Music and the Great Depression

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



music, Great Depression, jazz, Tin Pan Alley

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



From roughly 1929 through 1941 the United States experienced the most serious economic crisis in its history. At its worst, in the winter of 1932–3, the US gross domestic product shrunk 46%, investment in the economy dropped 98%, and unemployment hovered around 25%. Dramatic as these numbers are, they cannot convey the larger sense of fear, anxiety, shame, and uncertainty that gripped millions of Americans, especially those already at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. Given the enormous reach of the Depression, it is not surprising that the era’s concerns saturated American’s cultural life: film, literature, visual art, sports, leisure, fashion, and—in all of its enormous variety—music, absorbed, reflected, and commented on the economic collapse.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Music and the Great Depression, in C. Garrett (Ed.), The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Second Edition, Oxford University Press

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