Stolen Time: Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze
In 1956 Harry Belafonte’s Calypso became the first LP to sell more than a million copies. For a few fleeting months, calypso music was the top-selling genre in the US—it even threatened to supplant rock and roll. Stolen Time provides a vivid cultural history of this moment and outlines a new framework—black fad performance—for understanding race, performance, and mass culture in the twentieth century United States. Vogel situates the calypso craze within a cycle of cultural appropriation, including the ragtime craze of 1890s and the Negro vogue of the 1920s, that encapsulates the culture of the Jim Crow era. He follows the fad as it moves defiantly away from any attempt at authenticity and shamelessly embraces calypso kitsch. Although white calypso performers were indeed complicit in a kind of imperialist theft of Trinidadian music and dance, Vogel argues, black calypso craze performers enacted a different, and subtly subversive, kind of theft. They appropriated not Caribbean culture itself, but the US version of it—and in so doing, they mocked American notions of racial authenticity. From musical recordings, nightclub acts, and television broadcasts to Broadway musicals, film, and modern dance, he shows how performers seized the ephemeral opportunities of the fad to comment on black cultural history and even question the meaning of race itself.