Since the early 1960s R&B vocal group singing or doo-wop as a musical style, has remained a regional white ethnic genre within a subculture. Non-blacks have taken the rhythm and blues vocal group sound and have made it their own. Almost all oldies shows’ that features R&B groups of the 1950s have a majority of white or non-African-American fan base. Shows that were produced by the late Richard Nader and current icon T.J. Lubinsky, and those who attend these shows, have for the most part been non-people of color. Although the artist are mostly black entertainers, not many African-Americans are represented in the audience. Why then, the attraction to the rhythm and blues group sound by Caucasians? What is it among non-blacks that draws them to this style of music? There are many reasons, one thing for sure are the lyrics, they are well thought out, crisp, connects on an emotional level to the person listening, and as a rule it is wholesome. The lyrics appeal to a segment of the population that can connect with, is one of the reasons for its attractiveness. In contrast to some of the of music today, with its vulgarity and sexual innuendo.
Perhaps the most obvious, is that many people were raised with the “group sound” as they were growing up and developing during the birth of Rock n Roll. Keep in mind, that after World War II, the vast majority of black folks left the Southern states and settled in urban America, a migration that began after the first World War in 1918. The vast majority who appreciate this type of music live in and around the corridor that stretches from Boston to Pittsburgh-Philadelphia area. However, on a national level, it still has not captured the heart and minds of people, especially our youth. It has remained a fundamentally self-contained musical expression, within a small body of vocal group aficionados. In other words, it has remained a regional sub-cultural cottage industry within rhythm and blues family ethos.
In the early 1960s young African Americans for the most part, felt that the rhythm and blues 1950’s group sound was not meaningful, that resulted in a new wave of music called Soul. It began in the early 1950s, turning elements of Gospel music into new a musical style. Ray Charles is an example when he turned a Gospel song done by the Southern Tones called “It Must Be Jesus” into, “I Got a Woman” in 1954. Non-blacks picked up on their dismissal of the group sound, and made it their own. The white and ethnic community saw something that Afro-Americans perhaps did not see; they saw something worth preserving and imitating. Thus, the beginning of commercial acappella street corner sound of the 1960s, the development of radio oldies programming, and the start of the reissuing of black old vocal group recordings from the late 1940s and 50s.
What does the future hold for the doo-wop style of music? It appears as of now, an unchanged style drawing non-people of color to its ranks, or as some would say, bringing together brothers of another shade. There have been great strides over the past sixty years. This R&B group sound has spread its tentacles to Europe, Asia and many parts of the world. What is amazing is the fact that youth in these regions have grabbed on to this sound but not in the United States. The basic flaw is the group R&B sound is filled, and perpetuated by groups that are past their prime. Most past group members are septuagenarian or in their 70s. Their appeal lacks the hitting power of youth. No dis-jockey or radio personality as a general rule is promoting this style, simply because it is considered “old school”. It will continue on this path, unless there is a paradigm shift within the vocal group community. Although there are some youthful R&B groups emerging, it is till confined to small independent labels that have no vision of going beyond their borders. If doo-wop is going to survive, it must remove itself from the regional centric mentality, and seek out potential youthful artist. Moreover, it must reach out to the movers and shakers of black contemporary music. Dis-jockeys, record producers, and community leaders can all play a part. It must appeal to the public that vocal group harmony style of music is meaningful, up lifting and worthy to go beyond its borders.
If you are as pissed as I am, I want you in our video. Send me a video of yourself, either singing the chorus of this song, or doing whatever you want to do to get your point across. Now is the time for SOULdiers to step up. Folks need to know we will not be playing chess while they turn over tables and smash the pieces. That part of the game is finished. We have to flood the zone of white supremacy and shut this shit down, before it’s too late. You with me? Send your video to be in The Family Stand video here:http://bit.ly/NoPeriodTFS
Nearly nine months in with three months to go—2020 is working overtime as the grand reaper. The dearly departed have returned to the essence. Surviving loved ones and well-wishers wearily kneel at the altar of condolence. Bodies are taxed from carrying the weight of heavy hearts. Hoarse throats shout rest in power salutations to the heavens. I woke up this morning to find that the reaper has struck once again. Legendary Georgetown Hoya coach John Thompson passed away at age 78.
Thompson’s career is like a human highlight film. Here’s the trailer: A back-up NBA center on a championship team recognizes his limitations and retires after a few years in the league. Now a coach, he works his way up to the college ranks, aligns himself with a fraternal order of coaches to create an East Coast conference dynasty. He becomes a Final Four fixture and wins a national championship.
There are scenes on the cutting room floor just as pivotal: Picture Coach Thompson as a modern-day Hannibal trooping through the northeast or Tobacco Road leading his soldiers into epic battles with worthy opponents from Syracuse, St. John’s, Duke and North Carolina. Under Thompson’s direction the Hoya brand elevated to iconic status previously associated with sports organizations like the Dallas Cowboys (America’s Team) and the Oakland Raiders (the Silver and Black/Raider Nation).
Woke long before the Black Lives Matter era, Thompson dismantled racial coding associated with Black basketball players. He shielded them from a probing press attempting to dissect Georgetown’s stoic attitude compared to the kind of exuberance associated with players Magic Johnson—Thompson’s response was immediate: “I tell my kids that the world is full of people who will pat you on the head that will tell you how nice you are and then rob you blind.” Portrayed as testy in the press, Thompson’s defense was necessary: fans threw bananas on the floor during games and held up signs during games ridiculing Georgetown stars Patrick Ewing (“kin you reed dis?”) and Reggie Williams (“dumb bleep”).
Hoya players lives would go down divergent paths when their Georgetown days were over. Some became NBA superstars or journeymen with solid careers. Others slipped into normal everyday lives. Some were plagued by legal issues and personal challenges. Thompson supported them through triumphs, trials and tribulations, never losing contact and always was accessible.
Thomas avoided the fate of his peers who succumbed to their respective coaching methods. Maryland’s Lefty Driesell’s easy-going approach fell out of favor after Len Bias’ tragic death. So would Bobby Knight’s aggressive and confrontational style. Thompson’s brand of loyalty-based tough love endured.
