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Failure to fuse: The jazz-rock culture war at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival

Issue: Vol 1 No. 1 (2007) May 2007

Journal: Jazz Research Journal

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/jazz.v1i1.73


Festivals play a central role in popular music mythology. In 1969, the Newport Jazz Festival made headlines when producer George Wein controversially announced his intention to openly incorporate rock acts, including Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin, into the jazz festival. Newport 1969 is retrospectively represented as a symbol of the problems of integrating jazz and rock, but a critical examination of the festival and its coverage clearly illustrates how distinctions between jazz and rock—and jazz and rock audiences, for that matter—are socially constructed. This article will reconsider the importance of Newport 1969 by revisiting debates occurring in the pages of Down Beat, Rolling Stone, Jazz and Pop, and other music journalism during 1969 which discussed the merits of a merger between jazz and rock, and proposes that Newport 1969 was a watershed that exposed the key tensions in the emerging culture war between the two genres.

Author: Matt Brennan

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