As may be apparent from my many past posts to flteach I’m no longer posting but still reading my cultural adventure has been to enter African-American culture at an early age. I couldn’t stand the Beatles as they represented what I considered a poor imitation of Black music nothing wrong with their music in and of itself, but they clearly were doing knock-offs of rhythm and blues numbers and artists, not R&R. Then….. many years later I heard a program on the Beatles in Germany. Holy Cow! A different and much Blacker sound. What happened? (if you click on the Long Tall Sally in Melbounre, you’ll see the quality of their playing and singing R&B, similar to what I remember hearing from their Germany days). What I think happened is that they were advised to Whiten up their sound. This happened to a lot of American White artists who could play Black music very well but needed to appeal to a wider audience.
Unfortunately, discussions of this sort get filtered through our “race problem” and generally go nowhere. When we compare Japanese salsa orchestras to Cuban ones, you bypass that…. usually. The epitome of the crossover between race and music was the operative behind the Willy Horton ad, Lee Atwater, an aide to the openly racist Senator Jesse Helms. At the time, late night comedy shows made much of the fact that Atwater was supposed to be a big fan of the Blues. Yeah, right. Then I watched a bio on him and they played a clip of him playing with an R & B band. Again, Holy Cow! This guy could have played and sung right along with Sam & Dave or James Brown. Unbelievable.