BLACK GOLD …. and WHITE GOLD
By Jim Cleveland
(from “Sauntering Through Apocalypse” on Amazon)
What really are the achievements of the black race in America — a place where they were dragged in chains and sold at auction, like heads of livestock, men, women and children, who suffered mind-boggling oppression for many years?
Theirs is simply the greatest cultural achievement in all of world history.
Start here. Past President Barack Obama is brilliant and honorable, a constitutional law scholar and already considered to be one of our greatest presidents. His administration was scandal-free and can mark up hundreds of executive achievements in spite of a near complete roadblock in a Republican controlled Congress.
Blacks hold many political offices across the country. Black people can and do succeed at virtually all sports — baseball, track, football, basketball, boxing, even tennis and golf. In the fields of music and entertainment, we have all been richly blessed, more than we likely imagine, with the presence of black artists.
The ethnicity of our world should be known as a blessing and not a curse.
I began to study these fields of achievement more closely two years ago when some blacks launched a protest against the motion picture academy over their selection of nominees. They wanted certain films and actors nominated and became irritated enough that they attacked the Oscars as being ‘Oh So White.’
The protestors believed that they needed more black representation within the academy. No doubt those additional black voters would be able to put more black people in nomination given a need to have more of them represented. This amounts to a quota system, and expectations that voters should consider skin color and this ethnic pressure group as a factor in making their decisions.
This flies in the face of the Oscars being about quality performances and achievements. Nominate the five best performances in your view. To arbitrarily insert a black nominee, you arbitrarily cut the nomination of someone else who, of course, is not black. This all creates a mess. Quality is the only consideration and we should hold onto that ideal and not pollute the academy with what amounts to, yes, racism.
Protesters wanted a nomination of Will Smith for ‘Concussion.” They rankled from the idea that “Selma” should have received more nominations. And then came that stunning all white photograph of the Oscar nominees. The So- White movement was born.
Yet the protest also flies in the face of Hollywood’s history, and in the history of music and entertainment in this country. I began thinking of prominent black actors who haven’t been nominated for an Oscar and I was hard pressed to find one. It might be awkward for Oscar winners and nominees to join a boycott of the ceremonies, which celebrates an industry which has given them so much, has been a vanguard for their rights and their value.
As actors and artists came to mind and my list grew, I wondered at the same time where our culture would be without all those slaves who came over here, and precipitated all the white backlash violence, death and destruction that followed.
Hollywood and the entertainment mediums have done an outstanding job in assimilating the black culture into the country. As soon as the film industry became established, it quickly shook off the racism of its first feature, Birth of a Nation, and has been a champion of the rights of black people ever since. Movies have invariably spoken against racism and injustice and, on the business side, has worked to attract black people into its audiences by every possible means. It is pretty weird to be protesting this industry as the facts come together.
In older times when far too many whites in this country disdained the black race and a number of states had laws protecting discrimination and forbidding race mixing, Hollywood introduced black personalities as best they could, and black participation grew as the years rolled by. The new film industry had to have profits to survive, of course, and alienation of the white audience was to be feared.
In early days, they introduced talents such as Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, and Oscar-winning Hattie McDaniel from Gone With the Wind, who represented a slave servant but also a pillar of strength and wisdom.
Real black people soon replaced white actors playing in minstrel show black-face make-up, like the radio duo, Amos and Andy, and the popular singer, Al Jolson, who sang a hit song called “Mammy” in black-face, a tribute to a beloved black woman.
Over the years, I thought of the stream of black comics who managed to get onto the screens in those early days, from Manton Moreland and Stephen Fetchit to the gravel-voiced ‘Rochester ‘on the Jack Benny Show. Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley were x-rated favorites, and the stream has continued: Frizzy-headed Buckwheat from the Little Rascals, later parodied by Eddie Murphy, and on to Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Kevin Hart, and Dave Chappelle today.
The list goes on … and where would we be without all those laughs? Through their years of oppression, black people not only maintained a sense of humor, but grew it, and modernized it.
But it wasn’t the mission of Hollywood to marginalize or laugh at inferior black characters. They brought them into movies in roles that made sense in regards to their actual status in society and to bring them to full fruition over the years as audiences would comply. It remains the industry’s mission today to honor as many black actors with recognition, and with Oscar nominations, as possible.
