Jews did not create the popular song; they debased it. The time of the entry of Jews into control of the popular song is the exact time when the morality of popular songs began to decline. It is not a pleasant statement to make, but it is a fact. It would seem to be a fact of which American Jews ought to take solemn cognizance, not to anathematize those who do service by exposing the fact, but to curb that group of Jews who, in this instance, as do other groups of Jews in other instances, bring a stain upon the Jewish name.
The “popular” song, before it became a Jewish industry, was really popular. The people sang it and had no reason to conceal it. The popular song of today is often so questionable a composition that performers with a vestige of delicacy must appraise their audience before they sing. There are songs and choruses that can be purchased in any reputable music store and found in many reputable parlors which cannot be printed in this column of THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT. If they were printed here, “Gentile fronts” would be the first to complain that this paper was using obscenity to give interest to these articles. Yet, if those songs were printed, this paper would be doing nothing more than following its policy of going to Jewish sources for its material.
Americans of adult age will remember the stages through which the popular song has passed during the past three or four decades. War songs persisted after the Civil War and were gradually intermingled with songs of a later time, picturesque, romantic, clean.
These latter were not the product of song factories, but the creation of individuals whose gifts were given natural expression. These individuals did not work for publishers but for the satisfaction of their work. There were no great fortunes made out of songs, but there were many satisfactions in having pleased the public taste.
The public taste, like every other taste, craves what is given it most to feed upon. Public taste is public habit. The public is blind to the source of that upon which it lives, and it adjusts itself to the supply. Public taste is raised or lowered as the quality of its pabulum improves or degenerates. In a quarter of a century, given all the avenues of publicity like theater, movie, popular song, saloon and newspaper—in the meantime having thrown the mantle of contempt over all counteractive moral agencies—you can turn out nearly the kind of public you want. It takes just about a quarter of a century to do a good job.
In other days the people sang as they do now, but not in such doped fashion nor with such bewildering continuity. They sang songs nonsensical, sentimental and heroic, but the “shady” songs were outlawed. If sung at all, the “shady” songs were kept far from the society of decent people. Like the styles of the demimonde that formerly were seen only in the abandoned sections of cities, the songs of smut had their geographical confinement, but like the fashions of the demimonde they broke out of their confines to spread among polite society.
The old songs come readily back to memory. Though years have intervened since they were the fashion, yet their quality was such that they do not die. The popular song of last month—who knows its name? But there are songs of long ago whose titles are familiar even to those who have not sung them.
Recall their names—“Listen to the Mocking Bird”—what song today has been boosted to general acceptance on such a simple theme? The only “birds” the people are encouraged to sing about today are “flappers” and “chickens.”
And there were “Ben Bolt”; “Nellie Grey”; “Juanita”; “The Old Folks at Home”; “The Hazel Dell”; “When You and I Were Young, Maggie”; “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” What margin did these songs leave for the suggestive, for the unwholesomly emotional?
In those days the people sang; they sang together; they sang wherever they met; it was the days of that now extinct institution known as “the singing school.” People could sing together. The songs were common property, known to everybody, proper to everybody.
Is there such singing today? Hardly. At a recent meeting of young men in a church the chorus, “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” was called for, and the chairman in agreeing called out “Mustn’t say the naughty word!” With that warning the chorus was given. In calling for public singing there is an immediate uneasiness about possible indecency. There was not this uneasiness before the days of Jewish jazz.
In course of time the fashion of public song underwent a change. An entirely new crop of titles appeared, dealing with an entirely different series of subjects than the songs they displaced.
It was the period of “Annie Rooney”; “Down Went McGinty to the Bottom of the Sea”; “She’s Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage”; “After the Ball is Over”—all of them clean, lighter than the preceding fashion in songs, but just as clean, and also giving a true touch to life.
Sentiment was not lacking, but it was the unobjectionable sentiment of “My Wild Irish Rose” or “In the Baggage Coach Ahead.”
The non-Jewish period was marked by songs like these: “On the Banks of the Wabash,” by Paul Dresser; “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”; “When the Sunset Turns the Ocean’s Blue to Gold”; “Down by the Old Mill Stream”; “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon,” by Jim Thornton; “The Sidewalks of New York,” by Charles Lawlor.
There was also the “western” and “Indian” strain of songs, represented by “Cheyenne, Cheyenne, Hop on My Pony”; “Arawanna”; “Trail of the Lonesome Pine.”
Then came the African period, being the entrance of the jungle motif, the so-called “Congo” stuff into popular pieces. “High Up in the Coconut Tree,” “Under the Bamboo Tree,” and other compositions which swiftly degenerated into a rather more bestial type than the beasts themselves arrive at.
