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Nellie McKay on Politics & Protest in Jazz

The creative vocalist offers up her Artist's Choice playlist on songs of social justice and activism

Nellie McKay (photo by Shervin Lainez)
Nellie McKay (photo by Shervin Lainez)

Jazz used to be alienating, rather than comforting and bourgeois. It used to provoke discussion and dissent. Teddy Wilson was known as the Marxist Mozart!

Hoagy Carmichael
“LAZYBONES” Co-written with Johnny Mercer
Stardust & Much More (Bluebird; rec. 1933, rel. 1989)
This might be one of the greatest protest songs ever written, because it’s about radical non-participation. There’s a line in Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut where the woman who’s working as a relative underling wishes everyone would just stop thinking. That makes me think of this song. I have a friend who says, “If everyone would just do 10 percent less.”

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