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Labor Day Weekend: Popular Song On The Picket Line

Afterglow takes a look at satirical and political protest music of the 1930s and 40s, performed by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and others.

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Some Music For The Holiday

This week on Afterglow the program is Popular Song On the Picket Line, a look at a time when American popular-song artists, both singers and composers, found themselves drawn to music with socially significant themes. We’ll hear:

  • Recordings from Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and others
  • Duke Ellington performing the title song from his 1941 social-significance musical, Jump For Joy
  • A recording I managed to track down from the original 1937 cast of And the Cradle Will Rock, the controversial Federal Theater Orson Welles production
  • An anthemic anti-lynching song that preceded Billie Holiday‘s iconic “Strange Fruit”

Whatever you’re up to over this long holiday weekend, whether that’s cooking out, watching movies or TV, catching up on reading, or digging into that stack of CDs you haven’t listened to yet, have a safe and happy Labor Day. Me, I’m hoping to finally finish Jeanine Basinger‘s The Star Machine, a fascinating book about how the Hollywood studio system groomed its famous (and not-so-famous) actors and actresses.

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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Afterglow is WFIU's weekly program of jazz and American popular song hosted by David Brent Johnson.

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