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Book details
  • Genre:MUSIC
  • SubGenre:History & Criticism
  • Language:English
  • Pages:426
  • eBook ISBN:9780578773605

There Was a Fire

Jews, Music and the American Dream (revised and updated)

by Ben Sidran

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The first edition of There Was a Fire is a National Jewish Book Award Finalist

There Was a Fire is the only complete history of how immigrant Jews helped birth America's popular music industry and the terms of the American Dream.


This book is about the power of memory, the human need for narrative, and the ability of music to encode and deliver the two. It outlines the role of the Jews who came to America from Eastern Europe during the late 19th and 20th centuries and helped define the spirit of the American Dream: a concern for the average man and a penchant for tikkun olam, healing a shattered world. This is the story of how popular music made the ethical framework for 20th century America possible, where popular song led to personal freedom, and social justice was only a chorus away. Newly revised and updated, the book includes the advent of Trump, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and streaming services such as Spotify and their impact on the Jewish experience and American Music History.

About the author
Ben Sidran is widely recognized as the host of National Public Radio's landmark series "Jazz Alive," which received a Peabody Award, and the host of VH-1 television's "New Visions" series, which received the Ace Award for best music series. He received a PhD in American Studies from Sussex University, has recorded over 35 solo albums, including the Grammy- nominated Concert for Garcia Lorca and produced recordings for artists including Van Morrison, Diana Ross, Mose Allison, Rickie Lee Jones and Steve Miller. The composer and music producer for the acclaimed film Hoop Dreams, Sidran has also authored several major works on jazz, including Black Talk, Talking Jazz and The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma.

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