Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

The whitening of rock n’ roll

Arnold Palmer

Native Americans and forced assimilation

The release of Birth of a Nation led to a riot in Boston in 1915

A documentary history of the 13th amendment

Matthew Karp reviews Ben Wilson, Heyday: The 1850s and the Dawn of the Global Age

Historian David Kennedy on eating dinner with President Barack Obama

The election of 1856

An interview with historian H.W. Brands

Why running the country like a business is a bad idea

Borowitz: The Republican Party could recover as early as 2026

“Hamilton” as the new Star Wars

Christianity and Nat Turner

Black Republicans

The great George Plimpton

David McCullough‘s forthcoming book

Biography and white men

James McPherson reviews Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition

One thought on “Sunday Night Odds and Ends

  1. The article, “How Rock and Roll Became White,” was an eye-opener. My favorite band of all-time is The Beatles. I also really like the Rolling Stones. I was introduced to the Black music that heavily influenced these groups by reading interviews given by the members who praised these African-American artists. So I started listening to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Arthur Alexander, the many artists from Motown, etc. after learing about their influence. “McCartney covered “That’s Alright (Mama),” (on a BBC radio show on July 2nd, 1963) but The Beatles covered far more songs from black groups to showcase on their LPs. In fact, all of the covers from Please Please Me (“Chains,” “Boys,” “Baby It’s You,” “A Taste of Honey,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Anna (Go To Him)”) were done originally by black artists, and only “Til’ There Was You,” a number from the Broadway play The Music Man, was an exception to the rule on With The Beatles. Lennon, in particular, was outspoken on the impact black artists had on his music. In the aftermath of The Beatles’ breakup, the New York Times published a piece entitled “So in the End, the Beatles Have Proved False Prophets,” accusing the band, among other things, of making off with black music for their own benefit. Lennon would respond with a note written on an airplane taking the author to task. “We didn’t sing our own songs in the early days – they weren’t good enough,” Lennon remarked, “the one thing we always did was to make it known that there were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could.”” –

    The controversial topic of cultural appropriation is difficult to discuss. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones made it very clear how they were deeply influenced and inspired by these African-American artists. I’m sure they didn’t believe they were stealing Black culture or trying to whitewash Rock/Pop music. The article discusses many of the forces that led to Rock N Roll being dominated by White artists. Sometimes labels are misleading as I love several early albums by Prince which to me were kick-arse rock songs but we’re labeled Funk or R&B. Radio stations and MTV definitely put Black and White artists into different categories.

    I remember when U2 came out with Rattle & Hum. In the documentary that went with the album, they also discussed the power and influence that American Black music had on them. They teamed up with one of their idols, BB King, on the song “Love Comes to Town.” I was introduced in college to Run-DMC, so when Aerosmith teamed up with them for the updated “Walk This Way,” I already knew who they were. Still, that video introduced a lot of Rock fans to Run-DMC. The mixing of Rap and Rock benefitted both genres. The Beastie Boys came out with a deep love for Black artists and drew in White kids to the genre. Eminem took it a step further by joining forces with Rap artists to become a star in that genre.

    So the cross-pollination between Black and White artists has been there since the Altamont incident. While the Rock genre may be a paler shade of White, the influence of Black artists upon these Rock musicians is undeniable. What is cool to know is how White groups like The Beatles have impacted Black artists all the way through the Rap genre today. Back in 2003, Danger Mouse mixed Jay Z’s Black Album with the Beatles White Album to create the brilliant Grey Album. “Even over a decade after its initial release, “The Grey Album” somehow manages to hold up better than the official Jay-Z release that it owes its origins. With Jay-Z’s album already on the charts for a handful of months, Danger Mouse paced his album substantially better than its predecessor. Well-known singles are scattered about the track list. In a bold move, “Public Service Announcement,” a record stuffed into “The Black Album” almost as if it was an afterthought leads Mouse’s version. “Allow me to reintroduce myself,” Jay-Z raps at the song’s opening. Most impressively, Danger Mouse found ways time and time again to blend the aesthetics of Beatles’ songs he sampled with Jay-Z’s raps, while matching the mood of each song’s official, more well-known counterpart. This practice is on full display with “99 Problems.” The single burst into rap radio formats in April 2004 with an unusually brash Jay-Z. The oftentimes laid-back rapper enlisted the help of Rick Rubin. Danger Mouse pulls no punches in his take on the song, isolating the most punk-sounding elements of Beatles’ number, “Helter Skelter” to provide an equally heavy backdrop to Jay’s detailed narrative account about racial profiling.”” –

    So thank you for sharing the link to that interesting article. It certainly provokes having a conversation about the subject matter.


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