On NPR’s “Fresh Air,” a Segment on “Soundies: The Ultimate Collection”

While I was out watching the eclipse today, NPR’s “Fresh Air” was reviewing “Soundies: The Ultimate Collection.”

Thanks to music critic Lloyd Schwartz for a warmly descriptive, beautifully produced 9-minute segment on the 4-disc video set, which I curated for Kino Lorber and the Library of Congress.

The piece includes luxuriously long audio clips from the Fats Waller Soundie “Ain’t Misbehavin'” (1941), Walter Liberace in “Tiger Rag” (1943), Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge, and Anita O’Day in “Let Me Off Uptown” (1942), and Dorothy Dandridge and Paul White in more than a minute of “A Zoot Suit” (1942).

“Soundies were a short-lived phenomenon that bridged the chronological gap between radio and television,” Schwartz says. “But they presented a surprisingly complex image of American life.”

“Curator Susan Delson arranges this collection into a variety of social activities, especially dancing and the war effort,” Schwartz says, “and categories of music, including such bizarre hybrids as ‘The Hula Rhumba’ and ‘Cowboy Calypso.’ Most Soundies were made with white performers,” he notes, “but Delson readjusts the balance so that almost a quarter of the Soundies here feature Black performers.”

Soundies, he adds, “were largely ignored by Hollywood’s strict Production Code, so some of them are delightfully raunchy.”

You can listen to the full “Fresh Air” Soundies segment here.