Jazz and the Underworld: Musicians and the Mob in America
During the Jazz Age, mobsters and musicians built a mutually beneficial partnership. Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky’s love for jazz music provided Black artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday with opportunities that would not have otherwise existed. But racial inequalities remained part of the underworld system. New York Times best-selling author T.J. English will explore how the Mob’s influence helped to set many musicians on a path to stardom.
A book signing of Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz and the Underworld will follow this program.
Special meet-and-greet opportunity for Museum Members and Donors at 6 p.m. in the Courtroom.
T.J. English has been a professional writer for more than three decades. His first book, The Westies (1990), was a national bestseller. His second book, Born to Kill (1995) was nominated for an Edgar Award in the category of Best Fact Crime. Four of his books – Paddy Whacked (2005), Havana Nocturne (2008), The Savage City (2011), and Where the Bodies Were Buried (2015) – were all New York Times bestsellers. Havana Nocturne, The Savage City and Where the Bodies Were Buried were also nominated for Edgar Awards. English is known primarily for his writings about organized crime and the criminal justice system, but his journalism has covered a myriad of subjects, including the worlds of music and movies. He has published major interviews with the likes of director Martin Scorsese, actor Bill Murray and the legendary comic George Carlin, among others.
Also a screenwriter, English has written episodes of the television crime dramas NYPD Blue and Homicide, for which he was awarded the Humanitas Prize for humanitarian writing in the arts.
English was born in Tacoma, Washington into a large Irish Catholic family of ten children (he was the eighth child). He attended Catholic school all the way through college, graduating from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. After teaching high school for a year in East L.A., English moved to New York City in 1981. There he worked as a freelance journalist while driving a taxi at night to pay the bills.
Among his earliest assignments was writing for Irish America Magazine, a national magazine based in New York. He wrote about politics, sports, entertainment, and crime, which led to his initial writings about the Westies, an Irish American gang from Hell’s Kitchen. In writing about the Irish Mob, English burrowed deep into the history of the Irish experience in America, albeit from a particular point of view: the gutter. His research and writing on this subject is unprecedented, resulting in The Irish Mob Trilogy, an operatic Irish American saga that culminated with the publication of Where the Bodies Were Buried (2015), an in depth look at the criminal career of Boston’s James “Whitey” Bulger.
While promoting his books, English has achieved considerable notoriety, having appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, MSNBC, and multiple times on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, perhaps the most popular news and talk show of its day.