One does not need to be a Rene Girard or Eric Gans scholar, whose studies address scapegoating and resentment in the formation of human communities, to understand how Paul Whiteman’s career was sacrificed as a central object of ideological desire. Such a process was greatly facilitated by unwarrantedly iconizing his music and life based on generalized resentment rather than factual research. Then and now, the Denver native seemed tailor-made for attack by racist jazzbo fundamentalists. Their enervating pollution of jazz’s intellectual stream centered Whiteman as a fallen or false object of human desire because of his skin color, remarkable international artistic and economic success, a maliciously created reputation for what turns out to be an imaginary mistreatment of his musicians, the misrepresented quality and import of his music and so much more.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.