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Count Basie and the American Soundtrack47:31
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William "Count" Basie didn't really read music. He and his band — rolling out of Kansas City, on their way to the American stage — just made it up.

Felt it in their bones. Blew it on their horns. Played it on keyboards, and behind Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, in the late 1930s, in a sound known as swing.

It was a time of Depression and FDR, Joe Louis and Amelia Earhart. It had a soundtrack. And Count Basie was a huge part of it.

Do we have a soundtrack today? Gnarls Barkley? Beck?

This hour, On Point: Count Basie, and the sound of America, then and now.Guests:

Roxane Orgill, music critic and author of the new book "Dream Lucky," which chronicles Count Basie's rise in the 1930s.

Tim Riley, NPR music critic and frequent contributor to "Here & Now." His latest book is "Fever: How Rock Transformed Gender."

This program aired on June 6, 2008.

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