Who came to mind? How many black actors have been honored with Oscar wins or nominations? Here are some:
Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Halle Berry, Monique, Margaret Avery, Olivia Spencer, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Larry Fishburne, Eddie Murphy, Forrest Whitaker, Harry Belafonte, Alfrie Woodard, Louis Gossett Jr., Cuba Gooding, Howard Rollins, Jamie Foxx, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Danny Glover, Don Cheadle, Ethel Waters, Hattie McDaniel, Adolph Caesar, and Viola Davis.
During the 1940s, as Hollywood came to realize that movies with black casts could thrive in tandem with their movies with white stars, playing black neighborhood theaters. They produced a line-up of movies produced solely for black audiences. On Memphis’ bustling Beale Street, there was not only the Daisy Theater but also the New Daisy, right across the street.
Why they did this falls within the logic that blacks wanted their own stories and their own stars and Hollywood wanted to meet the need. Since white audiences wouldn’t buy black stars, movie studios kept it safe, while still expanding their market. Even today, Hollywood works with black filmmakers, such as Spike Lee and Tyler Perry as they develop films that cater primarily to the black audience.
But also, over the years, there were major studio efforts toward better race relations. All major Hollywood productions that dealt with racial issues were sympathetic to the victims of racism and struck some blows to help us overcome it. It made no sense in any respect to promote racism.
Socially conscious films that come to mind are: The Defiant Ones, Pinky, Imitation of Life, Home of the Brave, In the Heat of the Night, The Butler, The Help, A Raisin in the Sun, To Kill A Mockingbird, Intruder in the Dust, The Ghosts of Mississippi, The Blind Side, Ten Years A Slave, Mississippi Burning, Ragtime, Sounder, Amistad, The Long Walk Home, Driving Miss Daisy, Jason’s Lyric, Boyz in the Hood, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Lilies of the Field, The Color Purple, Precious, Monster ’s Ball, Selma, Loving, Moonlight, not to mention the very influential Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which fueled the abolitionist movement, and others not so well known or that don’t come to mind.
While blacks logically can’t score roles of historic white characters, those blacks who have risen to fame have often been subjects of biographical pictures. Comes to mind: Ali, Hurricane, Ray, 42, Malcolm X, The Great White Hope, Cry Freedom, Selma, Invictus, Hotel Rwanda, a fictional hero named Miss Jane Pittman and various treatments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Now, a black cast featuring hip hop music can portray Alexander Hamilton and our founding fathers on Broadway. Black versions of stories have continued to emerge, such as The Wiz and Annie. Even a sometimes uncouth boxer, Mike Tyson, becomes a media celebrity and stars in a one-man stage show.
We have our share of black action stars when they choose these roles, including Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and The Rock, who was named recently as our highest paid actor, world-wide.
Two years prior to the recent protest, Hollywood had honored “12 Years A Slave’ as best picture, with Steve McQueen as best director and Lupita Nyong’o as best supporting actress. Chiwetel Ejiofor was nominated for best actor.
Even small budget movies like ‘Beasts of the Southern Wilds” earned Oscar nods for a child actor in her first role, Quvenzhane Wallis, and a novice actor, Dwight Henry.
It seems to me that, over the years, the Academy has been quick to honor black actors with nominations. Wallis was subsequently cast in a remake of the musical, “Annie.”
Hollywood was nonetheless sensitized and responsive to the “So White” initiative. The following year saw Moonlight, which traced the life of a gay black person from childhood to maturity, capture the Best Picture Oscar. Nominee Hidden Figures lauded a group of black women who were mathematicians in the NASA space program and earned a supporting actress nomination for Olivia Spencer. Fences, from a stage play by black playwright August Wilson, scored a best actor nod for Denzel Washington, and Viola Davis won for supporting actress. A poignant white-black relationship story, Loving, earned a best actress nomination for Ruth Negga.
From early years, the movies also showcased a widening stream of music driven by black artists that literally re-shaped the American music scene. When movies featured the Count Basie Orchestra, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Armstrong, they opened the way to a whole new realm in music.