Running alongside all this was the “ragtime” style of music which was a legitimate development of Negro mistrelsy. Lyrics practically disappeared before the numerous “cake walk” songs that deluged the public ear. “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”—the marching song of the Spanish-American War, belongs to that period. The “black and tan” resorts of the South began to reign over the nation’s music both North and South. Seductive syncopation captured the public ear. The term, “ma baby,” brought in on the flood of Negro melody has remained in uncultivated musical speech ever since. Minstrelsy took on new life. “Piano acts” made their appearance. “Jazz bands” were the rage.
By insensible gradations, now easily traceable through the litter of songs with which recent decades are strewn, we have been able to see the gradual decline in the popular song supply. Sentiment has been turned into sensuous suggestion. Romance has been turned into eroticism. The popular lilt slid into ragtime, and ragtime has been superseded by jazz. Song topics became lower and lower until at last they were dredges of the slimy bottom of the underworld.
The first self-styled “King of Jazz” was a Jew named “Frisco.” The general directors of the whole downward trend have been Jews. It needed just their touch of cleverness to camouflage the moral filth and raise it half a degree above the natural stage where it begets nothing but disgust. They cannot gild the lily, but they can veil the skunk-cabbage, and that is exactly what has been done. The modern popular song is a whited sepulcher, sparkling without, but within full of the dead bones of all the old disgusting indecencies. Plain print returns them to their rightful status of disgust.
We are now in the period of “The Vamp”—that great modern goddess upon whom tens of thousands of silly girls are modeling themselves—“The Vamp.” The original “vamp” is to be found in a forbidden French novel upon which Morris Gest founded his grossly immoral spectacle called “Aphrodite.” In the Jewish popular song and the Jewish motion picture film a unity has at last been reached in “The Vamp.” The vamp heroine and the harem scene—a fitting climax!
There is work here for the Anti-Defamation League. That league knows how to put the screws on anyone who disparages the Jews. From important New York publishers, down to inconsequential country newspapers, the Anti-Defamation League makes its power felt. There is work for it in the movies and the popular song industry. Why does not the league put the screws on those Jews who have degenerated the movies and debauched the popular song movement and thus brought shame upon the racial name? Why not? Is it possible that only the non-Jews are to be controlled, and Jews let to run loose? Is it possible that “Gentiles” can be curbed as by bridle and bit and that Jews cannot?
It is repeated: there is work for the Anti-Defamation League among the Jews.
More than that: there are Jews who have begged the Anti-Defamation League to purge the name of Jewry of the shame the liquor Jews, the movie Jews, the popular song Jews, the theatrical Jews, and the others are bringing on that name, and the Anti-Defamation League has not done so. It dare not.
American Jewry is desperately afraid of opening a single seam in its armor by means of a single investigation or reform. They are afraid of how far the fire of self-correction may spread.
It was the intention of THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT to give in this article a sample of the manner in which Jewish jazz is written in three classes—No. 1 for general consumption; No. 2 for stage consumption; No. 3 for the lowest resorts. On searching through the songs for the least offensive example it is found that even the least offensive cannot be printed here. The fact is greatly regretted, for certainly some method must be found by which the public can be put into possession of full information as to what is transpiring in this hideous traffic.
The Jewish art of “camouflage” (the reader may not be aware that wartime camouflage was a Jewish invention) has always been operative. “Cover names,” “cover nationalities” (these are Jewish terms) have long been known. It is quite common for Jews of the higher type to band themselves together into societies for political and racial purposes, the purposes being camouflaged by a name, such as Geological Society, or Scientific Society, or something of the sort. And thus in the vilest versification, which only a few years ago would have been refused the mails, they have flung broadcast among the youth of the world dangerous ideas under the camouflage of catchy tunes.
The tunes themselves carry a tale with them. There have been cases in the courts dealing with the “adaptation,” or stealing, of tunes for “popular song” purposes. If you observe carefully you will catch reminiscent strains in many of the popular songs which you sing. If you sing, “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep,” and then sing, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” you will notice a basic resemblance; but that does not prove that “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep” is itself original, its melody was originally taken from an Opus of Chopin. This is a practice which has been greatly extended of recent years.
The reason for the spread of this particular kind of dishonesty is to be found in the Jewish policy of “speeding up business.” Ordinarily one play a week, and one or two new songs a season, was the limit of indulgence. But with the coming of the movies the “one play a week” plan has been smashed to smithereens. To get the people to pay their money every day, the programs are changed every day; and to get new plays every day, something must be cheapened. So with songs. The output is rushed to increase the income of money, and quality is sacrificed all round. There are not enough good songs in the world to supply a new one very week; not enough good plays in the world to supply a new movie every day; and so, what the songs and plays lack in worth, they make up in nastiness. In brief, nastiness is the constant quality on which producers depend to “put across” mediocre songs and otherwise pointless plays. Nastiness is the condiment that goes with cheapness in songs and movies.
