The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear

This article originally appeared on this site.

One of the pleasures of music-streaming services is that, day after day, they remind you effortlessly of the almost incredible wealth and beauty of American popular music—from the blues and Tin Pan Alley to jazz, R. & B., country, rock and roll, and on to hip hop—and of its strange, snaking unity. The great critic Kenneth Tynan once wrote that, sometime in the nineteen-thirties, the “ ‘serious’ music tradition finally withered, curled up and died,” and what took its place was American song. It became the century’s sublime, achieved sound, and the beat, as the song says, goes on. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s duos bring one back to the jazz duets of Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden, whose choice of familiar tunes then leads one to the great singers of the first songbook of standards, Ella singing Gershwin, and on and on. In this context, Bob Dylan’s award for the Nobel Prize in Literature must seem, even to doubters, earned, especially if it’s seen, so to speak, as an award to Frank Loesser and Duke Ellington, as well—as a tribute to the entirety of those American words and music.

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