Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Addendum to My Last Post

I just want to note (I made a similar comment regarding this at J. Scott G.'s place) that the unstoppable pop culture juggernaut that started in the U.S. and steamrolled the world is African-American culture. The great home-grown American music forms jazz, blues, rock-and/or-roll, and rap/hip-hop are rooted in the black American experience, and reflect an African-American aesthetic. Black artists such as Josephine Baker were able to forge careers in Europe that they never could have in the segregated U.S.

American popular music is largely African-American music, or attempts by whites to co-opt African-American music. As an aside, music impresario Sam Phillips was unfairly slandered by an unsympathetic critic, while his actual quote (not to mention his C.V.) reveals a more nuanced reality: "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars."

Reactionaries have always hated innovations in popular music (trying to avoid irrelevance, they eventually warm up to pop music decades after the fact (even twisting logic and lyrical intent to try to claim the mantle of what passed for hip twenty years ago), maybe in a couple of decades they'll warm up to the hippity hop of Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog.

Even punk rock, which was unfairly criticized by ill-informed critics as an attempt to purge the "black" elements from rock-and-roll, is rooted in the aesthetics of the African diaspora, whether 60's girl-group bubblegum pop or Jamaican reggae/dub. Okay, that being said, how about a classic that portended great changes in the American popular music canon?

Now, how about sitting back and listening keenly to another musical biscuit? Rock the Casbah by the Clash is about the power of popular music to subvert authoritarian regimes... it is precisely about soft power, and conservatives have appallingly tried to co-opt it as a war anthem. Uh, John Miller et al., it ain't about rocking the casbah with bombs, ya trolls:

Finally, here's the first part of a Josephine Baker biography (embedding disabled)- documenting the "first shot fired over the world's bow" by a remarkable American artist of African descent.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I know what the link is, yet I feel compelled to click, ya tricky rascal!

Smut Clyde said...

Breaking news!

Hunger Tallest Palin (or whatever handle I posted under the last time) said...

You know, thanks for posting this*. I have wasted a lot of time explaining to various dimwits why calling Rock "White" music is fairly fucking stupid. Of course when I'm in a hurry I just mention Jimi Hendrix and hurry off before their heads explode.

*And the link, also.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Not clicking DKW's link either.

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

You don't think that Punk was a little bit a reaction to disco, which was largely a Black or gay thing?

BTW, that's a sincere question. I am no musical historian.

Full disclosure: I have a great appreciation for both punk and disco.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Breaking news!

It's a shame- it means the collectivists have won.

I have wasted a lot of time explaining to various dimwits why calling Rock "White" music is fairly fucking stupid.

They really have no sense of history.

You don't think that Punk was a little bit a reaction to disco, which was largely a Black or gay thing?

"Heart of Glass" that is all...

I had a lengthier response approaching post length, but Blogger done ate it... I'll do my "Disco Backlash" post (which I should have done back in December) in the near future.

Hunger Tallest Palin said...

Hey, hey, hey. Don't blame us for disco. Disco was the result of a collision between a truck full of toxic waste, another full of record blanks and a third full of those creepy cymbal crashing chimps.

Punk is (was?) part heavy metal turned up to 12 and part reaction against disco. But there's nothing wrong with reacting against disco.

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

I love disco.

TruculentandUnreliable said...

Imma have to beg to differ. Punk and disco came in to popularity pretty much simultaneously. Disco was a purely American creation in its early days, but punk was a product of cultures both in the UK and the US.

If anything, punk was a backlash against evolving hard rock wankery and super-accessible, bland ass shit that dominated the radios in the early 70s.

It was also an outgrowth from (in the UK, mostly) the mod and skinhead subcultures, along with influences from glam rock (and, in the Clash's case, reggae/ska/rocksteady).

I find it interesting, actually, that the two genres sort of grew up together (although took completely different trajectories), because both genres were products of people who were outside of the mainstream. In the case of disco, it was gays and blacks, and in the case of punk, it was the white working class.

And really, if you trace back some of the roots of punk (specifically, skinheads and mods), there's a lot of black (American and Jamaican) influence in those subcultures, too. Mods were all about ska and R&B and skinhead culture was based significantly in the rudeboy subculture. (Which makes the National Front's exploitation of the skinhead subculture in the early 80s that much more sickening).

TruculentandUnreliable said...

And really, punk was already brewing in the late 60s.

I think The Stooges are the best example of what I would call actual "punk", but The Velvet Underground, Television, MC5, etc were pretty big precursors to punk, and I think the argument could be made that they were punk themselves.

This book is fucking great, if you want to learn more.

TruculentandUnreliable said...

I just realized I totally ripped off "punk was already brewing in the 60s" from that review of Please Kill Me without even realizing it. (Weird how your brain does that).

Still, it's a FACT.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Hey, T&U, don't bogart my future blog post!!!!

I'd also recommend England's Dreaming by Jon Savage, which also discusses the role of the Situationist Internationale and anarchist groups in the formation of the punk aesthetic.

TruculentandUnreliable said...

Eep! Sorry. :)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I'm just bustin' 'em. I've been mulling over this topic since December when Amanda M. wrote on the "disco backlash" and SMcG posted a Kraftwerk documentary

TruculentandUnreliable said...

Do you have the link to Marcotte's piece handy? My Google-fu FAILED.

I think the idea of a "disco backlash" may be a little simplistic...

I know that my mother (who was born in 1959, so was in her teens at the height of disco) freaks the fuck out if you give disco any legitimacy; ie, "I dunno, 'Fernando' is an enjoyable song", which can be seen as part of a backlash, but is probably a little more complicated than that, especially since she lived in a rural area and disco was more of an identifier of conformity/privilege/superficialitythan anything else.

The concept of an anti-gay/anti-black/anti-female backlash tends to ring pretty fucking untrue to me. When disco became mainstream, most people's understanding of it was through the BeeGees and Saturday Night Fever. But, obviously, I didn't live through it, and my knowledge of musical history during that time is pretty much restricted to punk and post-punk.

Aaaaand I may be stepping on your post again...I look forward to reading it. :)

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