Plagiarism is the result of mediocre artists being spurred on by non-artistic promoters to produce something that can be dressed up with sufficient attractiveness to draw the public’s money. But even plagiarism requires a little brains mixed with it, and when the rush of demand overwhelms the available brains, the lack is covered up by an elaborate covering of sensualism.
Men who are on the inside of the popular song business, and certain court records, all testify to the exact truth of these statements.
“But how do the Jews do it?” is a question often asked. The answer is, not public demand, nor artistic merit, nor musical ingenuity, nor poetic worth—no; the answer is simple salesmanship. The public doesn’t choose, the public simply takes what is persistently thrust upon it. It is a system impossible to any other race but the Jews, for there is no other race that centers its whole interest on the sale. There is no other race that makes so startling a choice in favor of “getting” money to the exclusion of “making” money. Who for a moment would think seriously of using the terms “production” and “service” with reference to popular songs or motion pictures? Motion pictures in their higher reaches might have some claim on those terms—not the typical Jewish pictures, however; but the modern crop of popular songs, never! The terms “production” and “service” do not belong to the popular song industry at all, but the term “salesmanship” does, as the reader will presently see. It is well to remember that where there is only “salesmanship” without the other two qualities, the public is always the sufferer.
“Popularity,” when interpreted by the Jews who manufacture jazz for the United States, means “familiarity,” that’s all. The theory is that a song need not possess merit as regards words or music to be successful. It can be “popularized” artificially by constant repetition, until it becomes familiarized to the public ear, and thus familiarized it becomes “successful.”
The principle is expressed in the words of the song, “Everybody’s Doin’ It.” You go to the theater and hear a song. Next day at lunch the café singer is singing the same song. Blaring phonographs used for advertising purposes blat out the same song at you as you pass on the street. You walk past an afternoon band concert in the park—the band is playing the same song. If you are a normal person you have a feeling that perhaps something has been going on in the world while you were engaged with your own affairs. The song—you say to yourself frankly—is silly and the music trivial; but you keep your opinion a secret, because, after all, “everybody’s singin’ it.” Not long after you find yourself humming it. You go home, and your daughter is “practicing up” on the piece. It yells its way through your home and through your neighborhood and through your city and through your state until in sheer disgust, and in one day, the people pitch it bodily out-of-doors. But, behold, another song is waiting to take its place—a song fresh from Yiddish Tin Pan Alley. And the agony is repeated. This occurs from 30 to 50 times a year.
That is the principle—repeat it until it becomes familiar; that gives it the veneer of popularity.
Now, there is a method by which all this is done. Nothing “happens.” It is like the “mob risings” which have been practiced in some of our cities—there is always a well-organized center that knows the technology of riot and knows exactly what it is doing. There is a way of making “revolution” as common and as familiar a thought as the movies and popular songs have made “vamps” and “harems” and “hooch” and “Hula Hula.” The principle is the same—constant repetition for the purpose of familiarization.
More than one tune has been deliberately rejected by the public, has not been “liked,” but the song-tinkers did not allow that little fact to intimidate them; they simply hammered it into the ears and memories of the public, knowing that “familiarization” was obtainable some time. “Whispering,” for example, did not catch on for a long time. Long ago it used to be known as “Johnnie’s Melody” because John Schoenberger wrote it—but finally it was driven home to its present popularity. There is this to say about it: it is far more deserving of its popularity than is 98 per cent of the so-called “popular” music.
Having the principle, then, that any song can be popularized by constant repetition, the Yiddish music purveyors go about their business very systematically.
The song is procured—by what means, it is not always possible to say. Perhaps one of the “staff” originates a catchy tune, or a girl who plays the church organ in a distant village sends in a pretty little melody. The girl’s melody is, of course, sent back as unsuitable, but if it really had a heart of melody in it, a copy is kept and “adapted.” In such ways are “ideas” procured.
Then there are plenty of Jewish musical comedies and vaudeville teams. A study of the vaudeville and musical comedy business will show it to be as distinctively Yiddish as are the movies and the popular song industry. So, the Jewish song publisher makes an arrangement with the Jewish manager of the musical comedy show. This arrangement provides that one or more of the song publisher’s songs should be sung several times at every performance, in response to the applause and encores of a professional song boosters’ claque which is always on hand for such purposes. This claque is paid for just as any other service might be paid for.
The night comes. The song is sung. Persistent applause. Sung again. More applause. Apparently the song is a “hit.” As the audience files out the lobby is echoing with the cries of Yiddish song vendors proclaiming the song of the evening to be “the big hit of the season,” hundreds of copies being sold in the meanwhile.
That is the usual Broadway introduction.
The next step is to capture the “provinces”—the musical comedies and vaudeville acts playing within 100 miles of the metropolitan centers. Actors called “song pluggers” are engaged. The arrangement with them is that they will sing a particular song exclusively—give no other song a chance. The public pays to hear the actor sing; the manager pays to have him sing; the song publisher pays him to sing a certain song.
