Henry Ford, in his The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem (1921) fulminated:
"Let me make a nation's songs and I care not who makes the laws," said one; in this country the Jews have had a very large hand in making both. It is the purpose of this article to put people in possession of the truth concerning the moron music which they habitually hum and sing and shout day and night, and if possible to help them to see the invisible Jewish baton which is waved above them for financial and propaganda purposes. Just as the American stage and motion picture have fallen under the control of Jews and their art-destroying commercialism, so the business of handling "popular songs" has become a Yiddish industry. The Jews who captured it in the early days of exploitation were for the most part Russian-born Jews, some of whom had personal pasts which were as unsavory as the past of many Jewish theatrical and movie leaders have been exposed to be.
Chief among the Jewish villians Ford pointed to was Irving Berlin. It was he who made the remark about making the nation's songs. And he did. When Jerome Kern, a native-born Protestant, was asked what Berlin's place was in American music, he responded: "Irving Berlin doesn't have a place in American music. He is American music." For Kern this was an accolade. For Ford it was proof of a Jewish conspiracy. Nor was it only Berlin. Dozens of other song writers were Jews. George and Ira Gershwin wrote almost as many hit songs as Berlin. And George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and other extended compositions made him the most important American composer of the 1920s as well.
Ford's monomania made him blame the Jews for everything he disliked. This most emphatically included Jazz music. "Jazz is a Jewish creation," He insisted.
The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin.
Monkey talk, jungle squeals, grunts and squeaks and gasps suggestive of calf love are camouflaged by a few feverish notes and admitted in homes where the thing itself, unaided by scanned music, would be stamped out in horror. The fluttering music sheets disclose expressions taken directly from the cesspools of modern capitals, to be made the daily slang, the thoughtlessly hummed remarks of school boys and girls.
. . . . .
It is little use blaming the people. The people are what they are made. Give the liquor business full sway and you have a population that drinks and carouses. The population could be turned into drug addicts if the same freedom was given to the illicit narcotic ring as is now given to the Yiddish popular song manufacturers. In such a condition it would be stupid to attack the addicts; common sense would urge the exposure of the panderers.
A dreadful narcotizing of moral modesty and the application of powerful aphrodisiacs have been involved in the present craze for crooning songs--a stimulated craze. The victims are everywhere. But too few of the opponents of this moral poison see the futility of scolding the young people thus diseased.
Common sense dictates a cleaning out, and a clearing out, of the sources of the disease. The source is in the Yiddish group of song manufacturers who control the whole output and who are responsible for the whole matter from poetry to profits.
As Berlin or Gershwin could have informed him, jazz was an African-American creation, albeit one that immigrant and second-generation Jewish songwriters and performers passionately embraced and importantly influenced. Further, whether played by the aptly named Paul Whiteman or by Armstrong or Duke Ellington or Fletcher Henderson, it came to dominate American music. Black composer and pianist James P. Johnson wrote the twenties' unofficial anthem, Charleston (here played by the Whiteman Orchestra). Armstrong's "Hot Five" and "Hot Seven" recordings influenced everyone who played or wrote music -- notably Bix Beirderbecke, lead trumphet in the Whiteman Orchestra and one of the first white jazz greats (here playing Wa Da Wa) -- and attracted a wide following among whites who previously had not listened to "race" music. In 1927 Bix and the Whiteman Orchestra recorded Washboard Blues, written by Bix's friend Hoagy Carmichael. [The Hoagy Carmichael Collection at the University of Indiana, in addition to other materials, contains online recordings of a number of Carmichael's songs, including the first recording of Washboard Blues.] Also in 1927 Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington and his Orchestra became the house band at the Cotton Club in Harlem. [Here is a 1922 Victor recording of an early Ellington classic, The Mooche.] With the engagement came a national radio hook-up. Like Armstrong, Ellington's influence on American music, popular and serious, proved profound.