An object of welcome contradiction, Thompson could face down fraternizing drug dealer hangers-ons and then tenderly console one of his players whose a lapse of judgement cost the team a title win. Walking off the floor in protest of an NCAA sanction denying freshman athletes scholarships who were academically ineligible—he’d also bench or dismiss players for falling behind in their studies. Controlling his team with an iron grip, he released his grasp to support Allen Iverson’s decision to enter the NBA after his freshman year to rescue his family from the clutches of devastating poverty. In the midst of college basketball’s one and done culture, his teams always boasted a high graduation rate.
As I bid adieu to another piece of my youth, I am reminded of mortality’s fleeting moments. Akin to fading to beauty, its a reminder of what once was. As John Thompson returns to the essence, I hope that his surviving loved ones, admirers and well-wishers take solace in the fact that his ancestral ascension is assured because of the service he gave on earth. Rest in power, Coach.
Nobody asked me, but I’m gonna comment anyhow…This is a big and exciting time in my life.We (my brother Mike and I are about to embark on what some folks may think of as “a fools errand.”We are on the cusp of implementing a re-launch of our website www.Soul-Patrol.com.It’s a massive undertaking.The website has been around since 1996 and over the years it has been a source of great “joy and pain” (apologies to Frankie Beverly.) It’s founded on the premise that “one man (in this case two Black men) can change the world. On one level it has been wildly successful, over the years the site has racked up many accomplishments and won many awards, and at times we really have changed the world (albeit in small manageable chunks.)
On another level, it sometimes feels like it is a drop of water in an ocean of a dying music industry and a dying Black culture, neither of which seems to realize that they are both commiting suicide.
So why relaunch in 2020?Wouldn’t just be easier to “rest on your laurels,” and just relax? (and what does that relaunch have to do with Alison Crockett?) Well first and foremost, Mike and I think that we have a responsibility to advance Black culture, regardless of it’s “suicidal tendencies.” As the owners/managers of a series of technology resources and as lifelong technologists we know that we have the skills and knowledge to make a difference.
Not many African Americans are in the position we are. And as what the mainstream media might describe as “a couple of colored boys from the projects in NY who grew up in the Civil Rights era,” we know that because of the sacrifice of the people whose shoulders we stand upon, we have an inherent responsibility to keep things moving forward to the greatest extent possible.
So that’s what we are going to continue to try and do, regardless of how much of a “fools errand” it may appear to be to others. That is what the people whose shoulders we stand upon expect from us and we don’t intend to do anything less than that.
So what does any of this have to do with Alison Crockett? (and just who is Alison Crockett anyhow?)
Well to put it simply, Alison Crockett is an artist (and I mean that in the truest sense of that word!) who represents the past, present and future of Black music all at the same time. I have been following her career since almost the time when we first started the site, in in the 1990’s. For those of you who remember the legendary, late 1990’s album “When the Funk Hits the Fan” – King Britt presents Sylk 130, noted for literally being a movie on an album, but also having a different lead singer on each song on the album, Alison Crockett appears on that album as one of those lead singers. And since that time, she keeps popping up on my radar in a totally positive way. For example, in the early to mid 2000’s she is a solo artist, being presented in something of a “neo soul diva” vibe. She did some great recordings and also did a great live show (both of which I reviewed during that period.) Then suddenly I stopped hearing anything about her. That’s not unusual for the music business. People come and go all of the time, priorities change and real life has a way of getting in the way…Then a few years ago, her postings started appearing in my timeline on a daily basis. As I read her postings (about music & life) sometimes I agreed with her, and sometimes I didn’t. Nevertheless her commentary was always interesting and worth reading. In between she would also post short video’s which clearly demonstrated that her quite significant musical talents were still very much intact. For example make sure that you listen to the video clip associated with this posting. Clearly Alison Crockett is still a major talent.
So why isn’t she a “household name?”
Why does her YouTube site, which has been around since 2008 only have 40,000 page views (for all videos combined) after 12 years?
Oh and did I mention that she is a successful educator and parent?
What else is she supposed to do?
I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, all I know is that Alison Crockett is also about trying to stop Black culture from commiting suicide as well. And she isn’t about to give up that mission! Therefore she is a a part of what my brother and I are trying to accomplish. A “fools errand” indeed….
I’m wishing you all the best with the relaunch of what proved to be one hell of a site, which many of our most beloved icons supported with a passion!!
And you them!
Welcome back & I don’t mean Mr. Kotter Bob Davis Hey Julius Freemanyour point about “our icons” is an important one. As they pass, its much more than just the passing of a person or even an artist. Each time one of them leaves this earth, just a little bit of the culture dies with them. In the past we have always relied on the artists to sustain our culture. The challenge of how to sustain that culture without those artists is a very real problem. The answer is that the culture must be able to sustain itself, without the artists in many cases. Some people think that the answer to this problem could easily be solved by a younger group of artists. After 30 years, clearly that is not going to happen, all by itself. If it was, it would have already happened. As such it becomes incumbent upon people like yourself, myself and the other folks here to truly become “custodians of the culture,” so that we can enable the culture to sustain itself. Some people wrongly assume that means we simply sit around and “wallow in nostalgia.” Nothing would be more wrong. What we have to do is make sure that the culture becomes self sustaining and nurturing for those younger and gifted artists in a way that provides direction for them, so that they can carry the ball forward. www.Soul-Patrol.com with it’s technology based “ancient to the future” mission, in the good hands of people like yourself is well positioned to act as bridge to bring the culture and the younger artists together in a manner that helps move both towards the future in a positive manner that will make our icons proud.
Julius Freeman, as Chuck Barksdale used to say. “We’re like the dinosaurs. After we’re gone, that’s it!”.
And we’ve been losing them by the bushel full & no will will ever step in to fill that breach. Every time that we lose one of them, a piece of our lives & our hearts leaves along with them.
We can try to fool ourselves…listen to the same songs, wear the same style of clothes, even do the same old dances. But there no way to ever recapture the spirit of those days, no matter how we try.
It’s not just lives that are gone, but also, the spirit of a very special & unique period of time, totally impossible to recapture.
