Amoeblog

America Gets a Post-Racial: The Legacy of Lee Atwater

Posted by Charles Reece, August 30, 2009 10:03am | Post a Comment
The latest issue of The London Review of Books has an excellent essay, "What Matters," by Walter Benn Michaels (author of The Trouble with Diversity). In analyzing the recent arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Michaels answers my fellow blogger Eric's question of "who's black?" with another, more telling question: "who's poor?." To wit:

Gates, as one of his Harvard colleagues said, is ‘a famous, wealthy and important black man’, a point Gates himself tried to make to the arresting officer – the way he put it was: ‘You don’t know who you’re messing with.’ But, despite the helpful hint, the cop failed to recognise an essential truth about neoliberal America: it’s no longer enough to kowtow to rich white people; now you have to kowtow to rich black people too.

[...]

In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people. Furthermore, in the form of the celebration of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnic diversity’, it seeks to create a bond between poor black people and rich white ones. So the African-American woman who cleans my office is supposed to feel not so bad about the fact that I make almost ten times as much money as she does because she can be confident that I’m not racist or sexist and that I respect her culture. And she’s also supposed to feel pride because the dean of our college, who makes much more than ten times what she does, is African-American, like her. And since the chancellor of our university, who makes more than 15 times what she does, is not only African-American but a woman too (the fruits of both anti-racism and anti-sexism!), she can feel doubly good about her.

In the words of our first "post-racial" president's speechwriters, it's the economy, stupid (or, rather, the racially stupid economy -- even its staunchest proponents this side of Ayn Rand will tell you that capitalism is amoral). As the harbinger of racial peace through commercial success, a prescient Arsenio Hall managed to signify our current climate through one particular performance that bridged the old racial divide in popular culture, that of the poor black's blues and the poor white's country:

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(In which an angel visits Amoeba Music Hollywood.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 13, 2009 02:33pm | Post a Comment
jimmy scott
Little Jimmy looking big

Uh, did I mention that, a couple weeks ago, Little Jimmy Scott came into the jazz room at Amoeba Music Hollywood? I used up a whole box of tissue, my mind was so blown – and I’m not easily star-struck. Most of the people I’d like to meet are dead (a quality I admire in a person). Never have I been as giddy and star-struck as I was at meeting Jimmy Scott. I cried. I actually cried! Like I was a seventeen-year-old girl at a Beatles concert in ’64. Okay, I didn’t grab the sides of my face and scream – not externally, anyway.

jazz singer

He was sweet like an angel descending on the city for a day to offer a glimpse of light unsoiled by our planet’s spiritual smog. His voice was unmistakable, his smile generous, and he patiently listened to all our gushing with the grace you’d expect from your favorite Kindergarten teacher. The fact that he was wheelchair-bound only enhanced the sense that he was visiting royalty, forever receiving people at his throne.

Poor health has made his already diminutive body more frail, and the stiffness in his hands made for an other-worldly contrast to his skin, which was soft and warm like a newborn infant.

He was flanked by a small film crew from Germany who were shooting a documentary on the making of his next album which, they reported, would be of the blues genre. They were excited that, in the employees of Amoeba, they finally found some young people who not only knew who Jimmy Scott was, but were fans. One of them bullied my fellow co-worker, Lucas, and I into being interviewed for their documentary, despite my emphatic explanation that I was too shy for interviews and anyway, English was my sixteenth language. (I acquiesced after they called my bluff and offered to allow me to answer questions in my native Ket.)

Happy Missouri Day! - Yup, It's aready been a yurr since the last'n

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 15, 2008 12:42am | Post a Comment
MISSOURI DAY

The 3rd Wednesday of the October, this year the 15th.

Map of Missouri
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Missouri


In my experience, when you'ins tell people you’re from Missouri, most people reply self-satisfiedly with "don't you mean Missouruh?" or, alternately, "where is Missouri? I don’t think I’ve ever been there."

Whether Missouri is Lower Midwestern or Upper Southern (or the Border South or, the Upland South, or less commonly today, the Yeoman South) is a somewhat common debate amongst Missourians... at least on the internet.

In my experience, Missouri's Midwestern neighbors, centered along the Great Lakes, (haters) tend to disparage Mighty Mo as a hick state whurr test scores are low, the accent is ugly and you'ins can buy fireworks, liquor and ammo... all in the same place.

Missouri's neighbors in the Deep South (also haters) usually don't consider it to be Southern because Missouri didn't side with the South in the Civil War (well, that's complicated-- thurr were 30,000 gray and 109,000 blue) and because South Coasters love to equate the entire South with just the Deep South aka the Lower South aka the Plantation South.

As far as Southern credentials go, Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, Thomas Hart Benton all seem fairly Southern, do they not? On the other hand, natives like T.S. Elliot, William Burroughs and Maya Angelou don’t so much, huh? Cultural cringe I reckon, plays a part in this confusion, as do geographical overlap and historical shifts.

Roy Buchanan

Posted by Whitmore, August 15, 2008 12:33am | Post a Comment

When I was a kid my dad surprised me one day when he told me that his two favorite guitarists, hands down, were T-Bone Walker and Roy Buchanan-- two mostly obscure blues guitarists whose lofty talents are usually held in awe by only record collectors and guitar geeks. You would have thought my dad was a blues musician or at least someone with a passion for obscure vinyl … well, no, he just digs music -- he always said he was too busy working, customizing hotrods in those halcyon days of the 1960’s to be anything but a just a fan, but he does play a mean "Malaguena" from the Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona on classical piano.

Anyway, T-Bone Walker’s most famous number was "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)." His other classic recordings include "T-Bone Shuffle" and the brilliantly understated parable, "Let Your Hair Down, Baby, Let's Have a Natural Ball."  Walker lived to be a reasonably old man, especially by blues standards, passing away in 1975 at the age of 65. Unfortunately, Roy Buchanan’s life didn’t get that distance.  

20 years go today, Roy Buchanan was found hanging in his cell in the Fairfax County Jail in Fairfax, Virginia, by his own shirt, shortly after being arrested and soon after being placed in a holding tank. Buchanan had been picked up by the police earlier in the evening for public intoxication. Though he had a long history of drunken, restless and destructive behavior, many of his fans, friends and family have always doubted the suicide verdict of his death. He was 48.

Countless aficionados in the guitar world have long considered Roy Buchanan one of the finest and most overlooked guitarists of the blues-rock genre. According to legend, Buchanan's soulful and fiery skills led him to being invited to join the Rolling Stones in the late 1960’s. In 1971 Roy Buchanan found his greatest public exposure in an hour long Public Television documentary appropriately titled The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World. For a moment he was famous and in demand, signing a multi-record deal with Polydor. His 1972 self-titled debut contains one of Buchanan's best-known tracks, "The Messiah Will Come Again." Here’s some live footage of that song from a German television show in the early 80’s.

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