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Trumpet of the Spirit, Bass of Faith: Jazz as a Cold War Spiritual Weapon

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  • This paper explores Jazz music during the Cold War. During the Cold War the U.S. went through a process of becoming more explicitly religious, identifying specifically a Judeo-Christian country. Particularly through foreign policy, the separation between church and state became less and less clear to the point where it seemed as though there was no separation at all. Cold War propaganda engaged religion in a revivalist way and spiritualized innumerable aspects of U.S. secular culture. One concrete example of this transformation is Jazz music. Part of the spiritualization of Jazz into a Cold War weapon entailed fabricating Jazz's spiritual history. But while the spiritual history of jazz might have been made up this does not mean Jazz was not an authentic spiritual praxis, both for the jazz ambassadors who were key US diplomatic figures and for their listening participants. Jazz was more than just a political tool. Overall, Jazz gives us an insight into the nature of religion in Cold War America—it was as much an agenda and diplomatic propaganda as it was an authentic spiritual praxis.
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