Despite characterizing jazz as "Entartete musik", ironically the Third Reich had their own swing band for propaganda purposes. German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels conceived of using the style in short wave radio broadcasts aimed at the United States and particularly the United Kingdom. British listeners heard the band every Wednesday and Saturday at around 9 pm.
The purpose of the band was to stir pro-Nazi sympathy, draw attention to World War II Allied losses, and carry Adolf Hitler's messages in an entertaining form. The songs stressed how badly the war was going for the target audience, and how it was only going to be a matter of time before they would be beaten.
Led by German accented front man Karl Schwedler ("Charlie"), conducted by Lutz Templin, and paced by drummer Fritz "Freddie" Brocksieper, the band included Kurt Abraham on reeds and Willy Berking on trombone. The group formed in 1940, making over 90 recordings between March 1941 and February 1943. Arrangements were by Templin, Willy Berking, and Franz Mück, with lyrics written by the Propagandaministerium. Schwedler was allowed permission to travel to neutral and occupied countries to collect jazz and dance music, which helped the band and propaganda ministry to craft more recordings.
Popular American swing songs - and popular British tunes/songs - were initially performed true to the original, until about the second or third verse which were replaced by pro-German lyrics and monologues. For example, in the tune You're Driving Me Crazy, Schwedler croons about the confusion of new love, and in the third verse continues: Here is Winston Churchill's latest tear-jerker: Yes, the Germans are driving me crazy / I thought I had brains / But they shot down my planes…" Later, the entire lyric would be modified, clearly based on the original. The band even recorded some "cover versions" of the originals, unaltered.
Indeed, anecdotal accounts indicate that Winston Churchill enjoyed the broadcasts, finding the lyrics hilarious.
Many of the members of Charlie and his Orchestra went on to successful careers in music after the war.
Artist descriptions on Last.fm are editable by everyone. Feel free to contribute!
All user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.