-American community, hemmed into enclaves on the East and West sides, was bursting with creative as well as social-political and entrepreneurial energy.
This book’s “guiding idea is that the music played was a result of the cultural identities of the musicians and the opportunities they had to express these within a rapidly changing urban society,” writes author and sociology professor Bjorn (xiii-xiv). Gallert’s contributions include a quarter century of archival research and interviews.
Detroit’s importance as a civil rights, labor and radical town — and as the home of Motown<197>has been the subject of numerous historical works. This book documents an equally vital, if less documented, dimension of the story.
ATC 99, July-August 2002