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Category Archives: Music, From Way Back When to Now

Great finds around the WWW – with videos where possible

Racism and Rock and Roll

There is no question that Rock and Roll owes it’s roots to black music. And in the 50’s and even early 60’s songs written by black musicians were stolen and made hugely popular with white audiences by segregated radio. It took decades for those black artists to receive compensation for their work. The first Rock Superstar was Elvis Presley, although there were a number of others, including Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis who aspired to the throne. Several of Elvis’ big hits were covers of black musicians music. Bu he also “borrowed” from white musicians. In particular Blue Suede Shoes was a cover of Carl Perkins.

Elvis learned his chops playing with, and befriending black musicians. Because of his “Rockabilly” style, upbringing, and birthplace, a lot of black folks assumed Elvis was a bigot. There is no evidence to support that, although in a racist South, he, like all of the 50’s rock musicians performed with all white bands. The people who actually performed in the Studio recordings however – were a different story.

The Truth About Elvis and the History of Racism in Rock

Racism In Rock

Elvis has long been vilified as the face of racism and cultural appropriation in rock music—but it’s the legacy of the genre (and the truth about Elvis) that merits closer scrutiny.

Rock music’s legacy is conflicted.

It’s a genre that transformed American culture in a way that re-shaped racial dynamics, but it also came to embody them. Music that at one point in the 1950s seemed to herald the deterioration of racial boundaries, gender norms and cultural segregation had, by the 1970s, become re-defined as a white-dominated, male-dominated multi-million dollarindustry. In the years between, rock ‘n’ roll matured into “rock” and the counterculture embraced anti-establishment ideas like integration and women’s rights—without ever really investing in tearing down white supremacy in any real, measurable way. In that, rock’s history with race is sometimes naïve, sometimes willfully ignorant, and sometimes undeniably hypocritical.

“Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me. See straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain…”

It’s one of the most well-known and significant lines in hip-hop history. Public Enemy’s high-profile smackdown of white America’s “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” resonated and reverberated throughout hip-hop nation in a way that even overshadowed the Flavor Flavlyrical gut-punch of John Wayne that completed the infamous couplet. On a certain level, the line was symbolic of hip-hop’s intentional dismantling of America’s white iconography; this was a new generation that wasn’t going to be beholden to your heroes or your standards. We’ve got our own voice, it announced. You will be forced to reckon with that voice.

That line also hit so hard because Elvis Presley’s racism has long been a part of his image and reputation in the black community. His notorious quote (“The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes”), solidified his villainy amongst black people. His is the legacy of cultural appropriation and white privilege—made doubly offensive by the fact that he was so dismissive and contemptuous of the black people from whom he’d stolen rock ‘n’ roll.

But—what if none of that was actually true?

The “shine my shoes” quote came from a 1957 article called “How Negroes Feel About Elvis,” published in a periodical called Sepia. The Ft. Worth-based magazine had been founded by Horace Blackwell, a clothing merchant; but by the mid-’50s had been bought by Jewish-American merchant George Levitan. It was by now white-owned but had a black staff and was still marketed to black readers, a publication superficially in the vein of EBONY but often with a more sensationalist slant.

“Some Negroes are unable to forget that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, hometown of the foremost Dixie race baiter, former Congressman Jon Rankin,” read the article. “Others believe a rumored crack by Elvis during a Boston appearance in which he is alleged to have said: ‘The only thing Negroes can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records.’”

At the time of the article’s publication, Elvis Presley had never been to Boston. It was also alleged that he’d said it on Edward R. Murrow‘s Person to Person TV show—but he hadn’t appeared there either. Louie Robinson, Jet magazine’s associate editor, tried tracing the actual origins of the quote and came up empty. So he tracked down Elvis himself, interviewing the singer in his Jailhouse Rock dressing room in the summer of 1967.

“I never said anything like that,” Elvis said at the time. “And people who know me know I wouldn’t have said it.”

“A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Elvis continued, regarding his “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” status and reputation. “But rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let’s face it; I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that. But I always liked that kind of music.”

