Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Rhythm Road Ambassadors

It’s Sunday, June 20, 2010. It’s a beautiful day in San Francisco: the sun’s shining, birds are chirping, guys are in t-shirts and girls in sundresses, and I’m stuck in a laundromat on Oak Street. Life isn’t always glamorous in the City’s hipster neighborhoods, but I digress.

Catching up on the previous week’s human-interest news, I was surprised, amused, and happy to see an article on musical ambassadors in the June 17 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Immediately, my mind recalled our Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) collections and the slideshow my colleague Brandon Burke assembled. Fifty years ago, America sent musicians to Europe, and it’s great to see that, today, the same is happening in the near East. Though, as an ardent fan of rock and roll, I was bummed it wasn’t one of the mentioned genres.

The Journal article highlights some differences between the programs. Were one to visit the Archives, one could hear Dizzy Gillespie talk to RFE’s Bulgarian service about Jazz at Lincoln Center. Or hear interviews with British punk rock fans from 1977. Or—forgive me for the self-serving nod—Phil Woods blowing sax in an RFE exclusive recording. I would invite the listener to then contemplate how it compares to today’s world.

Sometimes history repeats, and during those times, it’s fascinating to look at what happened before.

British beat group the Creation in the studio with RFE disc jockeys Janos Havel (left) and Jan Tyszkiewicz (right). Box 117, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Broadcast Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

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