I am writing regarding Ms. Greenspan’s recent article on Tin Pan Alley.
The significance of Tin Pan Alley cannot be overstated. It represents the early days of American music, which has contributed to American life and culture in many ways. Jazz is an original African American Art form that influenced not only generations of performers and the entertainment industry here in the U.S. but it has also influenced the music of many cultures around the world especially in France, England, and Japan. Tourists for years have flocked here to listen to our great jazz performers, which would not have happened if it weren’t for the infrastructure that Tin Pan Alley gave these songwriters and composers in the infancy of Jazz, blues, and the American Musical.
While some of the published music of that time had racist words and intent, it must be viewed within the historical context that gave these songs their initial expression—and we cannot negate the existence of the streams of uplifting music that flowed from these TPA buildings. This large volume of songs from that era also contained words that signify praise and celebration for American culture, such as Take Me Out to The Ballgame, The Charleston, Easter Parade, and Summertime (from Porgy and Bess).
It could be argued that the destruction of Tin Pan Alley could be seen as a racist attempt to render African American, Latin American, and Jewish American Music (of that time) as obsolete and no longer relevant. In other words, its destruction could be seen as covert racist activity designed to elevate the new owners as more important to the community than those who actually helped to shape it.
In my role as a board member of Save Chelsea, I have had the privilege of co-leading tours of Tin Pan Alley and visits to those buildings that housed African American performers and entertainers from the 1880s through the 1950s. These tours are attended by both European Americans and African Americans, and I can’t tell you how much it impresses me to see how excited both races are as they talk to each other about how the music of this era has influenced their families lives and their own lives.
As a jazz singer here in New York City, I have seen how music from this era brings people from all cultures and races together. Tin Pan Alley isn’t just a row of buildings. It is an embodiment of American Culture. It helps to bridge the gap between all cultures—particularly now, when tension still reigns. It helps us to dissolve our differences through our love of music.
Music is the universal language that reminds us that we are all one community. Tin Pan Alley represents this precious connection between all cultures. Therefore, it must be preserved. This auspicious history should never be forgotten nor discarded. I hope the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission understands this, and votes to preserve this legacy.
Cher Elyse Carden
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At long, long last! Thank you Westside Market, and thanks to Scott and Chelsea Community News for covering the opening.
Let’s stop greedy investors in historic Chelsea houses from gutting the heart and soul of the most beautiful block in the neighborhood. New York writer Laurie Colwin used to live in one of those beautiful houses. Preserve those houses for folks who want to live in them!
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