“I always wanted to sing like Billy Kenny of the Ink Spots,” Elvis was further quoted as saying in the Jet interview. “I like that high, smooth style.” But Presley acknowledged that his own voice was more in line with the originator of the song that he would cover for his first single. “I never sang like this in my life until I made that first record—‘That’s Alright, Mama.’ I remembered that song because I heard Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup sing it and I thought I would like to try it.”

Presley had grown up on the “black side” of Tupelo, he’d run with the likes of Ike Turner in his early days as a musician and became close friends with B.B. King and eventually James Brown, Cissy Houston and Muhammad Ali. The racism that he’s been branded with because of a phantom quote seems to be a fabrication. But rock’s legacy as a genre pioneered by black people before white artists discovered it, white media re-branded it and white audiences embraced it means that despite Elvis not spouting racist ideas, his legacy is still rooted in racism—even if that racism isn’t directly born of the man himself. He attained his stature because he was not black and in doing so, he opened the doors for a generation of his disciples to reap those same benefits. And when examining the histories of so many of those notables, there is a legacy that is as conflicted as it is confounding.

Not unlike the history of rock itself.

To a generation of long-haired hippies, Elvis came to symbolize the antiquated era of malt shops and sock hops or a rock ‘n’ roller who’d grown up to be a stale old fart, churning out shlock. He may have aided in the white embrace of black music, but he hadn’t sang at the March on Washington like Bob Dylan, nor had he championed Bobby Seale like John Lennon. In the era of pop stars as quasi-revolutionaries, Elvis had become the establishment. The ’60s generation was about change. …Read the Rest Here

 

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A Little Blues From the Heyday

Just for the fun of it, some old time Blues…

 
 

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Mississippi John Hurt – The Ballad Of Stagger Lee

Just for the fun of it…

 
 

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Rediscovering Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Perusing my parents record collection back in the day, I remember albums by the Platters, Dinah Washington, Marion Anderson, Brooke Benton, Ray Charles…

And Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Listening to those on the old mono Console Stereo probably formed my appreciation for, and developed my tastes in music.

The First Badass Female Guitarist: Meet Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll

She influenced Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless others, but Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a legend in her own right.

The woman featured is none other than Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the “Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” who has one of the more enviable legacies in music. Her musical disciples and descendants reads like a who’s-who of legendary ‘50s and ‘60s figures, her personal history bears the earmarks of a classic outlaw, and her music is richly powerful and evocative—soul-stirring in the truest sense of the term. What a legacy that is—but that legacy has long been obscured.

For decades, fans and critics tended to gloss over pre-1955 music as compared to the music of the late 20th century, and the fact that she was a gospel star likely places her in a certain niche in the minds of the general public. While names like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis became etched into the culture’s collective consciousness, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was rarely mentioned in the same breath—or even as an obvious forbear—to her rock ‘n’ roll offspring who would carry the genre into the mainstream.

Born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, her mother, Katie Bell Nubin, was a singer, preacher, and mandolin player for the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) who encouraged little Rosetta to play and sing for services. A clear prodigy, it was through her association with COGIC that Rosetta would evolve into one of the most amazing gospel performers of her time. It was a church that believed in musical expression and was progressive in its view of gender roles within the church, encouraging women ministers and musicians. After moving to Chicago, little Rosetta and her mother became fixtures within the city’s gospel music scene.

At 19 years old, she would marry a minister named Thomas A. Thorpe in 1934, but the union would be short-lived. Though they divorced, Rosetta would keep his last name as her stage name—slightly altering “Thorpe” to “Tharpe.”

Upon signing with Decca Records, Tharpe issued singles that are instant smashes. Her versions of Thomas Dorsey tunes like “This Train” made her a household name—in particular, her reworked version of “Hide Me In Thy Bosom” (retitled “This Train”) was a breakthrough for her as a recording artist. Backed by Lucky Millinder’s jazz orchestra, the song raised her visibility with secular and white audiences and set the stage for a remarkable run that saw her perform at Carnegie Hall (as part of John Hammond’s “Spirituals to Swing” showcase) and record music with Cab Calloway and the Jordanaires. She also made recordings for U.S. troops stationed overseas; Tharpe was one of only two black gospel artists included on these “V Discs”—along with the Dixie Hummingbirds. But it was her song “Strange Things Happening Every Day” that proved a major leap forward for both her career and gospel music; it was the first gospel hit on the Billboard R&B charts, peaking at #2.

