Carl LaFong (mcdee) Mon 17 Oct 05 08:36
I have no idea what the percentage was, but it was a significant number, and there's certainly plenty of music that reflects the white southern experience with rural poverty. One of my faves is the song "I Never Picked Cotton," which I know by Roy Clark.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 17 Oct 05 09:45
You load sixteen tons, what do ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go I owe my soul to the company store
Berliner (captward) Mon 17 Oct 05 09:57
Carl Perkins' family were sharecroppers, and they were so poor they lived among the black people. Poor Carl had to put up with the black sharecroppers listening to the Grand Ole Opry with his family, and then he had to go learn how to play guitar from them! (I'd say he did them proud).
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Mon 17 Oct 05 10:15
I read an interview with Carl Perkins from the late 50s, after the first trip he took to Britain. He was astounded by how poor people were in Britain, which is really saying something (food rationing after the war didn't stop until the mid 50s).
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Tue 18 Oct 05 02:58
Whites are often quick to dismiss their impoverished ancestors in the Americas in order to relate better to a newer class they have worked themselves into the margin of (unless they are in the country or hip-hop music business). If you are white you don't need to wear your origins on your shirt sleve, and often its best not to. All you need to do is go anglo. Change your name to an english name helps quite a bit, then work on the accent a bit, learn golf, upgrade your wardrobe go downtown and knock on doors. In the states living somewhere for 3 months sometimes qualifies people to say "I'm from _________". There can be plenty of hard work in between, but the fact is that it is harder for blacks is well documented, although there seem sporatic attempts to bridge the gap, and one would hope there has been progress. Bush is a good example of someone who can play his 'cracker' and 'landed gentry royalty' cards for gain although he holds title more to the later. This convenient faking of creditials for political/fashion gain I think is what gets people tweaked, and also though is a dangerous psychic game that leaves a quite a few people insane (ie. Gene Clark IMHO). Although Hendrix and Motown signaled for a lot of people a sincere thread in U.S. society to desegregate at a slightly more quickened pace. Micheal Jackson did not seem to really signal the same thing somehow. Hendrix was trying (despite his suicidal tour demands) to deal with both his blackness and americanness in a positive and artistic way, and makes Jackson and Prince look more like calculating clowns. A sort of return to minstrelsy turned inside out especially in the case of Jackson. On the otherhand Cash, Perkins, the young Presely and others don't really seem to be part of the problem either, it seems though it begins getting scarey with Jackson and Presely both especially in their later careers. It sort of leaves one wondering how the collective spending habits of the western world enables these 2 parodys of themselves to be so visible, but maybe that is really where we are at.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 18 Oct 05 04:03
I think you make some good points, but the Bush/cracker thing -- c'mon, that's totally faux. The family's not from cracker turf and they've been wealthy and politically connected for generations. There are whites who are conflicted about leaving their ethnic identity/class behind, but I think you point out exactly the right thing -- that if your skin is white, you can just do it and with the exception of people who know your personal history, no one will be the wiser.
Berliner (captward) Tue 18 Oct 05 05:37
Although there are always signs. After all, who ever knew anyone named Elvis before Elvis came along? Who named their kids Elvis? (Which, of course, makes Elvis MItchell an even stranger phenomenon).
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Tue 18 Oct 05 08:18
This is completely unrelated, but when I first moved to austin 15 years ago and was working temp at a large state agency, i was taking a message about an upcoming office holiday party. The person I was talking to was reading from her list said, "and Elvis will bring a ham". Elvis?! bringing a ham?! Of course I took that has my cue to make some Elvis jokes, thinking that she was pulling my leg. But no, a guy whose name really was Elvis was really bringing a ham.
Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 08:42
My whole point about sharecropping, which was taken in some interesting directions by the group, did not have to do with color at all -- simply that before one starts flinging around such loaded terms as "sharecropper," one really ought to have some context for how backbreaking sharecropping is. That was my point about Prince and using the word "slave" as well. If I had been, or had known a former slave, I'd take great umbrage at some pipsqueak popinjay pop star using terminology like that to describe a series of business quibbles.
from ROBERT WORRILL (tnf) Tue 18 Oct 05 08:45
Robert Worrill writes: Kevin, enjoying the conversation very much, here is more information on the origin of "Wimoweh": http://www.3rdearmusic.com/forum/mbube2.html If this is already referenced just ignore it. Regards Robert.
Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 09:37
Insofar as your point, Lisa... I confess to a bit of mystification. Your academician attempts to characterize what Northern listeners felt in hearing "Dixie" when she writes that the song, "tapped Northern nostalgia for the agrarian life in an era when the North was changing rapidly and the South was not." Is this a suggestion that Southerners, who after all, adopted the tune as theirs, were ambivalent or oblivious to its lyric content? Had Northerners identified so strongly with it, perhaps they would have adopted "Dixie" as their signature in song, rather than "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I'm simply writing about what the lyrics suggest, and I believe that is a more logical place to interpret from than trying to get into the heads of those Northerners who were hearing the tune more than a hundred and fifty years ago -- unless there's some theater exit poll of which I'm unaware. Much of what's written elsewhere in her reply includes points I make as well. I am perhaps guilty of assuming in that section that readers understand the South was an overwhelmingly agrarian economy while the North was about the business of industrialization. But I certainly never assert the opposite. I also report that there was much fear in the North that if the slaves were emancipated, competition for even the lowest jobs on the economic ladder would be evermore fierce. It follows then that abolitionists were held in low esteem in many Northern quarters. In terms of "isolationism," (and I don't have the book handy as I'm typing this) I was referring to Southern isolationism and the states' rights struggles that preceded the war. This very notion was what led to secession in the first place -- "leave us alone and let us have our slaves and live our lives as we see fit." How one extrapolates that to the world stage and a global conflict three generations later is something of a head-scratcher for me. How does the U.S. isolationism that led to Pearl Harbor apply? Help me. As to my "regional bias..." I'm sorry, what regional bias? Where do I say that one way of life (industrial vs. agrarian) is "better?" I never intended to imply such a thing. I didn't feel it while writing, so if you found it the text, I'm most perplexed. I was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to El Paso, TX when I was eight. I know both regions of the country well enough to know that both have advantages and drawbacks. Certainly it's clear that I found slavery cruel and unjustifiable, but I'm hardly the first writer to do so. To conclude, I don't think I insinuated the system wasn't working well for the American South at the onset of the war. I simply state the obvious: civilization was moving toward industrialization, and the South was deeply invested in maintaining its status quo. Obviously Southerners thought their system was working for them, or they wouldn't have shed blood to preserve it. "Dixie" tries to immortalize the Southern way of life in song. Since the song was written from the slave's perspective, and he's a happy fellow who states, "I wish I was in de land ob cotton," the idea was to portray slaves as contented in their servitude. But progress (not your humble scribe) ensured that such an agrarian economy (with slavery as a vital component) could not survive. Would you call me anti-horse and buggy to declare that the automobile would one day replace them? As the one responsible for what's on the printed page, I'll have to take a long and hard look at what I've written, to make certain that if I'm able to clear up any misunderstandings in another edition, I do so. I hope this helps to clarify in the interim.
Andrew Alden (alden) Tue 18 Oct 05 11:00
I never knew, until this last post, that "Dixie" was originally written in slave dialect. That explains a great deal of the controversy about the song. I was raised in the north and west, and Dixie's lyrics were always in standard English.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 18 Oct 05 14:01
I hate following controversies like this, but I believe that VA finally nuked "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" as its state song because it was in a very similar vein. And sure, the Southern system was working, but just like our current post-Reagan system, the key question is "working for whom?" Mostly for the guys in the really big houses, just like now.
Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 15:24
Unfortunately, there are no records in print (and a paucity of those out-of-print) that represent blackface music as it originally was presented to audiences. Most recordings either present it in a kind of Mitch Miller/Disneyland interpretation devoid of dynamics, with a galloping optimism and elocuted to a fare-thee-well, or with some sensitive New Ager fingering away at a dulcimer or autoharp. Neither is anything close to what entertained Americans more than 150 years ago. Along the same lines, a few of my friends worried about my use of the word "nigger" in the book, and both of these points cut to the heart of "Souled American." I believe that in order to have a truly candid conversation about where we are and where we're headed as a society, it's important to have an unvarnished discussion of where we've been. It was Jackie Kennedy who put it very well when her aides repeatedly begged her to change her clothes on the plane ride back from Dallas in 1963. "No," she told them. "Let them see what they have done." I hope one day to set the record straight, but so far, my attempts to get a CD companion for the book have failed. I've been turned down by the majors (who hold most of the licensing) repeatedly over the last five years, sometimes twice or three times. Rhino agreed to manufacture a single disc to be bundled with the book. But my editor balked. There are extra production costs involved in pairing a disc with a book, including shrink wrapping. What usually happens, he said, is that people open the package, take the disc and leave the book, which then has to be returned as defective. I am working on getting a documentary made -- not of the book per se, but with the same title and addressing the same issues. Once that's in progress, I'll bet getting a box set won't be nearly so difficult.
Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 15:26
Cool article on "Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight," as well. Thanks. And the fellow who wrote "Carry Me Back to Ol' Virginny" is included in the book. I believe (and this is from memory, so forgive me if I'm wrong) he wrote "Dem Golden Slippers" as well.
