Today’s show of the Old Dingy Jukebox is a special themed one. This episode is a collection of songs that tell stories of past events or people; stories that in one way or another were marginalized, censored, sanitized, or buried, often because they dealt with histories considered too traumatic, contentious, or even a threat to those in power. Overall, the songs in today’s episode all recount histories that survived—or that were preserved and retold—through music, when they might have otherwise disappeared.
The idea for this episode came from my friend Cheryl Jimenez Frei, who is an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Frei used to live in Ventura California, while she was working on her PhD in history at the University of California Santa Barbara. I have talked on the show before about some of the origins of the Old Dingy Jukebox, with record listening parties my good friend Matt Sayles and I would have. As Matt’s wife, Cheryl would often get roped into our listening sessions too, and as a historian, she started up a conversation about songs as primary sources that can tell us a lot about the moment in which they were created.
That conversation led to a lesson plan she put together for a public history course she was teaching at UCSB at the time, focusing on how folk music, in many senses, has served as an archive—a people’s archive—preserving events, subjects, and stories that have been absent or silenced in “official” histories or records. Cheryl invited both Matt and I to give a guest lecture and play a few tunes for that class, and now a few years later, this episode is an extension of those conversations about folk music, public history, and memory.
Many people might think of folk music as only a US-American tradition, but the style and tradition exists in some form or another in countries all over the world. And in and in all of those places, music does the same: preserving the stories of the people. This episode reflects that diversity, with songs from Mexico, Chile, Ireland, and the US. Both Cheryl and Matt are guests on this episode so sit back and enjoy this history centered episode of the Old Dingy Jukebox: A People’s Archive: Buried Stories, Radical Histories, and Folk music
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