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Reinventing Dixie

Tin Pan Alley's Songs and the Creation of the Mythic South

288 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Southern History | Music

  Hardcover / 9780807159446 / March 2015

Winner of the CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Tin Pan Alley, once New York City’s songwriting and recording mecca, issued more than a thousand songs about the American South in the first half of the twentieth century. In Reinventing Dixie, John Bush Jones explores the broad impact of these songs in creating and disseminating the imaginary view of the South as a land of southern belles, gallant gentlemen, and racial harmony.
In profiles of Tin Pan Alley’s lyricists and composers, Jones explains how a group of undereducated and untraveled writers—the vast majority of whom were urban northerners or European immigrants— constructed the specific and detailed images of the South used in their song lyrics. In the process of evaluating the origins of Tin Pan Alley’s songbook, Jones analyzes these songwriters’ attitudes about North-South reconciliation, ideals of honor and hospitality, and the recurring theme of the yearning for home. Though a few of the songs employed parody or satire to undercut the vision of a peaceful, romantic South, the majority ignored the realities of racism and poverty in the region.
By the end of Tin Pan Alley’s era of cultural prominence in the mid-twentieth century, Jones contends that the work of its writers had cemented the “moonlight and magnolias” myth in the minds of millions of Americans. Reinventing Dixie sheds light on the role of songwriters in forming an idyllic vision of the South that continues to influence the American imagination.

JOHN BUSH JONES is the author of Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theater, and The Songs That Fought the War: Popular Music and the Home Front, 1939–1945.

Praise for Reinventing Dixie

“This thought-provoking work explores a fascinating intersection of public history and popular culture. . . . Highly recommended.”—CHOICE

“Paying close attention to the imagery and setting of the lyrics, Jones’s resulting work is an unabashed love affair with such southern ‘memories.’ . . . Reinventing Dixie recalls in all its glory an important chapter in the Great American Songbook.”—Journal of Southern History

“What sets Reinventing Dixie apart from similar scholarship is the comprehensive discussion of sheet music about Dixie through detailed examination of the lyrics. . . . Jones complements existing research by providing substantial examples of song text that is organized in a meaningful way, as well as an index of song titles.”—Notes

“Making historic connections between the enchanting artifacts of popular culture and dramatic shifts in national taste has been the special task that John Bush Jones has assigned himself in a series of marvelous books. Reinventing Dixie extends and enhances that scholarly project. His latest volume is marked by characteristic charm, by surprising discoveries, by vividness of insight and by both tenacity and precision of research. For readers inside as well as outside the academy, Reinventing Dixie is bound to instruct and delight.”—Stephen J. Whitfield, Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University

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