Was re: A heated discussion on 'Race, Gender & the Blues'

Terence McArdle tmcardle1960@YAHOO.COM
Sat May 26 11:34:25 EDT 2012

>>>I have given this some
thought and you are
right, I don't know of any . . .

And while we're at it, let's add Otis Blackwell who wrote songs -- consciously and deliberately -- for Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

We think of r'n'b as rock'n'roll today because there only a few white performers who rocked as hard as the black ones. Really, you can't 'unlink' or separate the history of r'n'b from early rock and when you get try, that's when you're really getting into the gray areas. Were Freddie Bell, Bunny Paul (who recorded for Motown at one point) and for that matter, a black singer like Roy Hamilton, pop performers or rock performers? How about Johnny Raye, a white guy who had hits on the r'n'b charts and copped his flamboyant stage tricks from Clyde McPhatter. There are a lot of white performers, mostly Haley/Freddie Bell-types, who are in some sort of gray area between Elvis/Jerry Lee rockabilly wildness and white bread/on-the-beat Pat Boone -- they made rock records (i.e. r'n'b dance music) but they're basically pop. And they've been forgotten because people who grew up in the psychedelic 60s (the Butterfield genration) generally haven't delved into the whole
 convoluted history of 1950s music industry. The 50s weren't driven by performers as much as songwriters who tried to pitch songs in all three markets -- pop, r'n'b, and c&w. Go read Albin Zak.

And if you think the boundaries between white and black are more clear in the 1960s and 1970s, you're dead wrong. It is only because radio actually became more segregated. Black this, white that -- but the musicians seem to listen to everything. The big anomaly is Jimi, who came out of r'n'b but was too loud and psychedelic for the soul stations. (The fact that he had English sidemen at the height of the black power era probably didn't help with the music directors.) To my ears, George Clinton, Sly, Prince, the later day Michael Jackson (who recorded with Eddie Van Halen) and even Stevie Wonder (who recorded with Jeff Beck) are all influenced by what they're hearing in the rock music (i.e. white music) of the time -- even though they are marketed as r&b. Do you think that Marvin Gaye's Mercy Mercy Me or What's Going On would be the same if Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds hadn't come first. I might add that many of these r'n'b performers complained bitterly
 about the lack of airplay on AOR stations. Then Run-DMZ comes along and samples Aerosmith!

The black-white thing is a construction of the white dominated music industry and it actually screws everybody -- but none more so than the black performer.

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