Okay, I’ve endured enough jokes. I was asked today, “Why Pittsburgh? Is it because it is the pits?”
Ha! Ha! It’s not as if I haven’t heard that one before, since I’m originally from Pittsburgh ….
Then there were all of those jokes in the movie 42, which was a fine movie except for all the Pittsburgh jokes…
Fortunately, when you hail from Pittsburgh, The Steel City, we can take one on the chin (except for the record for the Steelers this season, they’ve got to do better).
Living away from my birthplace for a number of years has permitted me a perspective of how unique the city is. It is the perfect amalgamation of East coast, Midwest and Appalachian sensibilities. Then, when you throw race and the shifting immigrant population into all of that, the potential for story conflict is huge.
At the time of the beginning of The Great Migration, Pittsburgh was the sixth largest city in the country, a destination place.
And, unbeknownst to me, even as a steel-jawed native, it was quite the destination for jazz. I mean, I knew that Lena Horne grew up here, but it didn’t really register until I did my research.
The story of the development of jazz as well as many other musical forms here, reflects the story of America, a setting that is potentially rich with conflict. So over the next few weeks, I will highlight a few of the figures who put Pittsburgh music on the map and made the city a destination during the years of The Great Migration.
And by the way. If you must know, Pittsburgh is named after a Prime Minister of England, William Pitt the Elder, and no, he wasn’t the pits. He just happened to have an unfortunate name. And the name of the city may be unfortunate, but it is a very special city. Hope you come by and visit sometime.