Thursday, October 06, 2016

You Should Have Heard Him

"How did rock-and-roll music—a genre rooted in black traditions, and many of whose earliest stars were black—come to be understood as the natural province of whites? And why did this happen during a decade generally understood to be marked by unprecedented levels of interracial aesthetic exchange, musical collaboration, and commercial crossover more broadly? Many of the most famous moments of 1960s music are marked by interracial fluidity: a young Bob Dylan’s transformation of a 19th-century anti-slavery anthem, 'No More Auction Block for Me,' into the basis for 'Blowin' in the Wind,' a song that would become one of the most indelible musical works of the American civil rights era; or the revolution of Motown Records, in which a black American entrepreneur bet against the racism of white America and won, and in doing so created the most successful black-owned business in the country. Or the previously unimaginable inundation of groups from England, most notably a quartet from Liverpool called the Beatles and a quintet from London called the Rolling Stones, both of whom were tireless evangelists for black American music and would soon hear their own songs performed, frequently, by the very musicians they once idolized. If, by the time of Hendrix's death, rock-and-roll music had in fact 'become white,' how did this happen, and why?"

Slate runs an excerpt from Jack Hamilton's Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination.

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