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  • Acceptance Speech and Tribute to Harold Isaacs
  • Dr. J. Patrice McSherry

I am deeply honored and gratified to receive the Cecil B. Currey Award for my 2015 book, Chilean New Song: The Political Power of Music 1960s–1973. This book was a new departure for me, after many years of studying repressive regimes in Latin America, Cold War politics, and Operation Condor, the covert military system of disappearance and extrajudicial “rendition” and assassination that functioned [End Page 45] during the Cold War. Chilean New Song examines the intersection between culture and politics, and the social roles of politically committed artists who were part of a mass movement for social and political change in Chile in the turbulent 1960s and early 70s. Specifically, the book analyzes the inherent political power of music: the mysterious ways in which music can unite, energize, and motivate people in a common cause.

This book took me in new directions, into uncharted territory, as it were, and it means a lot to me to win this sort of recognition from an organization I respect and admire. I’ll say more about my book in a moment, but first I wanted to say a few words about Harold Isaacs, our dearly missed colleague and friend. Paul Rodell asked me to write something for him to read at the conference that would encompass both my acceptance of the award and my reflections about Harold.

I regret not being at the ATWS conference personally to accept this award and commemorate Harold. I am living in Chile now, working on a new research project (New Song during the years of exile), and flights are prohibitively expensive. I feel a deep respect and fondness for the Association and for the journal, where I was the Associate Editor for Latin America for thirteen years. I first joined ATWS around 1994 (I’m not sure of the exact date), and almost immediately began working with the editor of JTWS, Harold Isaacs, on the Board of Editors. Then I became Associate Editor for Latin America in 1997 (if my dates are correct). I thoroughly enjoyed the editorial work: bringing important issues and themes into the journal, reviewing articles, commissioning book reviews, and maintaining contact with authors. I published a number of articles and book reviews of my own in the journal. The journal work was challenging and satisfying, and I enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Harold.

Paul wrote in an email that Harold and I knew each [End Page 46] other very well, and this is true, although ironically, I only met Harold once in person, at the ATWS conference in Costa Rica in 1999. The conference was a wonderful experience and Harold seemed like an old friend. I remember he had an infectious laugh and he radiated good will and positive energy. Paul also told me that Harold was informed of my selection for the award before he left us, and that he would have loved to have been there to see me receive it. I was deeply touched by that. I wish he could have been at this conference too. I was profoundly saddened and shocked by his passing.

During the years I collaborated long-distance with Harold he was always a wonderful colleague, a skilled editor, a tireless organizer, a reliable consultant, and a warm person with whom it was a pleasure to communicate. Our working relations were friendly and cordial and he always had a kind word and a message of gratitude for my efforts at the journal. Of course, the work he did for the journal was fundamental. He was truly a formidable presence. And perhaps most important, he was a decent person with an enormous commitment to the developing world and its peoples. He believed in improving conditions in the developing world, in fighting social injustice, and in treating all people with respect and dignity. He is someone who set an example for all of us.

Now let me tell you a little bit about my book. Chilean New Song is the product of some four years of research in Chile, during five separate extended stays in Santiago, when I interviewed scores of musicians and other protagonists...


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