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Prohibition's Influence

What do Irving Berlin, The Great Gatsby, and flappers have in common? They were all heavily impacted by the Prohibition era of the Roaring 20s.

The Prohibition era banned the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages, and inadvertently gave rise to the covert, yet thriving nightlife we know as the Roaring Twenties. Filled to the brim with secret speakeasies, underground jazz, and exciting fashion trends, the 1920s will forever remain a cornerstone of American history. 

“While jazz music predated Prohibition, the new federal law restricting liquor advanced the future of jazz by creating a nationwide underground nightclub culture in the 1920s.”

Many artists were influenced heavily by this era and created songs, stories, and art to address the profound impact that Prohibition had on their daily lives. Gilbert Wolf and Harry Warren’s “Put a Tax on Love” references the increase of income taxes as a result of prohibition, while Jack Golden’s “My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes” refers to the increase in nightclubs and party life.

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Always the trendsetter, Detroit was actually the first major city to enact Prohibition back in 1917. Luckily for Michiganders, our Canadian neighbors were close by and 75% of all alcohol smuggled into the US came through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel: that's a lot of booze.

Perhaps the city’s most famous speakeasy, the Aniwa Club, still stands today at Jefferson and Van Dyke. An impressive structure, this building was a central hub for rumrunners smuggling booze from across the border. Inside you’d find a plethora of hidden passages and secret compartments. So next time you’re sipping rosé, ordering a flight of IPAs at your local brewery, or listening to your favorite jazz artist, take a moment to thank the speakeasies of days gone by.

Edith Piaf - La Vie En Rose

This fall the DSO celebrates speakeasies and cabarets of Prohibition with music from the era. Notable songwriters include Irving Berlin, Raymond Scott, Kurt Weill, and “Jelly Roll” Morton. This special PNC Pops concert features conductor Jeff Tyzik joined by the vocal talents of Myra Maud, Bronson Norris Murphy, Madison Clare Parks, and Eric Metzgar. Join us October 7–9 and sing along with our guest vocalists to “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” “La Vie En Rose” and more.


October 7–9