Set against the current climate of political unrest gripping the nation and the world, Jesse Jarnow’s Wasn’t That a Time sheds new light on the contributions of folk group the Weavers to the battle against the blacklist efforts of the ’50s and ’60s as well as their invaluable additions to popular American music.
Although it most noticeably affected the pop culture icons of Hollywood, the McCarthy era blacklists infiltrated the folk scene, as well, even forcing the Weavers to break up for a time once they could no longer find work. But this ostracizing by the government led to the group galvanizing their efforts and returning with a fury. Now often reduced to the concept of “protest music,” the songs that the Weavers championed aimed to be a more systemic critique of culture through parable and community-building, tools more powerful than any finger-pointing lyrics could ever be. A half-century later, the language, policies, and fears of the blacklist era are seeping back into public discourse, making this reexamination of an era of oft-forgotten cultural change even more crucial.
Author Jesse Jarnow uses his skill for weaving together seemingly disparate strands of counterculture history to craft an exciting rethink of the Weavers’ role in American popular music and to examine the strong link shared between art and activism. With tightly paced plot lines, crisp historical details, and a fact-rich background, Wasn’t That a Time paints the Weavers as the modern American heroes they are, pioneers in the still-raging battles for Civil Rights, class equality, freedom of expression, and the very makings of popular music.