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Jazz Music: Reasons Why It Was Called The Devil’s Music (Essay Sample)


The task was to highlight the reasons why jazz music gained negative reputation during its pioneering years; mostly in the early 1920s. First, I had to give a history background of jazz music before exploring those reasons.

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6 October, 2017
Jazz music: Reasons why it was called the devil’s music
The 1920s put an indelible mark on the social, economic and political spheres of the American society. Famously referred to as The Roaming Twenties, this era is synonymous with the Prohibition, Harlem Renaissance, the Lost Generation, economic boom, sexual liberalism, women’s suffrage and more remarkably, the rise of jazz music to become a major mainstream musical genre. Born in New Orleans in the early 20s, jazz music grew exponentially within the next few years; gaining mass appeal of epic proportions. According to an anecdote by Jerry Roll Morton, a famous jazz composer, the spread of jazz music destabilized the existing cultural order─ attracting fierce critics─ who never shied from calling it a devil’s music (The Devil’s Music). Some of the reasons attributable to this epithet will be briefly explored.
Infusion of drugs and sexual liberalism into jazz music attracted vicious condemnation from the social conservatives; especially the older generation, and both religious and moral zealots. Unlike other music genres at the time, jazz accommodated sexual freedom and expressionism between both genders. In dancehalls and clubs where jazz was played, women were at liberty to dance in a sensual manner without any form of social condemnations or inhibitions. Parents attributed rebellious behaviors among their youthful children to jazz’s lifestyle. The fact that Prohibition Era coincided with formative years of jazz music can also be attributed to moral antagonism between the latter and mainstream society.
Personal lives of jazz musicians were often in contrast with widely accepted moral standards. Some of the greatest jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis used heroine and alcohol. According to Vaartstra, jazz musicians were liberal lot and often perennial voluptuaries. Arguably, one of the major reasons behind the widespread abuse of drugs by jazz musicians is ubiquity of the drugs in clubs and dancehalls where they performed their music. In addition, most jazz musicians used music to rebel against social conformism and conservative tendencies through presenting an alternative culture (Between the wars). It is worth noting that some of the jazz musicians such as Tadd Dameron and Frank Morgan served jail terms due to various felonies.
Racial tension between the Blacks and Whites had a significant impact on the growth of jazz music. Most of the Whites viewed jazz as an emerging genre which would counter the popularity of classical music (a genre of European origin). The fact that most jazz musicians came from lower class backgrounds and lived in ghettos hindered the penetration of jazz in the White middle and upper classes. This created general discountenance toward the music and its related lifestyles. Emigration of Blacks from the South to the North; however, led...
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