Victory through Harmony: The BBC and Popular Music in World War II

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9780195372014: Victory through Harmony: The BBC and Popular Music in World War II
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To serve the British nation in World War II, the BBC charged itself with mobilizing popular music in support of Britain's war effort. Radio music, British broadcasters and administrators argued, could maintain civilian and military morale, increase industrial production, and even promote a sense of Anglo-American cooperation. Because of their widespread popularity, dance music and popular song were seen as ideal for these tasks; along with jazz, with its American associations and small but youthful audience, these genres suddenly gained new legitimacy at the traditionally more conservative BBC.

In Victory through Harmony, author Christina Baade both tells the fascinating story of the BBC's musical participation in wartime events and explores how popular music and jazz broadcasting helped redefine notions of war, gender, race, class, and nationality in wartime Britain. Baade looks in particular at the BBC's pioneering Listener Research Department, which tracked the tastes of select demographic groups including servicemen stationed overseas and young female factory workers in order to further the goal of entertaining, cheering, and even calming the public during wartime. The book also tells how the wartime BBC programmed popular music to an unprecedented degree with the goal of building national unity and morale, promoting new roles for women, virile representations of masculinity, Anglo-American friendship, and pride in a common British culture. In the process, though, the BBC came into uneasy contact with threats of Americanization, sentimentality, and the creativity of non-white "others," which prompted it to regulate and even censor popular music and performers.

Rather than provide the soundtrack for a unified "People's War," Baade argues, the BBC's broadcasting efforts exposed the divergent ideologies, tastes, and perspectives of the nation. This illuminating book will interest all readers in popular music, jazz, and radio, as well as British cultural history and gender studies.

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About the Author:


Christina Baade is Associate Professor in Communication Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Review:


"Christina Baade's meticulously researched, engagingly written story of the BBC's struggle on the front lines of popular music during the World War II years opens up new historical territory. Charting the clash of taste cultures, national interests, gender, race, and sexuality over a handful of crucial years, her study demonstrates the immense vitality and importance of popular music, and its radio purveyors, in a time of social transformation. It is a tale not to be missed." --Michele Hilmes, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Network Nations: A Transnational History of British and American Broadcasting


"In this captivating and thoroughly researched book, Christina Baade has found a notable balance between fascinating detail and musical vigour, her flowing and evocative writing bringing to life the extraordinary role that popular music played in British broadcasting during the Second World War. Using the BBC's institutional grounding and programme structure as a framework, Baade interweaves cultural reflections on issues such as gender, authenticity and sentimentality with fundamental concerns surrounding wartime encouragement of morale through the arts. The rhythm and energy that infused the music under scrutiny, in hugely popular programmes such as Vera Lynn's Sincerely Yours, Music While You Work and Radio Rythm Club, permeates this captivating text, illustrated compellingly with music examples in sound." -- Jenny Doctor, Reader, University of York


"Christina Baade's Victory through Harmony is that rare thing--a genuinely interdisciplinary book that is good at all the things it takes on. This book will make a significant contribution in a number of areas: popular music studies, work on the nation-state articulated in culture, scholarship on Britain in WW2, and radio studies. The deft archival work is balanced by well considered cultural analysis to make a genuinely important book." -Anahid Kassabian, James and Constance Alsop Chair of Music, The University of Liverpool


"[A] detailed, well-researched volume...With its impressive array of archival material, this book will appeal to historians as well as to those interested in the history of popular music. Adding to the experience of a well-written book is the companion website, where readers can listen to audio tracks of some of the music discussed...Highly recommended." --Choice


"Victory through Harmony effectively uses the BBC and popular music as a lens through which to examine the contested nature of national identity and good citizenship during the "People's War." It makes an important contribution to media history and should be read by anyone interested in the history of popular music in Britain." --The Journal of British Studies


"[T]horoughly researched and documented, but also entertaining to read." --ARSC Journal


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9780199328055: Victory through Harmony: The BBC and Popular Music in World War II

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Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2013
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