The Exiled Musicians Who Escaped Fascism for La La Land

‘An Aggrieved, Talented, Witty, and Competitive Bunch’ of Artists Made Music in Hollywood’s Heyday

Generations ago, in the parenthesis of years between Hitler’s 1933 rise to power and the end of World War II, a deluge of European artists and intellectuals came to the U.S., seeking refuge from the rising tide of fascism. Throughout the 1920s these men and women had enjoyed artistic freedom and prestige in cities such as Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, and Paris, where they helped define 20th century modernism.

They were writers, directors, actors, visual artists, architects, and musicians, and once they hit American shores, they flocked to three great cities. The …

How Prince Introduced Us to the “Minneapolis Sound”

From Polka to Punk-Funk, the Twin Cities Assimilated New Genres From Their Migrant Roots

The pop music genius Prince Rogers Nelson, better known to most of us as Prince, made his national television debut on American Bandstand in 1980. Performing “I Wanna Be …

La La Land’s Debt to Ethnic Musicals of Yore

Its “Burst-Into-Song” Style Echoes the Intimacy of Early Black, Mexican, and Jewish Productions

“Without a nickel to my name/ Hopped a bus/ Here I came …” So sings a young woman at the start of La La Land, the original musical film by …

We Are the World. We Are the Charity Single.

After the Orlando Shooting, the Musical Staple of 1980s Philanthropy Makes a Comeback

A few years ago I took on a research challenge: to listen to every charity single released in the United Kingdom between December 1984 and the end of 1995. I …

Cleveland Rocks, Even in the Dead of Winter

The City’s Unpretentious Music Scene Thrives Year Round, Under Bridges, on Porches, and Outside of the Country’s Most Famous Music Hall

In the middle of February, when the temperatures dip below freezing, Clevelanders are frequently found huddled together for warmth in one place: outside—yes, outside—under the crisp night sky, watching local …

America’s First ‘Indian’ TV Star Was a Black Man from Missouri

Stymied by Hollywood Racism, Korla Pandit Reinvented Himself as a Mystical Brahmin Pianist

Turning on the TV in Los Angeles in 1949, you might have come face-to-face with a young man in a jeweled turban with a dreamy gaze accentuated by dark eye …