Fresh music came surging out of Harlem and into the world. If blacks didn’t invent jazz, then who did? Where would our music be without Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and such iconic artists as Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Oscar Peterson, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Thelonius Monk and so many more that real jazz fans could rattle off.
I thought of singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Roy Hamilton, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Etta James, Laverne Baker, Ruth Brown, Harry Belafonte, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Bill Withers, Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, Nancy Wilson, Jerry Butler, Nina Simone, Brook Benton, Richie Havens. Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Blue Bland, Donna Summer, Sly and the Family Stone.
Move back in time and you find the Blues genre, roots of our musical history which surged up out of the black experience of slavery and struggle. Blues artists gravitated into the Rhythm and Blues genre, later called soul music, and later called ‘old school’ by yet another arena for musical expression in the 21st century — Rap and Hip Hop. They have their portfolio of stars.
The artists who traveled this evolution included Big Mama Thornton, Sonny Boy Williamson (two of them), Little Walter, Ma Rainey, B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Big Joe Turner, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, Lowell Folsom, Hudie Ledebetter (Leadbelly) and Robert Johnson.
This artist stream, in time, burst into what became known as Rock and Roll. Even as a white group, Bill Haley and the Comets helped introduce the electric guitar and surged in popularity after being featured in the hit movie, The Blackboard Jungle, they were soon gone, and a wave of black artists with this exuberant electrified upbeat style came on, such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, and Fats Domino.
The electric ride brought along the Rock-A-Billy style white artists, all inspired and driven by rhythm and blues artists and the electric surge — Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and onward to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, both of whom recorded crossover hits from the black rockers.
Sister Rosa Thorpe, may have been the first to introduce the electric guitar to music in the 1920’s, and she toured for years, first in gospel churches, and then in commercial venues.
Jimi Hendrix revolutionized guitar-playing, in a sense, with his unique left-handed style and ever-bending notes and feedback. Richie Havens championed his own style of tuning while playing the folk music circuit that developed out of the fifties, along with such black artists as Josh White and Odetta.
Rhythm and Blues featured melodious, harmonizing groups for love ballads, such as the Ink Spots, the Flamingos, the Dells, the Clovers, the Drifters, the Jacks, the Moonglows, Mickey and Sylvia, and the Platters. They evolved into groups like the Isley Brothers, the Neville Brothers, the humor-driven Coasters, and on to the Fifth Dimension, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Tower of Power and the Chambers Brothers. Soul singing stars like Chuck Willis, Otis Rush, Al Green, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Ivory Joe Hunter and Percy Sledge rode this rail.
Black artists have done it all. As the country was growing there came an era of Ragtime music, and blacks seemed to command those keyboards, driven by Scott Joplin and Piano Red. In the world of opera, Leontyne Price rose out of Mississippi to become our first black diva. In country music, Charley Pride defied odds to become a star with the traditional genre sound. Think of tap dancing and there is Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to consider, and film star Gregory Hines. Currently, the world of ballerina is welcoming its first black star, Misty Copeland.
Now, mega super stars have emerged over the years: Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross, Rhianna, and Kanye West.
Every TV comedy and drama strives to have a black leading character. Moviemakers strive to draw the black audience with black characters. Every cast for any kind of entertainments wants black people — they call it diversity.
So Hollywood has been a champion of the black race through history and has invested millions into bringing blacks onto the screen and into the theaters. I think the Oscar ceremony boycott flew in the face of all the movie industry has done over the years. And the cause of more black nominees shouldn’t be turned into a pressure group for black quotas. The performances should speak for themselves, not any race at all.
Overall, the multi-racial market has been and is still being developed in the U.S, and the integration of Hispanic stars to build that market is underway.
Black race contributions to the world of sport are just as amazing. In recent years, the world of women’s tennis has been dominated by Venus and Serena Williams; golf has seen the brilliant career of Tiger Woods; Simone Biles and friends are dominating women’s gymnastics, and black swimmer Simone Manuel captured a gold medal in a sport in which they’ve rarely participated. Soon, black athletes will be excelling in the water as well.
While the struggles of slavery and segregation have been a continuing horror in our culture, we can surely see major contributions to our society by black people and they continue to become more impressive. We need to wake up and see the great values inherent in ethnicity, and appreciate what we’ve enjoyed that never would have been if not for the importation of slaves.