From theater to theater, from company to company, from artist to artist, the publishers’ agents wend their way, making what terms they can to single artists, vaudeville teams or comedy companies for boosting a new song by giving it prominent place in the program.
There are also the “stag entertainers,” the young men who go about to “parties” of one kind another, offering amusement to the guests. This is a class of entertainers known only to the rich, but numerous enough. For instance, when the Prince of Wales toured America he was accompanied by a young man nicknamed “Rosie,” of whose racial origin there need be no doubt. “Rosie” played the piano and by songs and antics beguiled the tedium of the royal journey. Well, young men of “Rosie’s” sort are quite useful in advertising to select circles the latest product of the Yiddish song factories and they are, of course, regularly utilized for that purpose.
Orchestras, especially those of restaurants and dance halls, are worked in the same way.
Get as many people singing and playing introductory renditions as you can: that is the method of gaining an artificial popularity by constant repetition.
The chances are that the song you are humming today is being hummed by you simply because you have perforce heard it so often that it beats unconsciously within your brain.
These methods are subject to variation, of course. There was a great deal of “cutting” until the right Hebrew group survived, and then there was a great deal of “trust” method adopted. The Music Publishers’ Association was organized by “Sime” Silberman and Maurice Goodman, and now all the Jewish song manufacturers are included in it. The organization has not changed any of the methods before used but has curtailed the expense. Moreover, it has served to relieve the public to this extent, that, instead of clinging to the one song paid for until the public positively gags on it, the vaudeville or movie performers now sing impartially the various songs of the various publishers forming the trust. More variety has been introduced, that is all. The same old commercialization continues.
As readers of the studies of Jewish theatrical control, which appeared in this paper, will readily understand, the Jewish control of the popular song field means that all non-Jews are barred out. It would be next to impossible for the song of a non-Jew, however meritorious, to reach the public by the usual channels. The musical magazines, the musical critics, the musical managers, the music publishers, the music-hall owners, the majority of the performers are not only all Jews, but are Jews consciously banded together to keep out all others.
The dishonest methods practiced by the Yiddish controllers of this field have been such as to move the Billboard, the leading vaudeville publication, to refuse to print advertisements calling for song poems. Perhaps the reader has seen such advertisements, suggesting that someone has a tune or a song-poem that will probably make a fortune if only sent to an address on Broadway or in the region of Tin Pan Alley. The Billboard says:
“No More Song Poem Ads Accepted
“After investigating the business methods practiced by some Song Poem advertisers, the Billboard believes it to be to the best interest of its readers to eliminate the heading, ‘Music and Words’ under which Song Poem advertisements appeared, and hereafter, or until existing conditions are changed, the Billboard will not accept any more Song Poem advertising from any concern or person . . . .”
Everywhere the “popular song” has been attacked by keen observers of social tendencies—but the attack has not been made intelligently. No public menace like this can be abolished without showing the public the source of it. Newspapers are now beginning to attack “jazz,” “the vicious movies,” “the disgraceful dance.” Others attack the young folk who sing jazz, the people who patronize the objectionable movies, the throngs who indulge in indecent dancing. But all the time a small group of men are deliberately and systematically forcing jazz and movies and dances upon the country, spending hundreds of thousands in the effort and reaping millions in profits.
If these men were non-Jews, a multitude of fingers would be pointed toward them in identification and denunciation.
Because these men are Jews, they are allowed to go free.
You will stop these abuses when you point out the Jewish group behind them!
People sometimes say, “Well, if you went after any other nationality, you could find just as much fault as with the Jews.” Is there any other nationality on which you can fasten the responsibility for vile movies? Is there any other on which you can fasten the responsibility for the illicit liquor traffic? Has any other nationality control of the theater? In the beginning action against the popular song trust, could the United States find anyone to indict besides Jewish song publishers, and could the United States Government lay less than 80 per cent of song control to one New York group alone?
If these things were not strictly Jewish in their origin, method and purpose, how could such statements be made?
Jews say, “Clean up among the Gentiles first, and then turn attention to us.” Will the Jews charge Gentile control of movies, popular songs, horse racing, baseball gambling, theaters, the illicit liquor traffic—will the Jews charge Gentile predominance in any line recognized by moralists today as dangerously menacing the public welfare?
The question is too big to be explained by prejudice. The facts are too challenging to be thrust aside as universal. It is a Jewish question, made such by a series of Jewish facts.
Not content with hedging life about on every side, from the gold that is used in business to the grain that is used in bread, Jewish influence enters your parlor and determines what you shall sing at your piano or hear upon your music reproducing machine. If you could put a tag marked “Jewish” on every part of your life that is Jew-controlled, you would be astonished at the showing.
[THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, issue of 13 August 1921]