I am very excited to announce that my new book, Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer: Nathan Burkan and the Making of American Popular Culture, will be published by the University of California Press on January 15, 2020.
Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer is the lively story of legal giant Nathan Burkan, whose career encapsulated the coming of age of the institutions, archetypes, and attitudes that define American popular culture. With a client list that included Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, Frank Costello, Victor Herbert, Mae West, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, Arnold Rothstein, and Samuel Goldwyn, Burkan was “New York’s Spotlight Lawyer” for more than three decades. He was one of the principal authors of the epochal Copyright Act of 1909 and the guiding spirit behind the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (Ascap). While the entertainment world adapted to the disruptive technologies of recorded sound, motion pictures, and broadcasting, Burkan’s groundbreaking work laid the legal foundation for the Great American Songbook and the Golden Age of Hollywood, and it continues to influence popular culture today.
The book tells stories of dramatic and uproarious courtroom confrontations, scandalous escapades of the rich and famous, and momentous clashes of powerful political, economic, and cultural forces. Out of these conflicts, the United States emerged as the world’s leading exporter of creative energy. Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer is an engaging look at the life of Nathan Burkan, a captivating history of entertainment and intellectual property law in the early twentieth century, and a rich source of new discoveries for anyone interested in the spirit of the Jazz Age.
“This book is a great read!”—Howard Suber, author of The Power of Film
“I don’t know of anyone who writes more knowledgeably, penetratingly and elegantly about popular music than Gary Rosen.” —Ben Yagoda, author of The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song,
“Gary Rosen is a born storyteller, and this is both a first-rate story and a previously untold one.”—Peter Jaszi, coauthor of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright
“The book reads like a literary novel with engaging characters and an intriguing plot. Rosen gives a clear and moving picture of Nathan Burkan’s character, both his flaws and virtues. In the course of tracing Burkan’s career, Rosen provides fascinating historical background that includes such colorful characters as Victor Herbert, Charlie Chaplin, and Gloria Vanderbilt.”—Philip Furia, author of The Poets of Tin Pan Alley
“A lively, in-depth, and unprecedented portrait of Nathan Burkan, one of the most famous American lawyers of the twentieth century and a pioneer of intellectual property law. Rosen presents Burkan as situated at the eye of a legal and cultural storm created by the advent of entertainment culture that Burkan’s legal brilliance and panache did so much to shape.”—Robert Spoo, author of Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain
“Known to legal scholars as the ‘Moses of American copyright law,’ Nathan Burkan was much more. Burkan represented an A-list of celebrity clients in causes ranging from copyright infringement and criminal defense, to high-society divorce and custody battles, touching nearly every legal cause célèbre in the first third of the Twentieth Century. Rosen brings Burkan’s story to vivid life in a meticulously researched, well-paced biography.”—Kevin Parks, author of Music & Copyright in America: Toward the Celestial Jukebox