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Vol. 8, No. 2: Summer 2002

Is It True What They Sing About Dixie?

by Stephen J. Whitfield

“‘Won’t-cha come with me to Alabammy, Back to the arms of my dear ol’ Mammy, Her cookin’s lousy and her hands are clammy, But what the hell, it’s home.'”

To succeed in the New World, Jewish songwriters adopted a southern strategy. Immigrants or the sons of immigrants, these men found their vocation in the era of the First World War, flourished for a couple of decades, and did not fully surrender their sovereignty over popular taste until shortly before the Vietnam War. To produce America’s varied carols did not require rootedness or pedigree, since such artists operated in a latitudinarian and unstable society, marked by kaleidoscopic permutations of ancestry as well as by geographical restlessness. These songwriters attached themselves to the musical culture of the nation by celebrating one region above all. The idea of the South inspired a pool of melody into which just about anyone—black or white, Jew or Gentile—could dip.

This article appears as an abstract above, the complete article can be accessed in Project Muse
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