The black race has overcome many of its adversities and shines today, battle-tested and proven as capable as any other race on the planet. We can only imagine our culture if all of these artists had never been here. Such heavy losses in so many areas.
How have black people benefitted from their forced migration to North America and was it worth it for the cultural opportunities it ultimately provided them? Would it have been better for them to have never been enslaved at all? That would seem an obvious truth unless you argue for overall cultural upgrades — over the long haul. Alas, Americans have a serious lack of knowledge about African cultures, how they lived and how harmonious were the people? Calling Africans ‘savages’ is a demonizing lie.
Today we wonder as well about the native Americans and the other indigenous Indian races of the world. We wish them happiness and prosperity and are hopeful they will find avenues of creative expression in a fair and just society. They have often been brutalized over the ages.
Meantime, in the middle east today, the clash of seemingly incompatible cultures and values goes on through history. There is little tolerance, little love, little ability to put yourself in the shoes of your fellow humans, little thought of forgiveness and compassion for those siblings on other paths, not nearly enough aversion and disgust for what these many generations of conflict have done to the region.
Are the solutions found in integration or in separation, in harboring grievances and acting in vengeance, building fences, partitioning countries along tribal lines, continuing to hate the other side? Or can we learn to care about all people and build community values and work progressively with others that we should recognize as God’s children as well?
Conversely, it seems the various sects of religions have driven people apart. They want their own thing, not altruistic unity. One can only surmise that the religions themselves promote the differences and fight to maintain and build their tithing base so that they can live more securely and well, and other faiths may as well not exist. In truth, there is some things to appreciate and learn in all faiths, if we could only work for commonalities and the community.
There seem to be no cases of sects of people being encouraged to love one another in other sects due to the eternal drive for membership, strength and power. Various denominations splinter through all religious thought to put down scripture and create their own airs of self-distinctiveness, as if it mattered.
Does it matter what the various religious sects believe and deify in the end, all of it being speculation wrought of imagination? In transition, humans will learn much more about their missions here, and learn from every experience we’re having in our time and space world.
In the meantime, during this mortal sojourn, we would do well to understand some of the dysfunctions that affect our planet’s struggle toward Oneness and be patient with them. We will be here for a time and we can do our part to make things better in our sphere of influence.
Each soul in each race on the planet has the potential for wisdom and grace, no matter their pigment or the indelible and traumatic experiences of their lifetimes.
We have all been subjected to an education that stresses Indoctrination and discourages Critical Thinking. Could it have been any different?
We have all joined a system that reveres wealth and we struggle to achieve it. And wealth is money because money buys anything. In time, all humans will recognize that it doesn’t, because things of real value have no price tags.
Given the remarkable achievements of black people in music and entertainment, any vestiges of a white supremacy argument should have died long ago. We covered an array of Black Gold artists and entertainers who have greatly enriched our culture though they arrived here late, and in chains. Their contributions have been remarkable.
I wondered if there is as much White Gold in a study of music in American history. What music was coming out of White America and how were black performers weaved into the whole? Is there as much white creativity as there has been black creativity?
In America, white society in New York created the bedrock musical entertainment of the nation. From here originated much of the American entertainment experience, from the orchestras, choirs, and evolving show stage, pre-cinema, events — Vaudeville, Burlesque, the Broadway stage. In these arenas, it was white people who commanded the scene, given no presence of the black race, but in parallel came the musical and cultural awakenings within the black Harlem district of New York City, and a host of both white and black entertainers emerged out of the city and into the rest of the country.
American Pop music came from the songwriters on the iconic Tin Pan Alley. Stage shows featured the music and spurred sheet music sales. People bought pianos for the home. Movie musicals came later. Homegrown musical composers emerged, still a realm for white only, and featuring such luminaries as Stephen Foster, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart (and Hammerstein), Lerner and Loewe, the big band orchestras of the Dorsey Brothers, Jimmy and Tommy, and Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and on to the present day with such creative personalities as Stephen Sondheim, Bob Fosse, Andrew Webber and others.
