Sing a song of difference: Connie Boswell and a discourse of disability in jazz
Popular Music, 28, (3), . (doi:10.1017/S0261143009990080).
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Although a wheelchair-user and permanently disabled through polio, the southern American singer Connie Boswell was one of radio and vaudeville's biggest stars in the 1930s. She and her sisters were a compelling force in American popular entertainment for the first half of the decade; and when the group split in 1936, Connie carried on a solo career in radio, recording, film and television for another twenty-five years. Connie's unique position as the only visibly disabled ‘A-list’ female popular entertainer for most of the twentieth century – and one whose voice, both physical and musical, shaped the sound of jazz and popular music – makes her an obvious focus for any study that links popular music and disability. This essay is concerned with how disability may have operated as a discourse about and within Connie's chosen medium, jazz; and how disability studies can illuminate why the ways in which difference is figured in her work, initially a source of anxiety, could have also been a significant reason for her success.
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