Who Is Steven Mitchell and Why You Should Stop DJing His Music [op-ed]


CONTENT WARNING: Sexual assault.

Steven Mitchell has been a very influential figure in the lindy hop community for the past 20 years. Steven and his then-partner Erin Stevens are credited with helping convince Frankie Manning to return to lindy hop in the mid-1980s. Steven and his partner Virginie Jensen set the standard for several generations of lindy hoppers through their very popular workshops given around the world. 

Steven is also a serial sexual abuser and predator, accused by several women of groping, kissing, and raping them. Some links to their accounts:

  • Sarah Sullivan published a blog post in January 2015 describing being assaulted by Steven that opened the door for many more women to come forward.
  • A video account by Allison Cordner of being raped by Steven was posted in January 2015.
  • Ramona Staffeld’s account of being raped by Steven as a young woman was shared on The Track podcast released in October 2015. (Her very upsetting story begins at about the 1:16:57 mark.)

Steve Mitchell is thankfully no longer an active part of the lindy hop scene. Soon after these stories came out in 2015, dance events cancelled his teaching engagements and teachers and organizers around the world refused to work with him. 

Apparently Steven continues to be a part of our community in another way: through the music that he produced and sings on. Most notably, Steven produced a song called “The Jitterbug Stroll” to go with the line dance of the same name, created by Ryan Francois in 1992. While Ryan choreographed “Jitterbug Stroll” to go with any song with a 12 bar blues structure, for a time it was almost exclusively done to Steven Mitchell’s song. 

Another popular song featuring Steven Mitchell is “I Like Pie” by Gordon Webster. There are a few versions of that song floating around, including on Gordon’s album “Live in Rochester” (2012). [Apparently now no longer available.]

There are probably hundreds and hundreds of swing DJs around the world who have music featuring Steven Mitchell on their computers and CD collections.

So to all of those DJ’s I have a simple message: don't play songs featuring Steven Mitchell. 

For people in our scene who are at all sensitive about sexual assault, playing music featuring Steven’s voice can be incredibly triggering and upsetting. It’s a really crappy thing to blast at your dance the voice of a sexual predator who preyed on women in our community.

If you want people to dance the “Jitterbug Stroll” there are innumerable songs you can play that are in the 12 bar blues format. “Woodchoppers Ball” is always a good option. 

If you want to play “I Like Pie,” the original Four Clefs version is great!

Really, there is no excuse for playing any song featuring Steven Mitchell at a dance. Just don’t.