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How The Police Used The Cabaret Card Law To Discriminate Against Black Jazz Artists And Musicians

The Charlie Parker Quintet (L-R): Tommy Potter, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Duke Jordan

 

Photo: William Gottlieb/Redferns/Getty Images

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How The Police Used The Cabaret Card Law To Discriminate Against Black Jazz Artists And Musicians

Introduced in New York City in 1940, the cabaret card changed the course of jazz history and directly impacted some of the genre's giants like Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and many others

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2020 - 05:00 pm

In the midst of the nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice, specifically against Black people and people of color, the music and entertainment worlds are taking stock of the inherent, decades-long racism baked into their cores. To understand just how we got to where we are today, it's important to trace some of the racist laws and practices that have contributed to create an industry afflicted with racial inequality. 

One such law, in place from 1940 to 1967, impacted the jazz world in New York City, then predominantly composed of Black musicians and artists, for decades, changing the course of jazz history and directly affecting some of the genre's giants like Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and many others. 

Introduced in New York City in 1940, the cabaret card was a form of identification required for all musicians and entertainers to work in a nightclub or similar establishments where alcohol was served, the primary venues jazz musicians relied upon to make a living. The cabaret card was an extension of the New York City Cabaret Law, a law instituted in 1926, during the Prohibition era in the U.S., that banned dancing across the majority of the city's bars and clubs. (The law, itself criticized for targeting largely Black jazz clubs and denounced by opponents as having racist origins, was ultimately repealed in 2017.)

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) administered the cabaret cards, requiring people to go to a police station to get photographed, finger-printed and interviewed in order to receive their permits. They also held the power to revoke the cards, an authority the police would regularly enact on jazz musicians at their whim over things like narcotics charges.

"For musicians, the fates of their careers now lay in the hands of the police," GRAMMY-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride explains in a video short (watch above) from NPR Music's "Jazz Night In America" series, which he hosts.

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The introduction of the cabaret card was part of an attempt to "sanitize" New York City's nightlife, Nate Chinen, the award-winning jazz music writer and critic and director of editorial content at New York City jazz public radio station WBGO, writes. In his 2012 feature for JazzTimes on the history and impact of the cabaret card on jazz, Chinen spoke about the cultural and musical implications of the law. 

"As an embodiment of the institutional distrust stirred up by jazz musicians, especially African-Americans, it's a key to our understanding of the odds those musicians faced in civil society," he said of the cabaret card. "The administration of the card, governed by a mysterious and often intransigent bureaucracy, more or less imposed the conditions of a police state in which music-making was cast as a privilege rather than a right. And because it kept some of jazz's most important creative figures from active circulation in the music's chief metropolitan hub, the cabaret card should be understood as an agent of historical disruption, its effects reaching not only lives and careers but also, by extension, the development of the art."

Many Black jazz musicians of the time lost their cabaret cards during the law's nearly 30-year run. In 1947, Billie Holiday had her cabaret card revoked following a drug arrest. Even after serving a year in jail, police refused to reinstate her card, which prevented her from performing in nightclubs for more than a decade. After having his cabaret card revoked three times between 1948 and 1958, Thelonious Monk, facing "chronic unemployability and financial hardship," Chinen writes, was forced to perform out of town in cities without cabaret laws or unbilled within the outskirts of NYC boroughs or even under an alias, Ernie Washington.

While the cabaret card law, which was ultimately abolished in 1967, did create scenarios for ousted jazz musicians to meet and collaborate, its strict restrictions may have impeded the growth of both the genre and its greatest artists. 

"What opportunities were stymied by the cabaret card?" Chinen wonders. "How much sooner might Monk have found recognition, and what would the effect have been on his psyche? What if Miles Davis hadn't lost his card in 1959, after being clubbed outside of Birdland: Might he have found more work for his sextet, fresh off the release of Kind Of Blue? Think of the reputations that moldered, the engagements that never came to pass."

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.