For that, we’re all the worse, but such are the ways of the passage of time & the changing of mores.
Bob Davis Of course you are correct. .”Listening to the same songs, wear the same style of clothes, even do the same old dances. etc are all examples of “wallowing in nostalgia.” I personally have no time for that. My goal is to leave an imprint by being one of many people who are involved in helping the culture to sustain itself, so it will still be around in the future. The blueprint is there and the technology provides us with a vehicle to attain it. We just need a critical mass of people who are willing to step up to the plate and nurture all of this along. This is the right time to do just that, which is the whole reason why we are relaunching the site at this time. All I ask if that folks like yourself continue to “spread the word,” so that we can achieve that critical mass of like minded people who actually want to move this whole thing into the future.
There are a whole lot of very smart people in the music industry trying to figure out the answer to this question. Well there are several….However probably the most important reason is because, the critical mass of music fans, don’t think that the songs are worth the money. (DUH)
Now we could certainly have a fierce discussion about this….In my mind there are absolutely some great songs that are being produced today.
But…Even I as a person who truly is on the hunt for great new songs each and every day, only rarely finds a new song, that I find myself literally hitting the replay button inside of my head, over and over again, for years and years after I first heard it.
-I could be at work -I could be in the car -I could be mowing the lawn -I could be at the DMV -I could be riding my bike -I could just be doing nothing -I could be 6 years old or 60 years old
If it’s a great song, and I dig it, I make a lifetime commitment to hitting that replay button inside of my head and replaying that song in my mind over and over again. To me that is the definition of a truly great song!!!
Here is one example of a song that I have made a lifetime commitment to hitting that replay button inside of my head and replaying that song in my mind over and over again. As a matter of fact, I just hit that replay button for it a few moments ago
And I made that commitment…THE VERY FIRST TIME THAT I EVER HEARD IT….LITERALLY WITHIN THE FIRST 30 SECONDS
(and no dj/tastemaker/twitter feed/magazine/tv show/website/blog/etc. had to convince me to do so)
Chi-Lites – Stoned Out Of My Mind
Baby, when I found out you were lyin’ Playin’ around and connivin’ Undesired tears I was cryin’ Cause sugar coated lies I was buyin’
I was just a backseat driver in a car of love Goin’ wherever you take me Don’t know why I put up with the pain Cause nobody else could make me
You got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned] Hey, hey [Out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned] Hey, hey [Out of my mind]
When you led me to the water I drank it Man, I drank more than I could hold When you took my mind and body You know you wanna take my soul
Where can I run Where can I hide Who can I talk to Tell me what, what can I do
When you got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned] Hey, hey [Out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned] Hey, hey [Out of my mind]
Hee…you got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned] Hey, hey [Out of my mind] Been around with every guy in town [Stoned out of my mind] Funny but I just can’t put you down [Stoned out of my mind]
You got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind] You got me goin’ [Stoned out of my mind]
NOTE: When I first heard this song I was broke, I loved it so much, found it so utterly compelling, that I taped it off of AM radio. I listened to that scratchy & distorted “illegal” tape to it that way till I could afford the 59 cents to buy the 45. (old school version of “ripping tracks”)
For me there are hundreds of such songs, that i’ve made a lifetime commitment to hitting that reply button inside of my mind. Here are a few more…
Booker T And The MG’s – Green Onions Laura Nyro – Wind Dee Dee Warwick – Do It With All Your Heart Etta James – Something’s Got a Hold On Me Chante Moore – Do For You Little Sister – Your The One Fuzz – I Love You For All Seasons Chantels – The Plea Alicia Keys – Teenage Love Affair Five Stairsteps – Don’t Waste Your Time Jimmy Castor Bunch – Supersound Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Sugarfoot Tony Williams Lifetime – Million Dollar Legs Earth Wind & Fire – The World’s A Masquerade Sun Ra – Disco 2100 The Rebirth – Walk Talkin’ Mizell (Until We Meet Again) Little Richard – Rip It Up Dells – Oh What a Night (1969 version) Les McCann & Eddie Harris – Compared To What Prince – One Of Your Tears Billy Stewart – I Do Love You Chakachas – Jungle Fever Marlon Saunders – Afro Blew My Mind Shuggie Otis – XL-30 Miracles – Baby Baby Don’t Cry Brandy – I Wanna Be Down Wilson Pickett – Ninety-Nine And One-Half (Won’t Do) Joe Tex – Aint Gonna Bump No More With No Big Fat Woman Edgar Winter Group – Frankenstein Funkadelic – Music For My Mother Dramatics – Fell For You Tower Of Power – Oakland Stroke Color Me Badd – I Wanna Sex You Up Brenda and The Tabulations – Right On The Tip Of My Tongue Ad Libs – The Boy From New York City DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – Summer Time Donny Hathaway – The Ghetto Harptones – Life Is But A Dream Bobbi Humphrey – Chicago Damn Impressions – Gypsy Woman Rio Soul – The Cure Graham Central Station – The Jam Chambers Brothers – Time Has Come Today Billy Ward & the Dominoes – Sixty-Minute Man Sly & the Family Stone – Sex Machine Archie Bell And The Drells – I Can’t Stop Dancing Jr. Walker & The All Stars – Shotgun Joseph Wooten – Revolution of the Mind Brighter Shade of Darkness – Love Jones MFSB – Love Is The Message Eddie kendricks – Girl You Need A Change Of Mind Chairmen of the Board – Chairmen of the Board Blackbyrds – Do It Fluid Miracles – I Love You Secretly Gabriela Anders – Wanting Mary Wells – The One Who Really Loves You Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E’s in Love Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – Too Late To Turn Back Now Prince – Let’s Go Crazy Sylvia – Next time that I see you Sylvia – Sweet stuff Gil Scott-heron – Lady Day and John Coltrane JB’s – Same Beat Jimi Hendrix – Pali Gap Isaac Hayes – Don’t Let Go Al Green – Backup Train Stylistics – Payback Is A Dog Brides of Funkenstein – Disco To Go Ike & Tina Turner – Sexy Ida Al Green – Can’t Get Next To You