Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Stage of Their Own

Way back before Tal Wilkenfeld, the Pretenders or the Go-Go's there was a band of sisters who have just been remembered in an exceptional book aimed at pre-teens, Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World. The framing device tells the story through 20 poems, each illustrated, written in the voices of the Sweethearts' instruments, now silent in a New Orleans pawnshop.
Formed in a boarding school in Mississippi (how unlikely is that?), the interracial band played in famous venues in the late 30s and during the war years. Their message of joy and hope stood up against sexism and racism when that was a hanging offense. They had to sleep on the tour bus in places where blacks and whites were not allowed in the same hotel or restaurant; some even had to don disguises on occasion. Ten minutes of their jumpin' swing can be seen on You Tube ("International Sweethearts of Rhythm"); one of the gals even sings and plays a trumpet lead!

How 'bout that jive?!

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