Saturday, July 15, 2017

When Monk and Billie Were Banned

I was reading about Billie Holiday the other day and was stunned to learn that because of a drug bust she had had her "cabaret card" revoked for ten years, meaning that for that time she couldn't perform in any New York City room or club. I knew this had happened to Monk, but didn't know about Billie. What does it say that two of the greatest musical artists on the century couldn't even play in their hometown? Well it says that the authorities didn't give a shit about truth and beauty. We could describe this as the epitome of philistinism. It's easy to understand indifference to art, but this active suppression of it? "They say she's a genius. Well she's just another druggie to me." To what extent was this racist? I know many white jazz musicians did hard time for heroin. But it's hard to believe race isn't part of it. I mean, I'm sure Leonard Bernstein did narcotics in the form of cocaine, and I don't recall him getting busted or being shut out of any venues.

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