New York influences were nil in the middle of America, however. Across the mountain regions, settlers brought songs and instruments from the British Isles and actually played them, in home gatherings and on the town square on Saturday night. Middle America spun its own radio show called the Grand Ole Opry — the name itself a kind of spoof. “This ain’t High Opera,” insisted the stage and radio emcee. “This is …. the Grand Ole Opry.” No high-falutin city stuff; this was down home reality in the country.
Champion of this widely-heard Nashville WSM radio show was Uncle Dave Macon, a singing and banjo-picking larger- than-life granddaddy personality, an icon for the backwoods pioneer people. His banjo picking style would come to be known as ‘old style’ and it would be contrasted and streamlined later with the up-tempo ‘high lonesome’ sound of what came to be known as Bluegrass music as well as the ‘clawhammer ’ style of Grandpa Jones.
Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys brought out the surging new sound garden, much reflected by soaring fiddles and the banjo virtuoso, Earl Scruggs. Later, Scruggs teamed with Lester Flatt for the dynamic Flatt and Scruggs duo.
From old world origins, nonetheless, these new sounds coming out of the mountains and hills of middle America can be considered near pure Americana. The artists and their contributions have expanded many times over the years, in a vein of music stretching across the country, and many of the artists are, of course, white. Most often, they play the guitar.
Comes to mind: Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, The Carter Family, Doc Watson, James Taylor, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Ricky Skaggs, Ernest Tubb, Lyle Lovett, Doc Watson, Merle Haggard, Randy Newman, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Johnny Cash, Roseanne Cash, Harry Chapin, Hank Snow, Roger Miller, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, John Prine, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jonathan Edwards, Ray Price, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams, Don Williams, Jesse Colin Young, Jesse Winchester, John Mellencamp, Tom Rush, Tom Paxton, Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Dan Fogelberg, Gillian Welch, Doogie McLean, the Garrigle Sisters, Iris Dement, Judy Collins, Natalie McMasters, the Fairport Convention, Phish, Widespread Panic, the Civil Wars, Allison Krauss and Union Station, David Bromberg, Hoyt Axton, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Jim Croce, the Incredible String Band, Loudon Wainwright III, the Loving Spoonfuls with John Sebastian, Hoagy Carmichael, the Charlie Daniels Band, Nick Drake, Tim and Jeff Buckley, and the Lumineers.
As the music rolled from the desert into California, there emerged a strong new wave of music stars over the years, including the Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt, the amalgam of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, Johnny Rivers, and Canadians Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Ian and Sylvia, and Gordon Lightfoot.
The distinctive sound of the California-based Beach Boys soon reverberated the airways, and artists such as the Ventures, Jan and Dean, and some factory-created teen idols. These icons had also developed over the years. Comes to mind: Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Fabian, the Four Seasons. White groups emerged to challenge the sales of black do-wop groups such as the Platters and Ink Spots. We were hit with the Four Freshmen, the Four Lads, the Brothers Four and the Everly Brothers.
In the 50’s a new interest in folk music brought to the fore singers with guitars, some mentioned earlier, along with Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Glenn Yarbrough, American Indian Buffy Sainte Marie, and black performers Odetta, Josh White and Richie Havens. When Columbia Records wanted a piece of the folk action, they auditioned and organized the trio of Peter, Paul, and Mary. They were soon adapting folk arrangements into a pop style and developing a sing-along atmosphere that featured such as the Kingston Trio, the New Christy Minstrels, and the Brothers Four, and gatherings known as‘Hootenannies.’ They ran their course, as did other musical fads. Their central inspiration, Bob Dylan, has gone forward to re-incarnate himself several times over his cross-currents career.
As black rhythm and blues performers exploded onto the radio scene in the mid 1950’s, white radio seems to have stagnated with overly-romantic, uninspired and me-too familiar pop singers like Jack Jones, Frankie Laine, Don Cornell, Johnny Ray, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Gogi Grant, Joni James, Julius LaRosa, Jaye P. Morgan, Paul Anka, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Perry Como, Vic Damone, and Connie Francis. White artists on Dot Records, such as Pat Boone, were shamelessly putting out cooled-down, sugary conceptions of the burgeoning rhythm and blues artists with their distinctive new voices and sounds — passions unleashed!