She would team up with gospel singer Marie Knight, whom she’d seen perform in Harlem with Mahalia Jackson, and the two would tour together throughout the 1940s as “The Saint (Knight) and the Sinner (Tharpe).” By 1951, she’d become so popular that 25,000 people paid to watch her wedding to her third husband, Russell Morrison, in Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. That same year, Tharpe and Knight would make an ill-fated attempt to forge a career in straight-ahead blues.  …Read the Rest Here...

 

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Eargasm! International Jazz Day at the White House

Got to work on my political connections and see if I can get an invite to one of these before President Obama leaves! Music at the White House under Obama has gone to entirely new heights. Catch ReRe’s rendition of “Purple Rain” about 3/4 through. The 2016 All-Star Global Concert features a cast of internationally renowned jazz artists including pianists Joey Alexander, John Beasley (Music Director), Kris Bowers, Chick Corea, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Pérez and Chucho Valdés; trumpeters Terence Blanchard, Till Brönner, Hugh Masekela and James Morrison; vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jamie Cullum, Kurt Elling, Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Sting; saxophonists Eli Degibri, David Sánchez, Wayne Shorter, Sadao Watanabe and Bobby Watson; bassists Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding and Ben Williams; guitarists Buddy Guy, Lionel Loueke, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour; drummers Brian Blade, Terri Lyne Carrington and Kendrick Scott; percussionist Zakir Hussain; trombonist Trombone Shorty; and the Rebirth Brass Band.

It just don’t get any better than this!

 
 

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Billy Paul – 1936-2016

Philly R&B Crooner Billy Paul, whose hit single “Me and Mrs Jones” was a huge hit has passed.

Billy Paul, soul singer best known for Me and Mrs Jones, dies

Billy Paul, the soul singer best known for the number one hit and Philadelphia soul classic, Me and Mrs Jones, has died aged 80.

Paul, whose career spanned for more than 60 years, died at his home in Blackwood, New Jersey, his co-manager, Beverly Gay, told Associated Press. Paul, 80, had been diagnosed recently with pancreatic cancer, Gay said.

Known for his beard and large glasses, Paul was one of many singers who found success with the writing and producing team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, whose Philadelphia International Records also released music by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and Lou Rawls.

Martha Reeves, the Motown singer, was among those who paid tribute on social media.

Me and Mrs Jones, which reached number one in the US at the end of 1972 and number 12 in the UK, was an extramarital confession and a characteristic Gamble and Huff production, setting Paul’s thick tenor against a lush and sensuous arrangement. Many fans best remember the moment when Paul’s otherwise subtle vocals jump as they reach the title words, stretching out “Me” and “And” into multiple syllables and repeating “Mrs Jones, Mrs Jones, Mrs Jones.” (Paul himself was married to the same woman for decades).

Paul’s voice made him “one of the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide”, Gamble and Huff said in a statement late Sunday.

“Our proudest moment with Billy was the recording of the salacious smash Me and Mrs Jones. In our view, it is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded,” they said.

My favorite cover of Paul’s hit song was by the Dramatics in the Old Style of group R&B…

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Pirate Radio is Back

In the 60’s and 70’s there were a number of Pirate Radio Stations in the US – especially in New York City, where the maze of buildings, and low power transmissions typically limited the area in which the station could be heard to a few blocks. In those days, many of the Stations were either black, of broadcasting alternatives to the “Top 40” repetitive format broadcast by the licensed stations. Driving though New York you could pick up a marvelous tapestry of music you could never hear on commercial radio, as well as local talk shows dealing with issues in a specific community.

Starting with WHUR (Howard University Radio) in Washington DC, there was a 5 year trend to broaden the spectrum of music on the airwaves by licensed stations. HUR rocked the industry initially with a format that mixed every genre of black music in a commercial free format. The station was forced by economic needs to cave to commercial advertising in 1976, ending the fabulous experiment, and significantly narrowing the station’s playlist and style.

A Pirate Radio Station can be pretty small, and set up on a low budget.

