Django’s lucky escape

Django

The title of this blog is not referring to a Western film, it is actually referring to an extraordinary event during WWII.

Django Reinhard is one of my favourite guitarists it is actually because of him (and Jim Croce) I picked up a guitar myself. Although I am an admirer of his music and even more his style of playing I didn’t know too much about Django during WWII. I had always assumed he had escaped Europe on time.

It was only after watching a documentary on BBC 4 called Tunes for Tyrants, presented by Suzy Klein, I discovered that Django not only survived the war he also thrived.

You may think “What is so extraordinary about that?” Django was a Belgian born Roma French jazz guitarist. Three words in the last line is what makes it extraordinary, Roma Jazz Guitarist.

Roma’s were persecuted in Nazi occupied Europe, about 1 million Roma-Gypsies perished in extermination camps or as a result of forced labour.

Jazz was considered degenerate music in the Third Reich.

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However Jazz was allowed in Paris, because Hitler did not care about the ‘spiritual well being’ of the French. Django had lived in the UK before the war but had returned to Paris when the war broke out in 1939,leaving his wife behind and eventually divorcing her.

In 1943, Reinhardt married Sophie Ziegler in Salbris. The could had a son, Babik Reinhardt.

Because Django and his family were Roma, he tried to escape Nazi occupied France, His first attempt failed he and his family were caught ,but lady luck smiled on them for a Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn,who was an ardent Jazz fan and knew Django and his music, allowed Django and his family return to Paris. If Köhn would not have done that the Reinhard family would have surely ended up in a concentration camp.

Django remained nervous though for he knew there was always a chance that he’d still be arrested some day and be sent away. Although he did attempt to flee France again, he was send back at the Swiss border.

He remained in Paris and his music was enjoyed by the Parisians but also by the Nazis. Django actually managed to make quite a bit of money during those years. One of his songs, “Nuages,” did  become an unofficial anthem in Paris to signify hope for liberation.

He did change his musical direction somewhat though, because Jazz although allowed in Paris was still considered degenerate music, and the laisse faire attitude the Nazis in Paris had towards it  could change any minute. He attempted to  He tried to write a Mass for the Gypsies and a symphony.

Django guitar

I would really recommend watching the 3 part documentary series ‘Tunes for Tyrants’ on BBC 4. It gives a great overview of the musical history during the world war 2 era and the years before it.

Ending this blog withe the aforementioned “Nuages”

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Captain Macheath- The story behind Mack the Knife.

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Mack the Knife is one of my favourite Jazz songs, and I love the Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong equally. It just doesn’t get cooler then that song, sung by those 2 performers, although Sammy Davis Jr, does a pretty cool rendition also.

Although I have admired this song for decades. it is only recently I discovered the actual history of the song. I always thought it was written in the 50s.

The song was composed in 1928 in Berlin by Kurt Weil amd Berolt Brecht provided the lyrics.

 

Both Weil and Brecht were Jewish and fled Germany in the early 30s for fear of persecution. They both ended up in the US, although Brecht eventually returned to East Berlin after the war.

They had written the music drama called “The Threepenny Opera” which premiered in Berlin in 1928. The song Mack the Knife, or “Die Moritat von Mackie Messe” was part if that opera.

The character Mack the Knife is based on , the dashing highwayman Macheath, from John Gay’s   “The Beggar’s Opera ”

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Although Macheath is a fictional character he is believed to be based on, or at least partially based on Jack Sheppard, an English thief and jail breaker, and also enjoyed the affections of a prostitute, but unlike the character in the song he despised violence.

The Macheath in Mack the Knife is compared with a shark, and it  tells tales of his  numerous  crimes like robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.

And the shark, it has teeth,
And it wears them in the face.
And Macheath, he has a knife,
But the knife can’t be seen.

The song was was translated in 1954 by Marc Blizstein. The nuances of Blitzstein’s  translations are different compared to the original.

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

jack knife

Leaving you with Bobby Darin’s version of the song.

 

 

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Johnny & Jones-Jazz musicians, killed because they were Jewish.

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Aside from the human costs of he persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, it also had a devastating impact on culture. So many very talented painters,writers,musicians and other artists were killed because they were Jewish. Artists whose art could still have been enjoyed today,but they never got a chance.

Johnny & Jones were a Jazz/Cabaret duo from Amsterdam. Nol (Arnold Siméon) van Wesel (Johnny) and Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser (Jones).

The duo worked together at the De Bijenkorf (Beehive) department store.bijenkorf

During a company party in 1934, they joined up with The Bijko Rhythm Stompers, where their talents were discovered. Two years later they quit their jobs and began performing under the name Johnny & Jones. Their biggest hit was “Mr Dinges doesn’t know what swing is” (“Mijnheer Dinges weet niet wat swing is”).

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They made jazz music accompanied by the guitar, and their lyrics, invariably pronounced with an American accent, were characterized by humorous, topical parodies. Beginning in 1937 they were regularly played on the VARA-radio and became immensely popular.

