Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The 1955 edition of The First Book of Jazz was updated in 1976 by publishing company Franklin Watts, well after Langston Hughes’s death in 1967. Both editions present the history of the development of jazz, discuss seminal figures in that history, and identify key elements of the form itself. The earlier edition incorporates lively drawings by Cliff Roberts, one double-page spread of head shots of jazz greats, and lists of famous jazz musicians and recordings. The 1976 edition eliminates the drawings and the lists, substituting black-and-white photographs of musicians in action and of posters advertising musical events, liberally distributed throughout the book.

Both editions incorporate lyrics of worksongs, spirituals, and jubilees associated with the development of jazz and selected lines of music itself. Those readers able to read music could actually play a few bars, for example, of boogie-woogie and get a sense of the sound. They could play a line of the “straight” version of “Loch Lomand” and then play a line of the “swing” version to hear the impact of the introduction of the elements of jazz on a traditional Scottish song. For those unfamiliar with musical terminology, a glossary appears at the end of the later edition of the book. Both editions have an index for handy reference to the wealth of information presented.

Hughes’s organizational pattern for the book is loosely chronological. He begins the...

(The entire section is 598 words.)


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Berry, Faith. Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem. New York: Wings Books, 1995.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Langston Hughes. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Chinitz, David. “Rejuvenation Through Joy: Langston Hughes, Primitivism, and Jazz.” American Literary History 9 (Spring, 1997): 60-78.

Cooper, Floyd. Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes. New York: Philomel Books, 1994.

Harper, Donna Sullivan. Not So Simple: The “Simple” Stories by Langston Hughes. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995.

Haskins, James. Always Movin’ On: The Life of Langston Hughes. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1993.

Hokanson, Robert O’Brien. “Jazzing It Up: The Be-bop Modernism of Langston Hughes.” Mosaic 31 (December, 1998): 61-82.

Leach, Laurie F. Langston Hughes: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Mullen, Edward J., ed. Critical Essays on Langston Hughes. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986.

Ostrum, Hans A. A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes. 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Tracy, Steven C., ed. A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.