War – Sun Oh Son Crusaders – Double Bubble Swinging Medallions – Double Shot Of My Babys Love Sam Cooke – Little Red Rooster Capitols – Cool Jerk Brother Jack McDuff – Soulful Drums Ray Parker Jr – Jamie Johnnie Taylor – Who’s making love Friends of Distinction – I Really Hope You Do Chuck Berry – Reelin’ & Rockin Archie Bell And The Drells – Tighten Up Enchantment – It’s You That I Need Dusty Springfield – Wishin’ And Hopin’ Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Better Things The Supremes – Automatically Sunshine Santana – Jungle Strut Bohannon – Run It On Down Mr. D.J Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart Mandrill – Hang Loose Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You Donna Summer – Spring Affair Fabulous Thunderbirds – Gotta Have Some Just Got Some Spinners – It’s A Shame Rascals – I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore Honeycone – Want Ads Beatles – I Saw Her Standing There Cymande – Bra Jackie Wilson – Doggin’ Around Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul Moonglows – We Go Together Kool & The Gang – Kool & The Gang Fatback Band – I Like Girls Slave/Steve Arrington – Just A Touch of Love Temprees – Love’s Maze Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit Pat Cooley – Hold Still The Shirelles – Foolish Little Girl Barry White – Satin Soul First Choice – Let No Man Put Asunder Dramatics – Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get Manhattans – Follow Your Heart Quincy Jones – Killer Joe Ocapellos – The Stars Foxy – Get Off Bo Diddley – I’m A Man Chip Shelton – Quiet Storm Moments – Girls Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine Kid Creole and the Coconuts – Stool Pigeon Fred Wesley & the JB’s _ You Can Have Watergate But Gimme Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight Billy Preston – My Sweet Lord Delfonics – Break Your Promise Marvin Gaye – You’re the Man Elenor Grant – Come Back Funkadelic – Cosmic Slop Grover Washington Jr – Passion Flower Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – I’m Leaving You (Commit a Crime) Temptations – I Want a Love I Can See James Brown – Escapism (album version) Queen Latifah – Hello Stranger The Miracles – Do It Baby Bobby Lewis – Tossin’ And Turnin Prince – Calhoun Square Dr. John – Right Place Wrong Time April Hill – Manipulation Buddy Miles – Down By The River (live version) Little Walter – My Babe Sonnyboy – Like Collard Greens Mable John _ Your Good Thing (Is About To End) Manu Dubango – Soul Makossa Emotions – So I Can Love You Rufus Thomas – The Breakdown Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam Solange Knowles – 6 O’Clock Blues Dells – Walk on By Chic – Le Freak Rose Royce – Wishing On A Star Jimi Hendrix – South Saturn delta Young-Holt Unlimited – Soulful Strut Rotary Connection – I Am the Black Gold of the Sun Gerald Alston – A Change is Gonna Come Five Stairsteps – Danger She’s a Stranger Teeny Tucker – Hound Dog Ohio Players – Walt’s First Trip The Revalations (Featuring Tre Williams) – Everybody Knows Brenda Holloway – You’ve changed me Johnny Guitar Watson – Ain’t That a Bitch Miles Davis – Black Satin Stylistics – Peek-A-Boo Global Noize – Spin Cycle Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together Public Enemy – 911 Is a Joke Shirley Marshall – How Could This Be Spaniels – Goodnite Sweetheart Goodnite Donald Byrd – Lanasana’s Priestess Sly & The Family Stone – Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa Nightliters – Afro-Strut Shelley Nicholes Blakbushe – Blak Girls New Birth – Until It’s Time For You To Go Tommy James & The Shondells – Crystal Blue Persuasion Bootsy Collins – Stretchin’ Out (In a Rubber Band) Marvelettes – The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game Return To Forever – Earthjuice 🙂
That’s enough for now….LOL
Bottom line is that I would suggest to you that if you took the sum total of whatever all of these songs + the hundreds of others that I have all set to hit the replay button inside of my mind, you would know a heck of a lot about the nature of an individual called Bob Davis.
What songs do you press the replay button inside of your mind for?
“Bob, you can always tell a hit record. It’s a song that you start singing the lyrics to, before the song is over, the very first time that you hear it…” –Marshall Thompson (Chi-Lites)
(and why am I wasting time writing about him, instead of an album review?)
Well Lee Atwater is an “old family friend” of the Soul-Patrol.com website. In fact the very first award that we ever got was because of Lee Atwater.
Back in 1997 I wrote an essay entitled: “Lee Atwater and the Destruction of Black Music” (scroll down)
In 1998 Yahoo Internet Magazine (at that time a print publication) named Soul-Patrol.com as the Best Soul/R&B; website on the entire internet. As a part of doing so, they also wrote a detailed review of the website where they cited Soul-Patrol.com as being a place that explored music on a much deeper level than just track listings, discographies, artist biographies, etc. And they said that essays like “Lee Atwater and the Destruction of Black Music,” were a big part of the reason why it was a required destination for music fans who wanted to know more than simply chart information or record industry propaganda. And of course, today we still continue along that same path (much to the displeasure of some of you)
Lee Atwater was a young political consultant from South Carolina who was the protégé of Mr. Harry S. Dent. In 1968 Harry Dent devised something called the “southern strategy” for the Presidential campaign of Richard Nixon. Of course the ‘southern strategy” was indeed a winning strategy for Nixon. While Harry Dent created the “southern strategy,” it was Lee Atwater who perfected it.
Lee Atwater was a person who was extremely knowledgeable about Black culture, in fact he was not only a big fan of Black culture, he was even a Blues musician. Some of you may even remember Lee Atwater playing the guitar alongside BB King, back in 1980’s. He was able to use his knowledge of Black culture to refine the “southern strategy” into the science that propelled the winning elections of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush in 1980, 1984 & 1988. Using his knowledge of Black culture, Lee Atwater developed the brilliant “Welfare Queen,” “Willie Horton,” and other ad’s that scared the hell out of white voters. Lee Atwater passed away in the early 1990’s. On his deathbed he is said to have asked Black Americans for their forgiveness in using them as a “pawn” to attract white voters to the candidates that had hired him.
