Weekend self-care open thread—The revolutionary nature of early rock 'n roll
By the time this article posts, Bart Kavanaugh will be on his way to a Supreme Court sinecure. That will not be avoided. It is what it is. The fight will continue, and we will win.
As regular readers know, weekends are for self-care, to recover from the week before and prepare for the week ahead.
This weekend I want to talk about the music which made me: rock ‘n roll.
Now, I have very catholic tastes as far as music goes. I can travel from blues to bluegrass, from jazz to acid jazz. Most times in my car I will be listening to KUSC, LA’s classical music station.
But the music which informs the major moments of my life is rock n’ roll.
From the Beatles to the Stones, from U2 to Elvis Costello, it is the music from which I branch out to other genres. I will cry at a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But if I’m driving up Highway 1, the ocean at my left, the windows rolled down, it’s Springsteen’s “Born to Run” I want to listen to.
Seventy years on from the genesis of rock ‘n roll, it’s hard to remember just how revolutionary it was. It was a black music which stormed into white culture, much like rap has today. It was a music which made the mainstream white culture—the parents of the white teens who were enraptured by it—fearful of an existential crisis of “race mixing”. (Sound familiar?) It was called, forgive me, “[redacted] music”. DJs smashed records as some form of exorcism to protect pure whiteness.
But the history of America, in part, is that black culture eventually takes over white culture. We saw that with jazz. We saw that with the blues. And, all these decades later, we see that with rock. Because the dance-pop music of today which dominates the radio airwaves is a direct descendant of Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Chuck Berry. The idiom of today’s pop music is a black American idiom, no matter if the singer is a blonde woman from Woking, England. Without African-Americans, our culture would be so different as to be unimaginable.
Join me for some of that sweet soul music: rock ‘n roll.
As always, take care of yourselves and those around you.
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