How Prohibition & Temperance Impacted Jazz Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


How did the rise and fall of prohibition impact the development of Jazz music?


Prohibition, which began in 1919 and ended in 1933, was a time when the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the United States. This period had a significant impact on jazz music, both positively and negatively.

On the positive side, Prohibition allowed for the rise of speakeasies, which were clandestine bars that served alcohol illegally. Speakeasies were often associated with jazz music, and they provided a venue for people to listen to and dance to this new style of music. On the negative side, Prohibition led to an increase in organized crime as individuals engaged in bootlegging (the illegal selling of alcohol) to make money. This sometimes resulted in violence, which could be a problem at jazz clubs.

In addition to Prohibition, the temperance movement also played a role in shaping jazz music. The temperance movement was a social movement that advocated for moderation or complete abstinence from alcohol. One of the most famous Temperance movement leaders was Carrie Nation, who became known for her practice of smashing up liquor bottles with a hatchet! While the temperance movement did not have as direct an impact on jazz music as Prohibition did, it is important to remember that many people during this time were opposed to alcohol consumption for religious or moral reasons. This made it difficult for jazz musicians to find work and made it hard for them to make a living doing what they loved.

Overall, Prohibition and the Temperance movement had both positive and negative impacts on jazz music. While speakeasies provided a venue for this new style of music to be played, the illegal nature of these establishments could sometimes lead to violence. In addition, the Temperance movement made it difficult for jazz musicians to find work and earn a living.

The Impact of Prohibition

Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933 and had a major impact on jazz music. Jazz became associated with speakeasies and illegal activity, which made it less popular with the general public. Many famous jazz musicians were forced to leave the country or go to jail. Despite the challenges, prohibition created, jazz continued to evolve and remain popular.

Jazz music became more popular during Prohibition because people were looking for ways to have fun without alcohol. Jazz clubs popped up all over the country, and musicians started experimenting with new sounds. This led to the development of different styles of jazz, such as swing and bebop.

Prohibition also had a positive impact on the economy. People still wanted to drink, so they turned to illegal alcohol. This created a demand for bootleggers, who made a lot of money selling liquor. Some of this money found its way into the jazz scene, which helped musicians buy better instruments and hire better talent.

More Clubs and Venues Are Established

The 1920s was a decade of great change for the United States. One of the most significant changes during this time was the amendment to the Constitution that established prohibition. Prior to prohibition, alcohol was legal and widely consumed. However, when prohibition went into effect, alcohol became illegal and clubs that served alcohol were forced to close their doors.

Despite the challenges that prohibition posed, the 1920s were still a decade of great progress for jazz music. More clubs and venues were established, and more musicians had the opportunity to perform. The popularity of jazz continued to grow, and by the end of the decade, it had become one of the most popular genres in the United States.

The Impact of Temperance

At the turn of the 20th century, the United States was grappling with the problems of alcohol abuse and overindulgence. In response, the Temperance movement advocated for the prohibition of alcohol. This had a profound impact on the development of jazz music.

The impact of Temperance on Jazz music was twofold. First, the sale of alcohol was prohibited, which meant that many of the venues in which Jazz music was performed were shut down. This made it harder for Jazz musicians to make a living, and as a result, Jazz music became less popular. Second, the Temperance movement led to an increase in racism and segregation, which made it more difficult for black Jazz musicians to find work and be heard.

Fewer Clubs and Venues Are Established

As a result of temperance, fewer clubs and venues were established for people to drink and listen to jazz music. This made it harder for people to access jazz music, and also made it harder for jazz musicians to make a living. Some clubs that did stay open began serving food in order to stay in business.


In conclusion, it is clear that prohibition and temperance had a profound impact on the development of jazz music. By restricting the availability of alcohol and encouraging people to dance in public, these movements helped to create the perfect environment for jazz to flourish. In addition, the popularity of jazz among African Americans helped to break down many of the barriers that had previously existed between whites and blacks in the United States.

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