As you might well imagine, that essay I wrote about Lee Atwater over a decade ago has generated a whole lot of feedback over the years. I have gotten email from the KKK to Lee Atwater’s children about that essay. Of course if you read the essay (it’s still in it’s raw form, written in a burst of energy at 3am with lots of typos & mis-spellings,) you will see that I am in firm agreement with Nelson George and his book; “The Death of R&B.;” In the book, Nelson George says, that “R&B; ended around 1980.” I go one step further and suggest that the fact that R&B; ended was no accident and for that we have Lee Atwater to thank.
The whole point of using “race baiting” tactics in politics, isn’t really to hurt Black folks. The point is to scare the hell out of white folks, into voting differently. You scare them by suggesting that anytime Black folks make any sort of advancement, the only way that can occur, is at the expense of white folks. Race baiting is a political strategy that is used all of the time, across the United States in all sorts of elections. It’s usually most effective whenever Black folks are advancing and start to get a little bit too comfortable with their success. It’s even more effective during challenging economic periods.
–Today in 2010 Black America is still celebrating the historic election of Barrack Obama as President. –What type of an economic climate are we in today? –What does history tell us is a winning type of electoral strategy this climate ripe for?
I am certainly no fan of Obama’s policies to this point. He had a chance for greatness, but he seems to squandered it at this point. He has caved in so much to the right wing maddness on key policy matters, that could have actually resulted in a positive transformation (health care, energy, economy, etc.) he might as well switch parties IMHO. However I would hate to see him get “race baited” out of office, and unfortunately that is what he is allowing to happen. Every time these wingnuts and teabaggers attack someone who is Black and associated in some way with Obama, the reaction of Obama is to “throw that Black person under the bus.” Does that sound like a good way to be a successful President? IMHO if he doesn’t want to start acting like he is the President, he might as well just resign and let Joe Biden have the job, Hell at least we know that Biden’s got a set of balls 🙂
Obama either needs to grow a set of balls, or perhaps borrow Biden’s. He needs to stop caving in to the right wing, drop the whole Jackie Robinson routine (“I’m not allowed to fight back”) and start acting like a leader. This country has far too many major problems that need to be fixed. That is what he was elected to do. Even if his second term is not meant to be, he needs to go down fighting. Instead anytime someone even mentions the word “race,” Obama freezes!
Despite his passing, the legacy of Lee Atwater continues to this day. We can see his continuing legacy in the work the men that Lee Atwater trained, such as Karl Rove, Roger Ailes and others, who have in turn trained others. As we can see from the headlines over the past year or so, the very same strategy that was perfected by Lee Atwater continues to be a winning strategy here in 2010. For example, this morning as they drink their coffee millions of white Americans are being forced to watch a very articulate Black woman named Shirley Sherrod discussing how she was thrown under the bus, by President Obama, then proceed to discuss the whole race issue in modern day America, while the mass media says that we need to have a “national discussion about race.” Meanwhile the 17 million unemployed people are watching and saying, “we don’t need a national discussion about race; “we need to have a President who will be focused on getting me a damn job, how soon can we get rid of this idiot and get a white man in there who will get me a damn job?” It’s ‘race baiting’ at it’s most subtle & effective.
In the end, Lee Atwater said that he was sorry for what he had done. For that I will always admire him. He realized that sometimes winning isn’t worth the price that you have to pay. I think that if Lee Atwater is paying attention to the current US landscape, that he is even more ashamed of himself, then he was on his deathbed.
However I think that Black folks should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be used by Atwater as pawns in his game.
It will be interesting to see if Black Americans in 2010 will allow history to repeat itself?
Lee Atwater and the Destruction of Black Music
Several times in the past year when I have been asked by younger people & by some older people what happened to the FUNK movement ? What caused it to end ? My response is a usually a multi dimensional one involving drugs, the economies of employing/traveling with a big band, the coming of age of the technology that produced rap, and a conspiracy involving the government. The response is usually something along the lines of….”ok that makes sense except for the part about the government”
Some of you younger fans may not remember this guy and some of you old heads out there are probably wondering why I am bringing his name up in this context. Lee Atwater was Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager during the 1980 presidential election and he had a huge influence over just where we are with today’s music. During the 1980 campaign Lee Atwater supplied Ronald Reagan with a vicious campaign strategy designed to make then President Jimmy Carter look like a “n*gga lovin homo” who couldn’t even defend Americans abroad in Iran. It was Lee Atwater who came up with the term “Welfare Queen” with respect to Black women shopping at the supermarket, the phrase “Evil Empire” with respect to the Soviet Union and the notion that the United States was the last world power.
Yes it was Lee Atwater who devised the catch phrases & buzz words that Ronald Reagan was able to use to paint a picture of an America that had gone “too far” & a government that was so out of touch with the people in middle America , that people (Black people) were actually being paid to go to “no show jobs” (CETA program). This was for the Atwater/Reagan campaign and their supporters the very antithesis of the “shining house on the hill” version of America they were peddling.
In 1980 Lee Atwater was a “30 ish/ yuppieish”, young man from South Carolina who had gone to college in the 60’s listening to rock n’ roll, smoking pot & having a good time. After he graduated from college, Lee Atwater joined the public relations firm of Harry Dent. Mr Dent was the man responsible for the successful “southern strategy” employed by the “big Dick” in the 1968 presidential campaign during the 1968 campaign. Lee Atwater although young by comparison to people like Nixon & Reagan, understood some of the core attitudes of Americans and how to exploit them for purposes of wining a election. Down south this is a tactic known as “race baiting” and has served the cause of many winning candidates in the south. Lee Atwater knew how to exploit the worst fears in people to win an election. He was the one who created Ronald Reagan’s “unspoken campaign promise” to effectively put an end to the American Civil Rights movement after the 1980 election.
One of the most vivid images for me of the 1980 presidential campaign is that of Lee Atwater at one of the inaugural parties on stage playing the guitar with BB King. That’s right………Lee Atwater was a HUGE fan of Rhythm & Blues music !!! This meant that Lee Atwater southern, racist, vile & vicious person also had a keen understanding of what was going on in the Black community of the late 1970’s.
