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.


Soundies Book Is An Outstanding Academic Title of 2022


Trust a librarian to know good books! And the librarians of Choice, the American Library Association magazine, have named Soundies and the Changing Image of Black Americans on Screen: One Dime at a Time an Outstanding Academic Title of 2022.

Books on the list are chosen for their “excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as an important—often the first—treatment of their subject.” 

According to the ALA Choice website, “The list is quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 5,000 works reviewed in Choice each year.” 

Librarians: If you’re adding the book to your collection,  I’d love to hear about it. And thank you.