Jacqueline Warwick

Jacqueline Warwick is associate professor of Music and Gender & Women’s Studies at Dalhousie University. She is the author of Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s (Routledge, 2007) and a senior editor for the Grove Dictionary of American Music.



"'Bigger than Big and Smaller than Small': Child Stars, Street Urchins, and Little Orphan Annie"

Child performers delight us with dazzling technical skill, charisma, and apparent emotional maturity, contrasted with their tiny bodies and fresh-faced innocence. The ability to juxtapose these characteristics successfully is essential for child stars, a quality of being simultaneously “bigger than big and smaller than small.” But what does our collective fascination with child performers say about us, and our shifting understandings of childhood?

Historically, child stars become prominent in the context of urban tension and anxiety, offering audiences nostalgia for the innocence of an imagined past. Thus, films of the 1970s such as Pretty Baby and Taxi Driver showed little girls struggling to maintain appropriate childish innocence in perilous urban contexts. This storyline was also central to the musical Annie, a Broadway production in 1977 and a film in 1982, based on the famous 1930s cartoon Little Orphan Annie. In all her incarnations, Annie offers her audience political commentary tempered by the charm of a spunky little girl.

In this paper I examine the phenomenon of the child singer as depicted in Annie, considering musical stereotypes and clichés of children in terms of gesture, genre, vocal style and performance strategies. With attention to the musical language assigned to little girl characters, I offer insights into how child performers are gendered, classed, and raced. I will also consider the enduring appeal of Annie’s songs, both in the conventional repertoire for little girls learning to sing and also in the prominent sampling of “Hard Knock Life” in Jay-Z’s Grammy-winning single of 1999.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

2:15pm EDT