Lee Atwater knew that he could create vivid images via Ronald Reagan of a country where somehow lazy & shiftless welfare queens & kings with CETA jobs were somehow buying lobsters with food stamps donated by the poor & suffering white folks. Lee Atwater also knew that beyond creating a sense of rage among white voters that to actually end the Civil Rights movement he would actually need the help of Black people in doing so……
In my opinion, historians will someday look back upon the 1970’s and equate it in many respects to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. For many Black folks, the 1970’s resulted in the full flowering of a positive culture that had been “stifled” as a result of Amerika’s racist past Many Black people at this time were finally beginning to enjoy the fruits of the Civil Rights struggle. While it’s true that some government programs such as affirmative action and CETA played a role in this, the real catalyst was the Civil Rights Movement itself. The general perception was that it had been successfully concluded and now it was celebration time.
Black culture flourished during the 1970’s, and it flourished in a way that had not been seen since the 1920’s. “Black” became beautiful for the very first time in Amerika’s history and the culture was in “full effect”. Afros, Dashiki’s and Malcolm X became the order of the day for teenagers such as myself at that time. For the first time we began to see Black politicians making serious moves all over the country. Big cities started electing Black mayors and congressmen.. Hollywood began producing a ton of Black oriented movies and TV shows that began to show Blacks as much more than “servants & slaves”. As a teenager during this time, for me personally and for most of the people I hung around with at that time, the music itself core of all of this positive expression.
The decade had started out with the music of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, James Brown, Miles Davis, Funkadelic and others completely revolutionizing Black music by somehow blending together jazz, blues, soul & rock n’ roll and inventing something that today we call FUNK. Later in the decade this tradition was carried forward by artists such as Weather Report, Ronnie Laws, Ohio Players, Earth Wind and Fire, Parliment, Gil Scott Heron and many others. This music was not just a “deep groove”, it also made the listener think about their lives and the world around them. It embraced not only the concept of being Black in Amerika, but also made the connection to the Caribbean, Afrika and elsewhere. And it was all positive, not “anti white”, but “pro black”. This force was so powerful in fact that even white people caught the “groove”. White people catching this groove manifested itself in the form of Disco.
Today some people look back at disco and either laugh at t or seek to discredit it for various reasons, such as it’s excesses . Those people are DEAD WRONG. Today we can look back at disco and place it in the proper perspective. Clearly disco is an extension of FUNK, not just as far as the musical groove, but also as a “cultural/social/political “groove” of unity. Not just the unity among Black people that FUNK spoke of, but a type of unity that had never occurred before. You see, for me the bottom line about disco was that it was for all practical purposes the LAST VOLENTARY ATTEMPT BY THE UNITED STATES TO INTEGRATE ITSELF.
To that end it was largely successful and this is what Lee Atwater had to attack and make white people (and Blacks) fearful of. One of the objectives of the Civil Rights movement was an integrated society, where people would be judged not by their color, but instead by the “content of their character”. What better place to be judged for the content of your character than on Friday & Saturday nights with a mix of people that crossed every possible demographic line ? The social setting created by the advent of discos was something that is very unsettling to racists (both Black and White). The very idea of a legitimized place where “race mixing” might occur is something that this country wasn’t quite ready for. Of course it was this very fear that led to the artificial separation between Black & White music in the first place leading to the creation of the “artificial sub categories” known as “Rock” & “Soul”. The FUNK (jazz, blues, soul & rock n’ roll) brought it all back together once again, creating a positive & universal groove that created the atmosphere for the emergence of disco.
Disco (and along with it FUNK) had to be destroyed, and Lee Atwater was able orchestrate this during the late 70’s & early 80’s. Lee Atwater knew that by destroying the culture, he could destroy the movement. Consider for a moment these 4 “genres”:
FOR ADULT WHITES: · Country · Blues
FOR ADOLESCENT WHITES: · Punk · Rap
Do you think it’s any accident that these “genres” were promoted as mainstream at the same time that “disco records” were being blown up in a baseball stadium in Chicago ?? The predominant audience today for these “genres” are middle/upper income whites, the same target audience that Lee Atwater was after. It’s also no mistake that each one of these “genres” is promoted as being “pure and untainted”, nothing of course could be further from the truth.
Think back to the election itself. Jimmy Carter and his staff were often seen in the company of Black folks, hanging out at places like Studio 54 and “winking” at drug use. On the other hand Ronald Reagan and George Bush were most often seen wearing cowboy hats going to church and listening to country music. Reagan was running around saying things like “We didn’t have any racial problems when I was a boy growing up in Dixon Illinois”. Of course what he failed to mention was that there weren’t any Black people around . George Bush on the other hand was used to being around Black people. Raised as the son of a wealthy Connecticut US Senator, I have no doubt that George Bush was exposed to the many Black butlers/maids that likely worked in his home and served his every need as an adult. Jimmy Carter (& his corn poke family) were the types of “po white trash”, that are needed in order for integration to occur. As a matter of fact, the presence of “po white trash” is the ONLY way for integration to occur, this was proven by both Jimmy Carter & Lyndon Johnson. Meanwhile Lee Atwater was saying that none of this was racist because he loved Black music and culture because he was a “Blues fan” and that “Blues” was “real/authentic Black music” (enter the “Blues Brothers”), as opposed to disco.
So, just what were Black people themselves doing at this point ?? · Nothing…..absolutely NOTHING after all the Civil Rights era was over…..right ?? · No need to be concerned about maintaining or advancing anything……right ?? · Heck we don’t even need those “symbols” of Black pride anymore like Afro’s and Dashiki’s ….right ?? · As a matter of fact, it’s even cool for us to go back to straightening our hair again (jheri curl) after all it was all just a “fad”……….right ?? · Oh & by the way, lets make a mockery of our recent musical past by having our young people curse and degrade each other while the most positive music ever produced in this country’s history is playing in the background. · As a matter of fact we don’t need any of it…..we can be just like the white folks and become “buppies” as we lose ourselves in a “desert of white powder” and become totally “sedated”……right ??
