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jazz drugAThe New York Amsterdam News, April 1, 1925. The Amsterdam News was another influential black newspaper, somewhat stodgier than the Chicago Defender.
Like anyone else concerned about “respectability,” middle-class black people in the 1920s were not warmly receptive to jazz, which at the time was signified as the equivalent of gangsta rap, punk rock and death metal rolled into one. It was simply the most depraved thing to happen to music since ragtime. So here’s the paper’s medical columnist warning his public about the addictive and soul-destroying properties of this dangerous music.
jazz drug2A“The man” here meaning “men,” as opposed to “The Man.”
jazz drug3AIf this weren’t in a black newspaper, the author would be evoking images of “jungle savagery,” cannibalism, etc. Another trope favored by enemies of jazz was the comparison to industrial noise. It’s not unusual to see both tropes used in a single essay, though you’d think the two would be sort of self-evidently at odds.
AAAI love the reference to “losing their religion.” But kids, you can avoid this fate by enjoying jazz responsibly.


  1. Thanks for reproducing that article here. It’s mind-blowing – like a drug! I’m now going to tell all my friends about it.

    • Thanks, Nina.

  2. That is pretty wild reading… sadly, I need no help casting aside reason and reflection. Maybe I need to find someone who knows how and when to administer the proper dose.

    Thanks for posting it!

    Brian Roessler

    • Don’t worry: the jazz he’s fretting about was taken off the market long ago. Once the banjos and clarinets are gone, we’re looking at a different commodity.

  3. Not sure what the purpose is of sending this article around. This was a prevalent attitude among middle-class blacks, the musical “intellegentsia,” and the main-stream white media of the day! This attitude still exist to some degree today, but clearly “Jazz” has permeated societies and cultures around the world. If I have a concern, it is that almost every kind of music is now placed under the umbrella of the rubric “Jazz,” whether it has any historical connection to the music and its progenitors or not.

    • “What the purpose is”? Um, we don’t really traffic in “purpose” here at The Hope Chest. We just throw ancient shit up that we think is interesting and then let the chips fall.

      But dude, the “jazz” we’re talking about here was the original article: popular, commercial, profitable and deeply disreputable dance music. It did indeed, as you note, conquer the world. But it did so as a crowd-pleasing idiom that scarcely resembles the brow-furrowing, academically-sanctioned, philanthropically-subsidized, Lincoln Center cultural spinach in whose defense I sense you are drawing your sword. We’re talking apples and grapefruits here. Or apples and moldy figs, perhaps.

  4. I completely agree about the beauty of the headline. It’s like classy version of the Butthole Surfers’ “Creamed Corn From the Socket of Davis”.

    • But can you get classier than that?

  5. Oops . MY previous statement still stands , but it was meant to apply to “Cocaine For the Eyes of Firemen ” not “Jazz – a Drug”

  6. Considering that this article was written during the alcohol Prohibition era in the US, it makes perfect sense: people were slipping into speakeasy parlors, gambling, enjoying the company of loose women in flapper dresses, and listening to *gasp* all that jazz.

    Fifty, sixty years from now, Hope Chest readers be chuckling over the Manning Report, in which a former street thug, now a PhD (he repeatedly tells us), rails about how the black man hasn’t accomplished anything, and no black man (least of all Obama) is qualified to be president.
    Of course, like this ‘Jazz is a Drug’ article, the Manning Report is written and presented by a black American.

    It further demonstrates that there is no such thing a black American mindset, a black American vote, black American music, black American cuisine and so on. Black Americans are every bit as varied politically, culturally and musically as the rest of the nation…

    • Ooooh, a learned fellow with a PhD, you say? I’m here to tell you a doctorate and five bucks will get you a venti mocha at Starbucks.

      “Fifty, sixty years from now, Hope Chest readers be chuckling over the Manning Report”

      So you feel this project has legs then? Thanks for your vote of confidence.

      • here you go, MP – you can judge its entertainment value for yourself:

  7. As for the Hope Chest, I sure Hope so- fun reads.

    If not 50 or 60, gimme 10…

    • Holy smokes! I’m speechless.

      For that astounding submission, and your kind words, I’m posting a second anti-jazz column by M. Elliott Rawlins, MD.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] heute über fast jede neue, Untergrund basierte Musikrichtung geschrieben wird. Lest den Artikel hier in voller […]

  2. […] that are odd.. there’s lots of talk about vampire drivers for some reason. I kinda love this Jazz–a Drug article – which seems to advocate for the illegalizing of Jazz because it is “just as […]

  3. By Songtaneous » Web Wanderings on 09 Nov 2009 at 3:57 am

    […] This explains some things. *wicked grin* […]

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