The Musicians’ Voice

Letters to the editor

Volume 119, No. 6June, 2019


To the Editor:

On May 6, Rolling Stone published an article – “There’s a Musician’s Union. Many Musicians Are Unaware – or Unable to Join” – by Elias Leight, which Local 802 later posted on its Facebook page. I find it somewhat amusing that a few sources in the article blame rock-and-roll for the decline of AFM membership in the 1950s and 1960s. As Michael James Roberts noted in his excellent book “Tell Tchaikovsky the News,” the union joined the torrent of criticism of rock-and-roll as lacking in culture, not even real music, and just a fad that would soon go away. The union made a decision to not organize rock-and-roll, with the support of both classical and jazz artists in the union ranks, and that was a huge mistake. Rock-and-roll, which evolved out of the blues (and rhythm-and-blues), is rooted in working class culture. As Julian Bond and others have noted, rock-and-roll played a significant role in the battle against segregation and racism in the 1950s. That is why the Klan and hard-core racists fought so hard against it. They knew that it would change the way white teenagers viewed people of color. And they were right. It is great that Local 802 leadership wants to reach out. I hope they develop a plan to do so. – Michael Funke

E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Local 802.