Imagine being awash in a saccharin, sanitized world of pop music, without any surges of earthy sensuality, deeper lustful feelings and commitments. The new term ‘rock and roll’ directly related to sexual activity. Songs like “The Real Thing” by the Spiders and “My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry were strongly suggestive and banned on white airways. So too were the Midnighters, a do-wop group with their more than suggestive “Work With Me Annie” and “Annie Had A Baby.” These songs became underground cult favorites; the subject was sex. The artists were black.
Imagine that washed-down white pop music suddenly being pushed out of the spotlight when you turn on the radio one day, to a new station, and you hear a whole new sound:
* Little Richard blasting Wop-Bop-A-Lu-Bop-A-Lop-Bam- Boom! The music is now all ‘Tutti Fruitti.’
*Fats Domino’s nasal wail and bouncing piano on “Ain’t That A Shame.”
*Ray Charles’ powerful blues pleading — “A Fool for You’ and the exhuberant “I Got A Woman.”
* Chuck Berry’s searing and soaring “Johnny B. Goode” electric guitar. When he caught “Maybelline” at the top of the hill, it recalls an era of teen-age drag racing and the 1955 Chevrolet was a legendary winner.
* Etta James, dubbed Miss Peaches, gave a commanding woman performance with “Roll With Me Henry” … all night baby … in a song actually named “The Wallflower.”
* Bo Diddley, towering macho arrogance with an insistent, pulsing electric guitar beat like never heard before. He invented it.
* The Flamingoes and the Platters, flowing in fine romantic, date night, moonlight parking harmony.
* James Brown, rocking with lusty energy and screaming “Please!” down on his knees on the stage. And Jackie Wilson, there as well, with a powerfully pouring voice on “Lonely Teardrops.”
All of these artists were black. Once one heard these powerful voices on the radio, nothing was ever the same — this was real sugar, brown sugar.
White people soon grabbed the beat and ran with it — Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash — with his infectious boom-chicka-boom beat. It was Memphis, which had a strong black music influence, that spawned these artists at Beale Street’s Sun Records, now a musical shrine. And these three artists had the image of outlaws, rebels, which made them all the more palatable to restless young people, who were seeing the dynamic performances of James Dean and Marlon Brando at this same time.
Remarkably, other than Sun, it was a wave of British artists who took the new R&B and R&R beat to the popular charts and it all flowed quickly back into the U.S. like a boomerang — The madly popular electric harmonies of the Beatles, the darker-side raucous Rolling Stones, along with Eric Burdon and the Animals, John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, The Faces and Rod Stewart, The Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream.
The British invaders and American compatriots took up the rock and roll electrical guitar driven clarion call together, and audiences soon grew to arena-size. Through the years we’ve seen many creative variations in this electric journey — Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Steve Winwood, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, the Allman Brothers Band, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Queen, R.E.M., Coldplay, the Moody Blues, the Dave Matthews Band, the Jefferson Airplane, then Jefferson Starship, the Electric Light Orchestra, the Steve Miller Band, Bob Seager and the Silver Bullet Band, Fleetwood Mac, and Metallica.
Bob Dylan famously gravitated from his folk roots to electric guitars at the Newport Folk Festival, and brought a legendary band with him, named simply The Band. It included four Canadians and Arkansas stalwart Levon Helm.
Rock became more sophisticated with orchestral sounds, complex arrangements and arena performances. Females took major roles — Annie Lennox, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde with the Pretenders, Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the Indigo Girls, Melissa Manchester, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian, Rickie Lee Jones, Joan Osbourne, Natalie Merchant, the Cranberries, Alanis Morrisette, the ill-fated Amy Winehouse, and the very British Adele. There also has emerged a real Diva class — the multi-talented, dance choreographed stars, and some are white, such as Blondie, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Pink.
On the more raw and raucous side, bands like Lynyrd Skynerd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Poison, the Black Crowes, Alice Cooper, Korn, the Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Canned Heat, Steppenwolf, Black Oak Arkansas, Country Joe and the Fish, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen have mined an audience.
So what have we learned? The contributions of both white and black races have been extraordinary, each part of an amazingly varied whole. And we have to remember that music is part of life across South America and the all the countries that aren’t working within the English language.
The power of music knows no bounds. It is free-flowing and everywhere and all of it created by individuals in co-creativity with their inner inspirations and empowerments.