Black folks did just what Lee Atwater wanted them to do and as a result a freedom movement and the music that was at the foundation of it was lost. The failure of Black people to “institutionalize” the positive culture they had created in the 70’s, led directly to it’s destruction. It opened the door for a subtle attack by Lee Atwater, resulting in the mainstream now defining what Black culture is (Gangsta Rap”, “Smooth Jazz” and “Today’s R&B;” ) as opposed to Black people defining it for themselves Today we are left musically with the triple threat “horror story” of “Gangsta Rap”, “Smooth Jazz” and “Today’s R&B;” as the descendants of the music that literally ignited a culture during the 1970’s.. We can thank Lee Atwater for that.
To discuss the growth of soul music over here in the United Kingdom one has to look back to the very start of the UK R&B scene of the 1940’s and 50’s. UK pioneers such as Chris Barber, Alexis Korner, Cyril Davis and George Melly got attracted to and performed the sound of Jump Blues and the R&B exponents such as Louis Jordan, Fats Waller, Big Joe Turner and Wynonie Harris. Another UK pioneer from the roots is musician Ken Colyer who at the age of just 17 joined the Merchant Navy as a means to get to New Orleans to see and hear his jazz idols. He came back to England around 1948 and joined a string of jazz bands. Colyer then later rejoined the Merchant Navy, jumped ship in Mobile, Alabama, and travelled back to New Orleans, where he played with his idols. He was offered the job of lead trumpeter on a tour, but was arrested by the authorities, detained and deported back to the UK. Thats real dedication to the cause.
You will probably be thinking what has the early history of British jazz bands got to do with the love of Soul music? It is a demonstration of the level of fanaticism and adoration the British psyche has for American music, of jazz and what eventually became Soul, both for the rhythm of dancing feet and the emotion of deep soul, both aspects get equal importance amongst British enthusiasts. So now comes the link bringing it all into sharp focus. The Jazz clubs that started in Londons Soho district attracted a young crowd as well. A crowd that appreciated modern and traditional jazz forms and the symbiotic link to modern art and Italian coffee that got added to the movement. A group of young individuals loved the music they heard in the clubs and called themselves the modernists. Music, art, designer clothes and Italian scooters became their primary interests.
Post war 1950s Britain was all but bankrupt and a grey miserable atmosphere had descended on the country. So the modernists listened whenever they could to traditional and modern jazz and R&B from America to lift the doom and despondency of the post war depression.
So now we reach the 1960s the modernist movement name became shortened to The Mods with the love of the music such as Jimmy Smith, Jon Hendrix, the Atlantic records of The Drifters and Ruth Brown, Ray Charles and The Coasters.
So when in 1964 Motown decided to send a number of its stars over to tour the UK there was a growing audience in the South of England to welcome them. But the truth is it was too early, the love of Motown and Soul in general had not yet permeated all the way across the UK. The Motown review did reasonably well in London but played to very low audience numbers for the rest of the Tour. It was an excellent line up of Motown talent that came over, Mary Wells, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder and Martha And The Vandellas visiting the UK for the first time but playing to half empty (at best) concert halls and theatres. But by 1965 soul music had become firmly at home in Britain the music of James Brown, Motown, Stax and Goldwax were to be heard in discotheques and night clubs all across the UK. At this time all of this movement was in the most part limited to London but the 60’s growth of television and pirate radio changed everything. A television program called Ready Steady Go was one of the youth based programmes made in London that represented the music Britain’s youth were listening to together with dancers wearing clothes in the Mod style that would go on to spread the idiom of Mod all over the UK. Very similar to the way in which Don Cornelius and his Soul Train did in America in the 70’s.
We now move forward in this story to 1967. I was 17 years of age and had become a Mod in style and attitude having gained a love of soul music. This is the year that Stax (the little label in Memphis) shook the world. The Stax Volt Tour hit Britain and the rest of Europe. The line up is well known but its worth listing them again here as these days it seems almost impossible to believe it really happened as it was so fantastic. Booker T and The MGs, The Markeys (well not really if you know your Stax history) and it was the addition of Andrew Love, Wayne Jackson and Joe Arnold on brass together with Booker & The MGs thus forming a new version of the original ‘Last Night’ Markeys and that formed the house band for the entire tour. Singers Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas (not at all the shows) Arthur Conley (also not at all the shows) and of course the master, the great Otis Redding. I was lucky enough to see the tour just before they returned to the States. I was in the front row of the balcony at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on Saturday April 8th 1967. I have been a fan of Soul music in all its forms and more since that incredible show.
That in turn led me into the world of being a DJ working at events and in clubs until 2001 when I started my first regular Radio Show, playing the best in Soul music.
In the closing months of the Sixties in 68/69/and 1970 the influence of Soul music seemed to dimmish. Well it was a no longer a regular fixture in the various pop charts in music magazines and papers.
In the south of the UK the musical taste started to turn to a rock style of music with the look and attitude that was taken from the hippie lifestyle. Bands like Free, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin became the music of choice for many record buyers and radio stations in the south of England.
This change of public taste differed in the northern counties of the country when compared to how it happened down in the south. The northerners wanted to continue to dance and to listen to soul tracks from the past decade that fitted a style of dancing that was both energetic and acrobatic that existed in the clubs of the north of England and across the border in parts of Scotland.
The late Dave Godin was a soul journalist and record shop owner with Soul City records in London. When he ,as a writer, visited the venues of the north of England and witnessed the dancers and DJs in action he came up with the term Northern Soul for the first time.
DJ’s across the north combed record stores and second hand stores in search of the elusive unknown soul records that had been ignored when first released but were now in high demand by the dancers. Some DJs even got their tickets and flew across to cities with a soul music past in America, searching for that rare record in record company vaults or people who sold the ‘never sold’ stock of old record stores across the States. DJ Ian Levine would regularly fly to America and return to the UK with boxes of rare soul records he had discovered, records to play in some cases with a white label stuck over the original label so other DJ’s could not see who the artist was and what the track the dancers appreciated was called.
That geographic division of North and South was of course not as clear cut as implied in the sentences written above, many in the south continued to follow soul music as a choice, often as collectors amassing huge collections of often rare 7-inch records. Likewise, some in the north discounted soul and converted to the hard rock and progressive rock persuasion.
