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linden518
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White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?
Jan Vigne
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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Were white musicians who played jazz, like Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, condescending as well? And did the condescension keep rolling down the generations, so that white fans of early rock who idolized Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Smokey Robinson were actually engaging in condescension too?

That concept itself appears to be too condensed in its reasoning so it fits into a neat column inch. In the case of Goodman and Miller, who performed at their peak in the late 1930's and 1940's, segregation was a way of life, they knew no other. Both men grew up and largely accepted the segregation of the races in everyday life. While many of these performers would play to the uptown audiences from 7PM until midnight, at 12:30 AM they would be downtown where only the Jews, the actors and the musicians were not out of place, listening to the "Negro" performers swing with much more ferocity than Goodman ever conjured. While Goodman was and always will be the "King of Swing" listen to his performances against a young Louis Armstrong - still playing to mostly black audiences in black owned and black populated clubs - to hear the obvious differences in the playing styles meant to appeal to their respective audiences. Did Goodman cover Duke Ellington's music? Did Elllington cover Goodman's?

When the acts were eventually integrated for the sake of the music and not societal norms - if I remember correctly it was Goodman who first brought a non-white performer into his already successful group - the result was still a highly segregated audience who would not allow the black musicians in the same hotel or restaurant with the white performers even after just having applauded the entire group earlier that night.

Therefore, while most people would not consider the musicians, men and women who themself were considered to exist in a third tier lifestyle, to be condescending in most ways, those who took the money from the patrons and then refused admittance to their hotels and diners, who refused to allow the integration of the races on any level, could and probably should be considered "condescending" by the most generous of definitions.

What changed by the time Berry and Diddley arrived in the 1950's? Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley and high powered AM radio stations across the mid-South. Both men lived with the blacks, grew up with blacks and found a lifestyle and a freedom that appealed to them in the black music which spoke (often in double endentre) of the condescension of the whites toward other people. How many times did the term "white nigger" get used against both of these men and those who later attempted to emulate Elvis' money making style?

The story of Phillips and Sun Studio is in many ways the story of ending the segregation and the condescension by whites toward another lifestyle. If there had not been a Sam Phillips and the Chess brothers to whom Phillips sold his early recordings of B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf, the wheels that moved segregation to the back of the bus would have been slowed considerably. If the white youth of the 1950's had not been moved by the music to explore with little hesitation the sound they heard from Elvis, Berry, Diddley, and the black blues musicians of the day, who would have been the first to break down the walls that separated the races? One need only look at the early reaction of the conservative religious right of the 1950's toward Elvis' music and his preceived danger to American youth to see the fear bubbling up in a group who were facing a loss of their rigid controlling hand on society. In the long run it was only the money and its effects that brought them around to grudgingly accepting a new thought. Is that condescension? You tell me.

rvance
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?

Yes, sd, the quote mentioned,

bifcake
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?

I refuse to feel guilty about liking jazz. Hence, I don't (love jazz that is).

Buddha
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?

I was raised Catholic, I feel guilt over everything, anyway.

Jan Vigne
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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I wonder if Botstein is referring to the way popular culture co-opts the arts and mimics their cues without understanding the experience of the artist or the essence of the form.

This cuts both ways. Many of the aging black Delta blues players; Wolf, Waters, Williamson, etc. who had worked their way up to Beale Street and the South Side of Chicago at first thought poorly of the younger generation of performers who were the early adapters to electric guitars and a style of performing that didn't reflect the hard scrabble lifestyle they had experienced on the plantations of the Mississippi Delta. When Waters first went to England to play to crowds who had discovered the blues through 78's of Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and the original Sonny Boy, Waters didn't know what the young, white Brits expected of him. It wasn't until artists such as Clapton, Richards and Jagger displayed a desire for the originality of the blues that Wolf and others like him felt they had found, if not kindred spirits, at the very least understanding and gratifying patrons.

If you look at a few of the photos and YouTube videos of the original Delta artists who were rediscoverd in the folk music/English invasion of the 1960's, you'll see a rather bizarre setting of nearly all white faces, young and very intent, sitting mesmermized by old blues performers who had never before played in front of an audience that wasn't dancing in a juke joint or at a fish fry. Some adapted well to their new found place in music's history and went on to enjoy succesful second and sometimes third careers while others existed only in their own world.

bifcake
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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I was raised Catholic, I feel guilt over everything, anyway.

My condolences. I have a number of Catholic friends and I've come to realize that Catholics made guilt an art form.

ncdrawl
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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I refuse to feel guilty about liking jazz. Hence, I don't (love jazz that is).

ditto. should I feel guilty because I hate jazz?

bifcake
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?

You shouldn't feel guilty for hating jazz. You should only feel guilty if you love jazz. Since you don't love jazz, you should feel happy and proud.

Buddha
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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I was raised Catholic, I feel guilt over everything, anyway.

My condolences. I have a number of Catholic friends and I've come to realize that Catholics made guilt an art form.

At this juncture, I have none of the faith, and all of the guilt.

Which amazes me, since every Saturday evening after confession, your ticket to Heaven is pre-approved!

Die leaving the church after penance? Straight up, buddy.

We should only have one week of sinning to ever feel guilty about or atone for.

judicata
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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I refuse to feel guilty about liking jazz. Hence, I don't (love jazz that is).

ditto. should I feel guilty because I hate jazz?

Yes you should! You're opening yourself up to criticism for not liking music historically dominated by artists of another race.

Great posts Jan. I would point out that, at least in this context, race isn't a "lifestyle" -- although some whites justified (and still unfortunately do) racism because "they" lived "differently," the subject was race (a black person could "act white" - whatever that means - and perhaps get treated a little differently, but he still couldn't stay in the hotel).

Then again, the more I think about it, the more I'm just splitting hairs. Meh. Anyhow, again - good posts.

Jan Vigne
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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I would point out that, at least in this context, race isn't a "lifestyle" -- although some whites justified (and still unfortunately do) racism because "they" lived "differently" ...

Living as a black is no more a choice than living as a white, brown, yellow or red when viewed from the inside. However, from the outside, yes, I think living as you choose is a "lifestyle". You either let someone else define who you are or you go about subverting what others are attempting to do to your life. Along with the sexual references used in the blues, the songs provided a constant double entendre opportunity to curse your mule while really cursing "The Man" who kept you behind that mule.

Someone such as Sam Phillips grew up working with the negroes, heard their songs and saw their life and wanted to bring that to a white audience. Was he subversive? Probably not as much as he was determined. Elvis was shopping at Lansky Brothers on Beale Street before he ever set foot in Sun Studio.

If we're splitting hairs I'd say it's a lifestyle when you choose how to live your life and it's something else when you allow someone to do the choosing for you.

judicata
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Re: White people should feel guilty about loving jazz?!?


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If we're splitting hairs I'd say it's a lifestyle when you choose how to live your life and it's something else when you allow someone to do the choosing for you.

I can agree with that.

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