Melodious Thunk (sjs) Tue 18 Oct 05 16:21
like <mcdee>, I live in Virginia, so I was intrigued by his post. This site -- <http://www.50states.com/songs/virginia.htm> -- with all the state's official songs, has this footnote about Virginia's: 'On Jan 28, 1997 the Virginia Senate voted 24 -15 to designate Carry Me Back as state song "emeritus" and directed a study committee to come up with a new state song. 'The ACIR intends to make a final selection in the contest and a recommendation to the General Assembly and the Governor for the 2001 General Assembly session. 'Carry Me back to Old Virginny was written by an African American minstrel, James Bland, in the last century and has been Virginia's state song since 1940.' I never knew this song. I don't get how this became the state's song. The legislature saying our Darkeys (the song's word, not mine) like it here?
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 18 Oct 05 16:28
I think it's mentioned in Kevin's book, which is what reminded me of it, but I'm too lazy to go look. A couple of generations ago, white people didn't really think twice about the kind of language in the song. My midwestern grandfather, who never expressed any prejudice about anyone that I can remember, nonetheless called blacks "darkies."
Melodious Thunk (sjs) Tue 18 Oct 05 16:40
(the song is mentioned pp. 59-60)
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Wed 19 Oct 05 01:18
>but the Bush/cracker thing -- >c'mon, that's totally faux. The family's not from cracker turf and >they've been wealthy and politically connected for generations. Perhaps Bush then is a case of reality mimicing entertainment mimicing art, when he puts on a hard hat, wields a chainsaw, or puts on a cowboy hat. Kevin and Lisa - Here is the architecture of a thread that bundles WWII with the civil war------Some take the view that unfortunately the rightousness of war has been thrown around too much, people are too quick to sing "we won". Look at the Canadians, are they worse off because they did not have a bloody seccession from the UK (who BTW banned slavery around 1810)? And then the civil war, what sound bites sold that one to the American people? Then you have the Spanish American war, started by a backfiring boiler on a boat and hyperactive headlines. And yes then Americans won World War I and World War II, but where were the overwhelming fatalities? Now you have the winning of the cold-war which has created massive flea markets of weapons being sold to terrorists and gangsters with tanks. Let historians and forensic archeologists 200 years from now define 'who won' and for what 'cause', not politications trying to leverage power, is one point of view worth considering. Anyone from the south that had family that caught the raw end of the civil war may know something about southern culture, folklore and history that attests to the fact that it wasn't an especially the most rightious Republican military crusade ever sold. There is much to gained by considering the critical and nuanced way by how these people talk about the civil war, even though on the surface at first it may sound a little confusing.
Slavery in Europe, Middle ages to 20th century / Carpetbaggers (jonsson) Wed 19 Oct 05 01:21
Berliner (captward) Wed 19 Oct 05 01:29
I think we'd better narrow this to "chattel slavery," the type practiced in America with Africans imported as, essentially, sentinent livestock, The slave labor under the nazis was a completely different thing. Chattel slavery, and the perception of the people who were enslaved under it, very definitly led to segregation.
Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Wed 19 Oct 05 12:14
I'm in agreement with Ed on this one.
Stayin' Alive (jonsson) Thu 20 Oct 05 01:03
(Prods and an electric fence were keeping these poor women in line until just a couple of days ago) http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,11026,1582608,00.html Doesn't the consideration of shanghaing, press gangs, indentured servitude, child labor, forced prostitution, share croping, global variants of slavery documented since the begining of history, forced transport/exile, mormon polygamy, conscription, the poor house, debtor's prison, general misogynist cruelties and other known and popular historic social situations explain *in part* why non-afro-americans (like the Bee Gees) would want to be temporarily black for at least a few minutes?
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 20 Oct 05 04:59
I must need more coffee.
Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Thu 20 Oct 05 06:45
Darrell, assuming that you're being sarcastic, I'd have to say that you're bumping up against one of the central riddles of the book. I posit that we're still in the Minstrel Age. Black people (men in particular) are still looked upon in many circles as mentally slow, lazy, dangerous and untrustworthy. Conversely, they're also envied for their sense of style, the ease with which they move in their bodies, and an assumed talent for lovemaking based in part on an assumption they've been blessed with bigger penises. On the one hand, no rational person would have liked to go through the Middle Passage experience. But black people are also thought of as something akin to magical in their abilities to make music, and this has been the case for ... well, I found evidence of it dating back to 1619. These days, there's no more blackened cork on the faces, banjo strumming or hambone, for sure. But whenever you see a white person adopt the clothes, the dances, and other affectations of style for the sole apparent purpose being the moving of product, I see it as the same as any blackface routine. But, I wonder, what is that thing that separates a Michael Bolton from a Bonnie Raitt or Van Morrison. We think "we can tell" that Vanilla Ice was a joke and Eminem is the real deal. Most of the blacks I've spoken with say the same. But how? And where does someone like Janis Joplin fit in, since her blend of blues and rock never caught on with black audiences to any degree. Just food for thought. Although Mark may have preferred doughnuts to go with his coffee.
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