John C. Hajduk

Music Wars

Money, Politics, and Race in the Construction of Rock and Roll Culture, 1940–1960

Lexington Books 2018

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network December 3, 2018 Aaron Weinacht

In his new book Music Wars: Money, Politics, and Race in the Construction of Rock and Roll Culture, 1940–1960 (Lexington Books, 2018), John C. Hajduk examines the...

In his new book Music Wars: Money, Politics, and Race in the Construction of Rock and Roll Culture, 1940–1960 (Lexington Books, 2018), John C. Hajduk examines the emergence of a “rock and roll culture” in mid 20th century America. Professor Hajduk’s focus is on “gatekeepers” such as record executives and musician’s union leaders, all of whom operated in a highly charged environment where financial, racial, and political considerations mutually impacted one another.

Drawing on archival materials, a variety of contemporary music industry publications, and a wide range of secondary literatures, Hajduk argues that mid 20th century discussions about race, class, and culture were deeply inseparable from the role that live and recorded music played in popular culture in that same period. These themes take Music Wars through chapters on disputes over radio play, jukeboxes, and communism, culminating in a discussion of the infamous  “Payola Scandal,” which resulted in corporate assertion of control over rock and roll on the radio, as a means of self-preservation against increasing state interest in popular music’s potentially “disturbing” influence on the young.

Music Wars is an affecting account of a fascinating period—one with which most of us can identify. We live in a culture imbued not just with rock and roll, but with the history of rock and roll, and John Hajduk’s new book gives us a window into that reality.


Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.

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