Everybody’s Doin’ It: Sex, Music, and Dance in New York 1840–1917

Norton. Aug. 2019. 384p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393608946. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393608953. MUSIC
In Demons of Desire: Blackface Minstrels and Their World, Cockrell (emeritus, musicology, Vanderbilt Univ.) investigated the effects of race and class on the early American stage. Here the author trains a spotlight on the influence of sex, race, and class on American popular music and dance in the 19th and early 20th centuries and discusses how the rise of prostitution in New York “encouraged dancing made rowdy by wild music,” affected the development of musical styles, and gave many artists a way to make a living. Ragtime and jazz didn’t happen in a vacuum but in a colorful and often lawless world of dance halls, saloons, brothels, and dives. Primary sources ranging from police reports and contemporaneous accounts to period illustrations and song lyrics effectively depict the denizens of this demimonde. It all makes for an absorbing exploration of a tumultuous time in our cultural and social history.
VERDICT Readers interested in the period will appreciate this lively look at the origins of American popular music and dance.

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