[ Friday, June 03, 2005 ]
A couple more to add to yesterday's list (see below): Jeffrey Osborne, Jody Watley, Betty Wright, any gospel artist from the past thirty years, any Philly soul artist (except maybe
Barry White, The Spinners or The O'Jays), and then there's Teena Marie, who's maybe the most interesting of the whole bunch, since she's a white woman who did the reverse crossover probably better than anyone else in history.
A couple deeper questions on this topic, that's growing increasingly interesting to me:
1) Is it only a matter of coincidence or my own ignorance that no hip-hop artists show up on this list? Or does hip-hop's ubiquity in mainstream (white) culture mean that this sonic segregation is shrinking, or at least getting harder to spot?
2) Obviously, there are plenty of artists whom white people love and black people care little for, but it seems to me that - in the case of white artists - the reasons are more clearly based in genre or culture. (For example, country music - while more popular with black folks than many on either side would like to admit - is clearly, and foolishly, demarcated in the minds of many as a "white thing.") In the case of African-American artists whom white people don't know or care about, though, these demarcations don't seem to work as easily. Soul music of a certain kind is immensely popular with white audiences, but at some point (geographically, chronologically and stylistically) this stops. Plenty of even the whitest white folks like Aretha Franklin, but Anita Baker is a different story. Usher or R. Kelly sell to white people, but Jodeci or Luther Vandross never did. As many a great philosopher has asked, what's up with that?
Maybe I'm totally off-base here. (Always a possibility.) Y'all are smart. Thoughts?
On the box right now: The Spinners, VERY BEST. I used to not like The Spinners, or any of the lush R&B made during the heyday of the "Philly sound." A friend - a 40-ish black woman - told me that it was "grown-up music" and someday I'd understand. I'm not sure how much I've grown up, but I must've made some progress. 'Cause I know what she meant, and I really like this music now.
Dove With Claws [4:44 PM]
[ Thursday, June 02, 2005 ]
Black and white together
So, a friend and I are (only half-jokingly) considering writing a book about musicians that black audiences love while white audiences either don't know or don't care about. Initial list of subjects includes: Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman, Luther Vandross, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Chuck Jackson, Little Willie John, Jodeci, Guy, Bobby Womack, Patti LaBelle, Joe Tex, Sade, Jerry Butler, Cameo, The Bar-Kays, Teddy Pendergrass (solo and with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes), Anita Baker, and Earth, Wind and Fire.
While the lack of white apprecation for many of these artists can be attributed to the re-segregation of music that happened in the late-1970s, the ignorance/apathy of white people towards artists like Donny Hathaway and Bobby Womack is absolutely inexplicable. Do y'all know what you're missing
? (Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I used to be the same way with pretty much all the artists on the aforementioned list.)
Anybody got any suggestions for others?
On the box right now: Geto Boys, GREATEST HITS.
Dove With Claws [3:15 PM]
[ Wednesday, June 01, 2005 ]
New links, methinks
Added four new addresses for your viewing pleasure:
-SoulSides, a great blog centered around mp3s of weird and interesting soul/funk music.
-PopMatters, a blog-and-reviews site of music of all kinds.
-Seeing Black, a smart and comprehensive news-and-reviews site for black culture and politics.
-Progressive Patriots' Fund, the new group led by Sen. Russ Feingold whose mission is to support progressive candidates and causes around the country. Stop by to sign their anti-Patriot Act petition, among other things.
On the box right now: Oasis, DON'T BELIEVE THE TRUTH. Not bad, not bad...
Dove With Claws [8:06 AM]
[ Tuesday, May 31, 2005 ]
Bangers and mash-ups
I've spent the last couple days getting really into mash-ups, the DJ-based blendings of songs perhaps most famously used by DJ Danger Mouse in his "Grey Album" pairing of Jay-Z vs. The Beatles. While a lot of mash-ups are interesting only as novelty items, I've found a few that surpassed my expectations. Faves thus far:
-Nelly vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Country Grammar." Definitely my favorite so far, a much truer blending of country and hip-hop than Cowboy Troy has yet come up with.
-Snoop Dogg vs. Eddie Cochran, "C'mon Everybody, Drop It Like It's Hot." Way too much fun; just waiting for a plucky rock-and-roll band to cover it. (Honorable mention, on a similar tip: Ice-T vs. The 5,6,7,8s, "Woo-Hoo Colors.")
-Dolly Parton vs. The Beatles vs. The Eurythmics vs. Laurie Anderson vs. Art Of Noise vs. Beastie Boys vs. Pat Benatar, "Stairway To Bootleg Heaven." Sometimes, mash-ups transcend the contrivance of the genre, and become something of true artistic achievement. This is one such example, with complicated soundscapes and interlocking voices creating a musical experience that only the prude would deny or denigrate.
-Temptations vs. Bob Marley, "Just My Vain Imagination." What Prince would call an old-school joint for the true-funk soldiers. A beautiful juxtaposition, which - like all good mash-ups - sounds perfectly appropriate.
-Biz Markie vs. The Rolling Stones, "Can't You Hear Biz Knockin?" A righteously funky track, with both Biz and the Stones never sounding better. Another innovation of the mash-up genre is the ability of DJs to re-orient different artists by pitting them against each other, and there is no better example than this banging track.
On the box right now: The aforementioned mash-ups, as well as many others, but I also can't get enough of Eddie Hinton, SONGWRITING SESSIONS VOLS. 1 & 2.
Dove With Claws [9:36 PM]
[ Sunday, May 29, 2005 ]
Three recent recommendations to complicate your (and my) understandings of race in America:
1. Reading material: ANGRY BLACK WHITE BOY, by Adam Mansbach. A fascinating novel about the nature of denied whiteness, "real" blackness, and the ambiguous politics of the "wigger." Infused with hip-hop culture and historical understanding, this novel is worth reading by anybody who claims to care about what it means to be white or black in this country. (The fact that it's really funny helps, too.)
2. Viewing material: CRASH. I've spoken of this astounding film earlier, but - as I saw it again last night - I'll mention it a second time. Nobody walks away clean, nobody fits into an easy box of classification and motivation, and - in pure blues fashion - the tragic and comic, devastating and hilarious are mixed together with an ease that belies the difficulty of creating such a mixture. Kinda like life, really...
3. Listening material: DIRTY LAUNDRY: THE SOUL OF BLACK COUNTRY. A German compilation of soul artists performing country (or country-esque) material, it shoots away any lingering doubts we might have about the interrelated nature of country and R&B. I'm dead in the middle of a major period of listening to this genre-bending stuff, both for the purposes of researching my master's thesis and because I really
love the music, and this is another great addition to the library. (Also listening a lot to Arthur Alexander, Eddie Hinton, Dan Penn, Candi Staton and Bobby Womack.)
On the box right now: Various Artists, DIRTY LAUNDRY: THE SOUL OF BLACK COUNTRY.
Dove With Claws [8:53 AM]