I remember back in high school some teacher thought I was
incredibly insensitive and disrespectful of my heritage for not
wanting to sit through the two-hour assembly on black History. I
tried to explain to her that while I was very supportive, I was
tired of hearing the same story every year. And believe it when I
say it was the same story. It was always written in a way to make
the suffering of African-Americans seem so quick and flowery. I
especially hated the part about music. There was only so many times
you can hear that Louis Armstrong had to hide the fact that he
could read music. I always wished some frustrated student on stage
would strike up the courage to rebel against the redundant assembly
and say something I’d never heard before or wish was said. So dare
I be that student today.
African-Americans in music can be summed up like so. Just about
any form of very successful or popular music that exists today,
some black person played it first. Of course, that’s an
understatement because we all know that (or we should). However for
some strange reason this is a fact never really stated by white
America. Instead what we typically do is credit these great art
forms to white artists and groups who make these genres of music
acceptable to white audiences. I will name a few for you; Elvis,
The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eminem.
While it seems like I am still stating the obvious, I think it
important to mention that these artists are merely icing on the
cake. However I will point out that two of the four mentioned above
are British artists. Like most of Europe, it is much easier for
African-American artists to get the recognition they desire. Both
Led Zeppelin and The Beatles have stated that they copied many
black artists in their music. Not only have many British artists
admitted this fact, but they have also marveled at how they
basically sold America back its own music, but in white face. I
think it is very important that we celebrate the many contributions
African-Americans have made towards music but I must also mention
many of them aren’t properly attributed to African-Americans.
Of course, during black History Month all bets are off.
African-Americans can finally be appreciated for their
contributions to music. However, we still ignore the levels in
which these contributions have made in providing a basis for pop
Forget our blatant ignorance surrounding the origins of music.
Let’s figure out what happens to music once it has been made
socially acceptable to white America. It seems to lose its “rebel”
feel. It changes into an art form that the media loves, parents
allow, and the industry markets. It seems that black music is only
acceptable when a white person can make it into a form marketable
to be accepted by white America. The end result, music lovers are
left looking for the next “cool” thing to steal from the black
community. A great summary of the current state of music.