Monday, December 07, 2009

'Lock It, Sock It & Put It In Your Pocket'

The swing craze in the 1940s fundamentally reshaped white America's relationship to black music and swing musicians of both colors were seen as part of a single movement. As Elijah Wald writes in How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll, there was both more and less to this than it would seem at first glance:

"This inspired a generation of white fans to think of themselves as
members of a sort of insider's club, taking Harlem fashions as their guide not only for music and dance but for clothing, language, and attitude. The war years saw the ranks of aspiring hepcats spread beyond the confines of the jazz world. On radio and in films, it became common to hear established stars like George Burns and Gracie Allen trying out phrases like "Gimme some skin, Jack. Lock it, sock it, and put it in your pocket" . . .

"The war created further mixing, and with it some further complications. A lot of people found themselves meeting members of another race at close quarters for the first time in army camps and wartime industrial jobs, and in some cases their minds were broadened by the experience. But the idea of black men being armed and sent abroad to shoot at white men -- not to mention possibly sleeping with white women -- brought extreme reactions from racists."

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