Hitler’s Greatest Hits
I’m fascinated by music and have been making it all my life (everything from church choirs to Rock/Reggae/Folk Bands…). So when I come across regimes that want to ban certain types of music, it makes me sit up and listen.
When I was researching my book Auslander, about a teenager in Nazi Berlin, I was intrigued to discover the Nazis detested ‘Swing Music’ – that lively jazz from the 30s and 40s that people loved dancing to.
It’s not surprising really, when you consider its principal exponents were American, Black or Jewish. A few brave German teens rebelled against the Nazis by listening to it. They called themselves ‘Swing Kids’ and greeted each other with ‘Swing Heil’ rather than ‘Sieg Heil’. (I’ve got no time for people who tell me Germans don’t have a sense of humour.)
That uber-ugly regime hated Swing so much they even hanged teens for listening to it. (Hamburg 1944 – documented case.) The crime was ‘identifying with the enemy’.
Have a listen to the kind of music the Nazis wanted their youths to listen to:
then listen to some swing. Here’s ‘Is you is or is you ain’t my baby’ by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, recorded in 1944:
I know which one I like best.
I suppose the crux of it is totalitarian regimes like music that has a strongly regulated beat – like soldiers marching – something robotic and unquestioning. Swing music, and the best pop/rock music that followed in its wake, is looser – freer – and has a human sensuality about it.
What do you think?