With the elimination of local ownership rules by Republicans under Raygun, there was a massive consolidation of ownership of stations across the country, enabling behemoth’s like Clear Channel to own the majority of the airwaves, the rise of right wing talk, and the homogenization of playlists across the country. The consolidation killed local music, as well as the regional flavor of music across the country. Those appreciating music from the pre 80’s era will remember Atlantic Records and Southern Soul, Motown with it’s distinctive sound, and Philly Soul among others. Driving from region to region often presented an entirely different group of artists and sound palate. A combination of radio ownership consolidation, which was driven principally for political reasons, and the MTV-ization of America destroyed this creative landscape. And in the age of Hip-Hop – there are still some regional distinctions – to the exclusion of anything else.

Today’s Pirate Stations are driven principally by Immigrants, who are largely locked out of the broadcast community by a combination of cost, and audience size. Digital Broadcast Radio, once seen as a panacea for broadcasting is largely dead due to poor broadcast capabilities resulting in an inability to lock on to a station (poor coverage, much like the Digital TV failure), and the need for specialized equipment. Broadcast over the Internet has become hugely popular, but for poor communities, begs the issue of being able to afford an Internet Connection in the first place.

In Internet age, pirate radio arises as surprising challenge

In the age of podcasts and streaming services, you might think pirate radio is low on the list of concerns of federal lawmakers and broadcasters. You’d be wrong.

They’re increasingly worried about its presence in some cities as unlicensed broadcasters commandeer frequencies to play anything from Trinidadian dance music to Haitian call-in shows. And they complain the Federal Communications Commission can’t keep up with the pirates, who can block listeners from favorite programs or emergency alerts for missing children and severe weather.

Helped along by cheaper technology, the rogue stations can cover several blocks or several square miles. Most broadcast to immigrant communities that pirate radio defenders say are underserved by licensed stations.

“The DJs sound like you and they talk about things that you’re interested in,” said Jay Blessed, an online DJ who has listened to various unlicensed stations since she moved from Trinidad to Brooklyn more than a decade ago.

“You call them up and say, ‘I want to hear this song,’ and they play it for you,” Blessed said. “It’s interactive. It’s engaging. It’s communal.”

Last year, nearly three dozen congressional members from the New York region urged the FCC to do more about what they called the “unprecedented growth of pirate radio operations.” So did the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, which said pirates undermine licensed minority stations while ignoring consumer protection laws that guard against indecency and false advertising.

The New York State Broadcasters Association estimates that 100 pirates operate in the New York City area alone, carrying programs in languages from Hebrew to Gaelic to Spanish. Many also broadcast in and around Miami and Boston; FCC enforcement data shows agents have gone after at least one pirate in nearly every state in the past decade.

The FCC has been discussing possible solutions, such as penalizing pirate radio advertisers, and last month urged landlords and government officials to look out for rogue broadcasters.

The alleged pirates include Jean Yves Tullias, a barber living in Irvington, about 15 miles from New York. The FCC claims he appropriated an unused frequency to broadcast his show, which includes church services, gospel music and a call-in program for fellow Haitians.

Tullias denies any wrongdoing. Cutting hair recently at his barbershop, he said a friend broadcast his Internet radio show without telling him he used a pirated frequency.

Tullias, 44, started his show because the local Haitian community “had no communication, nobody to help them,” he said.

“When you get that radio station, that prayer line, you feel comfortable,” he said of older listeners who speak little English and feel isolated. “You feel happy.”

Broadcasters are increasingly concerned because the FCC has gone after fewer pirates in recent years. The commission issued more than 100 warnings and fines against alleged pirates last year, compared with more than 400 in 2010.

That number fell despite a “significant increase” in the number of pirate stations, tallied by David Donovan, president of the New York State Broadcasters Association.

Donovan said the signals interfere with the Emergency Alert System, which relies on a phone-tree-like chain of stations listening to one another. Listeners also can’t hear the alerts, he said.

In his response to lawmakers’ concerns, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler cited a stagnant budget and its smallest staff in 30 years. Fines and seizures are not enough, he added, because pirates often refuse to pay and quickly replace transmitters and inexpensive antennas.

For about $750, pirates can buy equipment to broadcast at a range of at least 1 or 2 miles, experts say….More Here

 

 

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