In May 1940 the Germans invaded and occupied the Netherlands, gradually but at a fast pace the Nazi began introducing antisemitic laws. Also laws banning some musical genres were introduced, Jazz was labelled as Entartete Musik or Degenerate music, alabel applied in the 1930s by the Nazi government in Germany to certain forms of music that it considered to be harmful or decadent.

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Because they were Jewish,  Johnny & Jones could only play for Jewish audiences, during the German occupation,and after 1941 were not allowed to play at all. In 1943 Max,Nol and their wives were arrested and were send  to the Westerbork transit camp.In the camp they performed once under the name Jonny und Jones since in the revue only the German language was allowed. In 1944 they were sent on a day’s work assignment from Westerbork to Amsterdam, during which they managed to clandestinely record the song “Westerbork Serenade”.

The song starts of with them singing that they don’t feel like themselves and that they aren’t great. Their hearts beat like the airplane demolishing  yard, which was actually the job assigned to them in the camp,dismantling crashed warplanes.

(Drawing by Leo Kok, a Jewish artist who drew this picture of ‘Johnny and Jones’ dismantling planes in 1944. Leo Kok died a week after liberation day)Tekening_Nol_van_Wezel_en_Max_Kannewasser

Below is the translated text of the song.

“Hello we feel a little out of order,
To pull myself together is quite hard,
Suddenly I’m a different person,
My heart beats like the airplane wrecking yard.

I sing my Westerbork serenade,
Along the little rail-way the tiny silver moon shines
On the heath.
I sing my Westerbork serenade
With a pretty lady walking there together,
Cheek to cheek.
And my heart burns like the boiler in the boiler house,
Oh it never hit me quite like this at Mother’s place
I sing my Westerbork serenade,
In between the barracks I threw my arms around her
Over there
This Westerbork love affair.
And so I went over to the medic,
The guy says: “there is nothing you can do;
Oh but you will feel a whole lot better
After you give her a kiss or two
(But that you must not do…)”

Even in this dark period they managed to keep composure and a sense of humour.

On 4 September 1944 Van Wesel and Kannewasser were deported on one of the last transports from Westerbork to a series of concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf and Bergen-Belsen. They died of exhaustion during the last days of the war in 1945, Nol van Wesel (Johnny) died on 20 March 1945

Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser (Jones) .on 15 April, the day that the camp was liberated.

Vergeb Belsen

The only consolation in this story is that Johnny and Jones songs can still be heard and because of modern day technology their voices can still be heard all over the world.

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks

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Source

Wikipedia Netherlands

Punks in WWII

zazou

Before you start thinking that this will be a blog about Punk bands like the Sex Pistols singing about WWII, you’d be wrong. In fact it has nothing to do with Punk music but more about Jazz.

I am referring to Punk as a rebellion against the establishment. During WWII there were 2 groups very similar in how they rebelled against the Nazi regime, the Swingjugend in Germany and the Zazou in France. Unlike the Punk movement in the 70’s, the Zazou and the Swingjugend could actually risk their lives or be sent to a concentration camp for their rebellion.

Swingjugend

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As the Nazi Party took power in Germany in 1933, a complete crackdown on all “subversive” elements took hold. Having dealt with his political opponents in the years prior to his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler intended to finish the job by eradicating all potential opposition.

But in the schools and out on the streets, a silent flame tingled. Teenagers were rejecting the strict militarism and code of behavior bestowed by the Nazi Party through its youth organizations―the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls

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This proved to be unsuccessful, because instead of embracing the Hitler Youth pastimes, city girls and boys crowded the swing dance joints.[2] This seemed to be the case particularly in the town of Hamburg, where the swing scene was huge.

The Swingjugend rejected the Nazi state, above all because of its ideology and uniformity, its militarism, the ‘Führer principle’ and the leveling Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community). They experienced a massive restriction of their personal freedom. They rebelled against all this with jazz and swing, which stood for a love of life, self-determination, non-conformism, freedom, independence, liberalism, and internationalism.

 

Though they were not an organized political-opposition organization, the whole culture of the Swing Kids evolved into a non-violent refusal of the civil order and culture of National Socialism.

From a paper of the National Youth Leader:

The members of the Swing youth oppose today’s Germany and its police, the Party and its policy, the Hitlerjugend, work and military service, and are opposed, or at least indifferent, to the ongoing war. They see the mechanisms of National Socialism as a “mass obligation”. The greatest adventure of all times leaves them indifferent; much to the contrary, they long for everything that is not German, but English.

From 1941, the violent repression by the Gestapo and the Hitlerjugend shaped the political spirit of the swing youth. Also, by police order, people under 21 were forbidden to go to dance bars, which encouraged the movement to seek its survival by going underground.

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The Swing Kids of Hamburg at some point had contacts with another famous resistance movement, when three members of the White Rose (German: Weiße Rose) developed a sympathy for the Swing Kids. No formal cooperation arose, though these contacts were later used by the Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court”) to accuse some Swing Kids of anarchist propaganda and sabotage of the armed forces. The consequent trial, death sentences and executions were averted by the end of the war.

