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.)