The idiom of Northern Soul is still a very popular music choice across the country although the initial hot spots of Northern dancing are all now no more, often closed by the order of the authorities due to reported drugs being used. But the dancing still goes on at new clubs and dancehalls across the country, many of those dancers are of a more senior age group reviving their past glories but a new younger crowd are also now becoming dancers and fans of 60’s and 70’s Soul.
The expression ‘Keep the Faith’ is still very relevant with the Northern Soul style of music and it gets a regular on-line presence on sites like YouTube and with many books on the subject and compilation CDs being available.
The importance of music has now changed it seems. People now buy less music but download it for free, young people today listen to music in a different way, radio is not the required medium it used to be.
Music itself is not so categorised in the way it was in the past, it’s now harder to say if its pop, soul, folk or any of the many options of todays musical types or if it even still needs categorisation. I don’t know if this is an advancement or a destruction of the application and appreciation of music like soul or funk, but if you like me have been around for several decades you will know how important this music was to our lives back in the day. It’s a shame that the appreciation of music seems to of gone down in todays world.
I have been a club DJ and a radio presenter for many years and I still have a regular Soul Show on a station in Wiltshire in the West of England called 97FM Fantasy Radio and at fantasyradio.co.uk so if you want to hear some great soul music you can find me online and on the TuneIn, MediaPlayer and Radio Garden Apps. My show is on air from 8pm to 10pm GMT on a Saturday night. You will need to check the time difference with your own global location.
In today’s canceled culture society, non-African-Americans are being condemned by social agitators as being racist, homophobic, misogynist, and many other disparaging remarks. Non-African-Americans the “white European type” are being labeled as having “white privilege” over people of color. In many cases, some are called thieves when it comes to music, fashion, and any type of business. People like, Bruno Mars, Kim Kardashian, and Sarah Marantz Lindenberg have been labeled as such. In regards to music, could non-African Americans be defined as cultural appropriators if they sing songs originally done by black singers and songwriters? The term cultural appropriation first appeared in the 1960s, but recently it has become a term that has been used regularly since 2013 and more so by academia. It is rooted in an ideology that engages in negative racial viewpoints and terminologies. It is a tool used by social justice advocates who want to reprimand any person, group, organization, or business that dares to use any cultural aspect of a minority culture whether it be music, fashion, art, or anything outside the culture of their own. Are non-African Americans thieves if they sing songs originally sung and written by black folks?
Some would say yes, or would they be called preserves of black music? We all know in the field of music, especially in the 1940s and into the 1950s “white entertainers” took advantage of cover songs written by blacks and made a lot of money. Pat Boone’s rendition of Ain’t That A Shame, and Long Tall Sally, in today’s culture, would be considered a thief, or a cultural appropriator. Gallaher and Lippard in their book blame the record companies, not the individuals. By way of example, Fred Parris group, The Five Satins greatest hit “In The Still of The Nite” received less than $800.00 for their song which sold between 10 to 15 million copies. Are those who sang his songs, would they be considered cultural appropriators? Many vocal groups past and present have song sung his song “In The Still of The Nite” for decades. This also includes the Acappella era of the 1960s, to the present who sang their songs along with The Cadillac’s signature song “Gloria” as part of their standard repertoire, the vast majority non-African-Americans.
So, the question we must ask is this, are doo wop singers’ thieves? To whom should these performers, artists, and business people ask permission to sing a certain style or create a certain business so they are not labeled as cultural appropriators? What are these faultfinders using as a point of reference to say it is wrong or inappropriate? Does cultural appropriation also apply to people of color when they sing or use a fashion motif that is not their own and non-African-American? To what body within the African-American community or any community are they accountable to? Take for example the late great lead singer, and arranger of the Persuasions, Jerry Lawson, his group the Persuasions sang songs that came from the Beatles to Frank Zappa, and everything in between. The answer to this question is simple, there is no group or guild they answer to when it comes to singing, or anything else, they answer to no one.
When a culture suppresses or dampens creativity, and ambition of an artist, or a business, on the basis of cultural appropriation all of society suffers. People who have an entrepreneurial spirit are not beholding to bloggers, art critics, Hollywood, or public opinion. Their goal is to make money and to make sure their business thrives in a culture that is open and free. Black historian and radio personality, Bob Davis said the following:
“Black Americans tend to create culture and then throw it away. Black Americans get mad when other people take the culture they no longer seem to want, and then start making money on it”
Those who sing do so because they appreciate the music, and love the original artists who sang them. Those who sing in the doo-wop street corner style, are mostly non-African Americans and those who attend and promote the music are non-blacks. Does that label apply to them? If this crusade continues on this road-map of cultural labeling, it should include the food we eat, how we decorate our homes, and the clothing people wear. If a person is an entrepreneur, and seeks to adopt a certain pattern for a clothesline, he or she saw with an ethnic group or an indigenous tribe or people group more power to them. Yet opponents, within this worldview perspective, would want businesses to pay tribal or ethnic groups monetary compensation for “stolen” work. Music and creativity, in general, are universal, and has no boundaries, it has open borders. There are no walls, fences, or bared wires to keep musicians, singers, and entrepreneurs out. Those who engage in R&B vocal group singing will continue to sing the songs they grew up with, learned from friends and relatives. Davis, referring to non-African -Americans who sing in the doo-wop style said:
“You see; these folks are preservationists of a great culture that black people no longer seemed to have any use for.”
In the end, when people make misleading disparaging remarks, and falsely accuse people of cultural appropriation especially non-African Americans everyone loses. For those of us who are engaged in the genre of vocal group singing, or creating a business, we must continue to stand up, and not surrender to those who may falsely accuse us of cultural appropriation. If we do not, our music, business or anything we believe in will be in great danger. At this time in history, the street corner R&B singing or doo wop is primarily a genre whose roots are in the American black experience, which is sung mostly by non-African Americans. Let’s continue promoting the music we love, and never surrender to those who seek to do us harm.
Abraham J. Santiago is an author, film documentarian, and songwriter. He is the recipient of many awards his most recent, Vinyl City Broadcasting Hall of Fame Award in October of 2019.