Musical Activists

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Feb 22 11:40:37 PST 1999

[This bounced. Sam Pawlett's worm cure seems to have worked.]

Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 11:29:34 -0800 From: Sam Pawlett <epawlett at> X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.06 [en] (Win98; U) MIME-Version: 1.0 To: lbo-talk at Subject: Musical Activists References: < at> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Sam Pawlett (by way of pms ) wrote:

> Wow, Sam. Is that really Cab Calloway? I had no idea. Was he politically
> active, etc?
> Others on the list would probably be interested, but I can feel an
> overlimit day coming on, and I'm being conservative.
> Wow.
> pms

err-a bit late here Paula but,yes, Cab Calloway was politically active in the late 30's and late 40's along with many other jazz musicians like Bird, Diz, Ellington and hosts of others. Cab played gigs to raise money for popular front activities like the Spanish Republicans, anti-fascist exiles, victims of red squads, Scottsboro Nine etc. and the International Labor Defense ( a CPUSA legal support group for class-struggle prisoners.). During this period, Cab had in his band many CP fellow travellers like Frankie Newton and Dizzy Gillespie. If you ever get the chance, check out the film of Diz's mid-seventies visit to Cuba (in defiance of the embargo) with his United Nations Orchestra. Diz brings a bunch of Cuban musicians on stage and says "Now the U.S. government says the people of the U.S. and the people of Cuba can't along. Well we'll show you how we can get along" he then launches into a killer Cuban rhumba. Really cool. A good book on the popular front period is _The Cultural Front_ by Michael Denning. Denning says Cab was a big influence on Richard Wright too. Cab Calloway is back in vogue these days with the swing craze. Highly paid young people smoking $50 cuban cigars( they're legal up here) clad in leopard skin, drinking cognac and single malt lounging in Art Deco furniture all while stumbling around on the dance floor to Cab Calloway and Count Basie.Odd. I wonder what the musicians would have thought of all this? I get a good snicker out of it all.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list