We Want Beer: 80th Anniversary Of The Repeal Of Prohibition

Posted by D.A. Gutierrez in Commentary, History, News

December 5th, 2013   No Comments »

A Ford Model-T displays a sign demanding the repeal of Prohibition.

A Ford Model-T sits with a sign demanding the repeal of Prohibition. Photo taken at the August 18, 2013 Jazz-Age Lawn Party on Governors Island.

This day in 1933 brought with it an end to one of the most disastrous social experiments in American history, as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution took effect, repealing the 18th Amendment and effectively ending the period known as Prohibition.

Although today officially marks the 80th anniversary of this historic turning point, the country had been drinking legally for almost 8 months prior, courtesy of President Roosevelt’s signing of the Cullen-Harrison Act into law, which allowed the sale of certain beers and wines before full repeal of the Act took effect.

But what does this have to do with music?

Well, truth be told, Jazz and Prohibition grew up together, as told in Ken Burns’ riveting 3-part documentary, Prohibition. For those with a Netflix account, all 3 parts of the documentary are available for streaming.

It’s a bit mind-blowing to think how the entirety of what we now call the Roaring 20’s and unequivocally associate with debaucherous flappers, swinging jazz music and all-night dance parties, took place under the watchful eye of Prohibition.

During this era, the music expanded its reach greatly, fueled by the rapid rise of illegal bars known as speakeasies which, for the first time mixed men and women together in what had been, until then, male-only establishments.

So crack open a beer, drop your favorite Prohibition-era jazz record onto the Victrola and celebrate your freedom to drink, but more importantly, your freedom to think & decide for yourself.

I’ll go first with Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher”:

Bonus:

If you scrolled this far down searching for more, you deserve a reward! Although not directly related to Prohibition, the following two NPR links are both fascinating and relevant to the era:

  • An NPR interview with Vince Giordano, leader of Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, one of todays’ longest-lived and most authentic 1920’s revival big bands and house band for the hit HBO drama “Boardwalk Empire”
  • Another NPR piece, this time on the sounds from the streets of NYC in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s (a rarity, since audio equipment was not as ubiquitous as it is today)
  • And one more. A bit of Prohibition history with “King Cocktail” in this NPR interview.