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Jazz and Gender Justice: Advisory Board
A companion research guide for the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice
If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery by Farah J. GriffinSinger, composer, actress, lover, wife, writer, pleasure seeker, drug addict, icon, commodity, myth and mystery: Billie Holiday is still one of the most famous jazz vocalists of all time. But Holiday's image -- the gifted torch singer with insatiable appetites for food, sex, alcohol and drugs -- is not the full story. Farah Jasmine Griffin's enchanting investigation of Holiday, her world and how she is remembered, at last fully liberates Lady Day from the tragic songstress myth. Griffin argues that the stereotype of a black woman who can always take center stage to command an audience because of her incredible ability to feel, but not to think, continues to hide the real Holiday from public view. Instead of a mindless "natural" with incredible talent but no discipline, Griffin's Holiday is a jazz virtuoso whose passion and technique made every song she sang forever hers. Instead of being helpless against the racism, sexism and poverty that dominated her life, Holiday is an artist, willing to pay a tremendous price to change the sound of jazz forever. And far from being a victim of overwhelming obstacles, Lady Day is an independent spirit whose greatest legacy is that all hurdles can be overcome, whatever the odds. Holiday's voice has permeated American music from Frank Sinatra to Macy Gray. But, until now, Holiday's influence has never been reconciled with her image. Farah Jasmine Griffin unravels the threads that make up the Holiday mystique and weaves together a new, true Lady Day that jazz fans will both love and respect.
Call Number: ML420.H6 G75 2001
Publication Date: 2001-05-14
Harlem Nocturne by Farah Jasmine GriffinAs World War II raged overseas, Harlem witnessed a battle of its own. Brimming with creative and political energy, the neighborhood's diverse array of artists and activists took advantage of a brief period of progressivism during the war years to launch a bold cultural offensive aimed at winning democracy for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. Ardent believers in America's promise, these men and women helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement before Cold War politics and anti-Communist fervor temporarily froze their dreams at the dawn of the postwar era. In Harlem Nocturne, esteemed scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists whose creative and political efforts fueled this historic movement for change: choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, and novelist Ann Petry. Like many African Americans in the city at the time, these women weren't native New Yorkers, but the metropolis and its vibrant cultural scene gave them the space to flourish and the freedom to express their political concerns. Pearl Primus performed nightly at the legendary Café Society, the first racially integrated club in New York, where she débuted dances of social protest that drew on long-buried African traditions and the dances of former slaves in the South. Williams, meanwhile, was a major figure in the emergence of bebop, collaborating with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell and premiering her groundbreaking Zodiac Suite at the legendary performance space Town Hall. And Ann Petry conveyed the struggles of working-class black women to a national audience with her acclaimed novel The Street, which sold over a million copies--a first for a female African American author. A rich biography of three artists and the city that inspired them, Harlem Nocturne captures a period of unprecedented vitality and progress for African Americans and women, revealing a cultural movement and a historical moment whose influence endures today.