On 18 August 1941, in a brutal police operation, over 300 Swingjugend were arrested. The measures against them ranged from cutting their hair and sending them back to school under close monitoring, to the deportation of the leaders to concentration camps. The boys went to the Moringen concentration camp while the girls were sent to Ravensbruck.[10]

This mass arrest encouraged the youth to further their political consciousness and opposition to National Socialism. They started to distribute anti-fascist propaganda. In January 1943, Günter Discher, as one of the ringleaders of the Swing Kids, was deported to the youth concentration camp of Moringen.

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On 2 January 1942, Heinrich Himmler wrote to Reinhard Heydrich calling on him to clamp down on the ringleaders of the swing movement, recommending a few years in a concentration camp with beatings and forced labor:

The crackdown soon followed: clubs were raided, and participants were hauled off to camps.

Zazou

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In France a similar movement like Germany’s Swingjugend arose by the name Zazou.The zazous were a subculture in France during World War II. They were young people expressing their individuality by wearing big or garish clothing (similar to the zoot suit fashion in America a few years before).

On March 27 1942, France’s Vichy government issued the barbershop decree, demanding that barbers collect cut hair and donate it to the war effort to make slippers and sweaters. The rebellious Zazous refused and grew their hair long. The Zazous were directly inspired by jazz and swing music. A healthy black jazz scene had sprung up in Montmartre in the inter-war years. Their name  was inspired by a line in a song – Zah Zuh Zah – by Cab Calloway

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Vichy had started ‘Youth Worksites’ in July 1940, in what Zazous perceived as an attempt to indoctrinate French youth.  The Vichy regime was very concerned about the education, moral fibre and productivity of French youth. In 1940 a Ministry of Youth was established. They saw the Zazous as a rival and dangerous influence on youth.

In 1940, 78 anti-Zazou articles were published in the press, a further nine in 1941 and 38 in 1943.

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The Vichy papers deplored the moral turpitude and decadence that was affecting French morality. Zazous were seen as work-shy, egotistical and Judeo-Gaullist shirkers.

By 1942 the Vichy regime realised that the national revival that they hoped would be carried out by young people under their guidance was seriously affected by widespread rejection of the patriotism, work ethic, self-denial, asceticism and masculinity this called for.

Soon, round-ups began in bars and Zazous were beaten on the street. They became Enemy Number One of the fascist youth organisations, Jeunesse Populaire Française. “Scalp the Zazous!” became their slogan. Squads of young JPF fascists armed with hairclippers attacked Zazous. Many were arrested and sent to the countryside to work on the harvest.

At this point the Zazous went underground, holing up in their dance halls and basement clubs.

Though they did not suffer like their contemporaries in Germany, nevertheless, in a society of widespread complicity and acquiescence, their stand was courageous and trail-blazing.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks

$2.00

 

Sources

Queens of Vintage

Timelne

Libcom

Special thank you to Norman Stone who pointed me to the story of the Zazou.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

revolution

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a poem and song by Chicago born Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron first recorded it for his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, on which he recited the lyrics, accompanied by congas and bongo drums. A re-recorded version, with a full band, was the B-side to Scott-Heron’s first single, “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”, from his album Pieces of a Man (1971).

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The song is a fusion of Jazz,Funk and early Hip Hop, i has been re-released for the movie Black Panther.

Black_Panther_film_poster

Ironically a revolution of sorts was televised, a sort of ‘revolution’ by Gil Scott-Heron’s own father Gil Heron.

Gil Heron (9 April 1922 – 27 November 2008) was a Jamaican professional footballer. He was the first black player to play for Scottish club Celtic.

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Heron was born in Kingston, Jamaica. During the second world war he joined the Canadian air force, where his footballing talents began to make a wider impression. In 1946, he signed for Detroit Wolverines, who played in the short-lived North American Professional Soccer League, which they duly won in its inaugural season, with Heron as top scorer. He was then transferred to Detroit Corinthians, who played in the larger American Soccer League.

Celtic had a history of making lengthy American tours and doing some scouting at the same time. The goalkeeper Joe Kennaway was an earlier product of this strategy. Although they did not play Detroit Corinthians on their 1951 tour, a scout learned about Heron’s prowess and was sufficiently impressed to invite him to Glasgow for pre-season trials. He made an early impression, scoring twice at a public trial at Celtic Park and was soon dubbed “the Black Arrow”. He made his debut on 18 August 1951 in a League Cup tie against Morton at Celtic Park and scored in a 2-0 victory. However, he was competing for the centre-forward role with John McPhail, a Celtic hero of the era.

By the end of the season, Heron’s star had faded and he was transferred by the club to Third Lanark, subsequently moving again to become the first black player to sign for Kidderminster Harriers.

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However, the folklore surrounding Heron’s brief football career in the UK lived on. He was a skillful player, a natty dresser and a colourful personality in an era of cloth caps and physical football. He was capped by Jamaica at football and excelled at cricket, playing for leading Glasgow clubs while resident in the city.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks

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