"The Sweethearts of Rhythm gave me a chance to bring something new to my work. We were dealing with an aspect of American history that is somewhat abstract—music, and what music did for this country."
Marilyn Nelson's syncopated poetry jives perfectly with Jerry Pinkney's watercolors in this story about the Sweethearts of Rhythm, a popular interracial all-girl swing band that toured the United States from 1937 to 1946. The artist's images reflect the sound of the band's instruments, reminiscing about their glory days from the shelves of a New Orleans pawnshop, recalling the excitement of the road and the difficulties of Jim Crow. Looking back on important events, his art plunge's readers into America's history, from the Dust Bowl and World War II to rationing and segregation. Through it all, music lifts its listeners and players above hardship, a theme illuminated in vibrant color.
A music lover since childhood, Jerry Pinkney said, "Gloria and I both love to dance. Swing was a little before my time, though I enjoyed the sounds of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. My parents listened to gospel and blues and my sister loved jazz. When you love the sounds of music all you need is a door, a window into new sounds. All you need is the right introduction."