Blues | Rock - Where's the line?

A discussion of the blues for blues lovers and fans.

RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby sandy » Mon Sep 23, 2002 11:48 am

At least Alan Freeman wasn't as
>irritating as that daft prick Jimmy Saville.

So true. I heard that Alan Freeman is not well these days (and come to think of it, he is Australian, isn't he?).
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby socal_blues » Fri Jan 10, 2003 4:39 am

>From my point of view, the agressive anger in Rap music
>reflects the same social & historical reality that produced
>Blues...just a little further down the line.
>
>Robert Johnson could "Make them caps alright" and talk about
>shooting, beating and generally abusing his woman and THAT's
>ok because it's blues...and, more importantly, RJ is dead
>and not throwing his hands in your face. Heck, he'd have
>known better than to act that way...
>
>Ah, the good ol' days.

Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't Robert Johnson poisoned by a scorned husband? If that's not retaliation for a "diss" I don't know what you would call it. Good ol' days indeed. Jim Crow and all that. Those original blues players REALLY HAD the blues.

BTW, talk to record companies and radio stations about why there's so much negativity in rap. It was originally fun, party music. Any act other than Will Smith and a scant few others trying to deviate from the formula can forget about "getting paid".

Just MY humble opinion.
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby alexjay » Fri Jan 10, 2003 9:00 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-10-03 AT 05:07 AM (EST)]I've been reading this thread with something of a sinking feeling, knowing it would devolve into something like it has.

Bear in mind, I'm coming into it late, so I'll be replying as I read.

***BLUESWRITER: You wrote, "Music didn't need warning labels because kids weren't commiting homicides, patricides, and other heinous offenses because they might have listened to Son House or Charley Patton."

First, let me just point out that this whole "rap is bad for society" thing is hyperbole. My best friend--who has admittedly odd music tastes (in who else's music collection do you find Peter Gabriel, Iron Maiden, and Tiffany?)--listens (for his sins) to Eminem. My bud is a math professor at a major university, is happily married in an apartment filled to bursting with stuffed animals, abhors racism, and has not raised a finger in anger for more than fifteen years (back in high school, a jock was seriously harassing my friend's girlfriend; they traded single punches). My best friend is white. Another friend is black. He listens to Nas, DMX, and others. He is a devout churchgoing man who has NEVER raised a hand in anger. You simply cannot blame bad behavior on a form of music.

Yes, there is a lot of violence around those who perform rap. Yes, a lot of violent people listen to rap. These things are not indicative of the music; rather, they are indicative of a youth culture which rap music reflects, as any popular music might reflect a culture.

You simply cannot blame a musical genre for the larger culture it stems from. You might as well blame Wagner's Niebelung Cycle for the rise of National Socialism in 1930s Germany.

But back to what you said: "kids weren't commiting [...] heinous offenses because they might have listened to Son House or Charley Patton."
Excuse me? Blues of this stripe was born out of the juke joints. Go into police reports from Southern towns from the Twenties to the Forties. See the long list of stabbings and beatings which happened in those jukes--usually while the musicians we now revere were up on stage! (You'll see the same goings-on in white honkytonks of that time as well, so I guess country is guilty as well?)

Look at Leadbelly's prison career. Muddy Waters on a work-farm. A LOT of the other early bluesmen came out of the prison population, as JellyRoll and HashTaff have noted.

***BOSCO: "Rap has directly caused murders ..." No. Certain rap MUSICIANS have murdered. For that matter, certain BLUES musicians have murdered. The same goes for country, rock, what have you. Can you name more rap musician murderers than blues musician murderers? Seems that if you take the twenty-year period of ascendancy for both artforms, the tallies are about equal. It's just that you hear a lot more about it these days, with global up-to-the-second media. Further, it was a lot easier to get away with murders in those days, or to serve sentences for black-on-black crimes then which would be thought laughable today.

And regarding "FACT" and "OPINION": The FACT is that there have been rap musicians who have murdered. Your OPINION is that that makes the music itself culpable.
It's a tautology, Bosco. All men are bipeds. Does that mean all bipeds are men?

***HOODOO HAND: You're not afraid of Shakespearean actors? What, John Wilkes Booth not a little scary?
(Actually, it's the Romantic poets, such as Byron, who actually WERE "mad, bad, and dangerous to know.") :)

I should point out, I don't listen to rap. I DO enjoy some of the "softer" and usually earlier rap, however,like LL Cool J, Fresh Prince, K7, and the like. I like a lot of music which incorporates rap into it, such as the jazzy Us7, the hard-soul-rock Living Colour, and the (dare I say) "blues-rap" of G. Love and the Special Sauce.

*******
But let me get back to the original topic. I like Blues. I like Rock. (well, the first forty years of it, anyway). I like rockin' blues. I like bluesy rock. I like bluesrock. I think that there's a certain muddy line between blues and rock which is not only very blurred, but is also very wide. Look, Son House would be hard-pressed to call as "blues" most of what an Albert King or a Buddy Guy play. But Lightnin' Hopkins or Elmore James would have said, "Blues!" had they heard a Stevie Ray Vaughan. Though Sippie Wallace came from the old school, she had no trouble embracing Bonnie Raitt.

Is flamenco, or Danny Gatton, or (non-bluegrass) Bela Fleck not "jazz"?
Genres may start out narrow, but do not remain that way; that way lies stagnation.
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby sandy » Fri Jan 10, 2003 12:43 pm

I'm with you, Alex. In the UK, a couple of teenage girls were killed in the crossfire of a gang shoot out a couple of weeks ago. The blame is being put on rap music which is said to "glamorise" the carrying of guns, which misses the point. I don't like rap music much - I don't understand the attraction. But I don't blame it for gang warfare. There are other, deeper problems in society which lead to that. Rap may be an illustration of them - a symptom, but not the cause.
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby blueswriter » Fri Jan 10, 2003 1:59 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-10-03 AT 02:32 PM (EST)]"First, let me just point out that this whole "rap is bad for society" thing is hyperbole... Yes, there is a lot of violence around those who perform rap. Yes, a lot of violent people listen to rap. These things are not indicative of the music; rather, they are indicative of a youth culture which rap music reflects, as any popular music might reflect a culture... You simply cannot blame a musical genre for the larger culture it stems from."

Pardon me, but the above strikes me as load of hyperbole. Overall, it's my opinion that rap music has kids trying to emulate what they have heard and seen through rap artists. I recall when white kids sounded like white kids because that's how they grew up (this was before the advent of rappers on MTV), but if you listen to them over the past 15 years or so, they have worked incredibly hard to sound and look exactly like the tough, gun-toting, gangsta-talkin' types they see on television and hear on the radio. From the hand signs, to the lingo, to the inflection, the entire performance routine is recreated on a daily basis. It strikes me that rap has had much more influence on culture as opposed to having been influenced by culture. When it began to seep out of the neighborhoods, the artists were certainly expressing what they saw, but you seem to forget that was in their own lives, in their own corner of the universe. It is my opinion that rap over time has proven to be far more influential on society than you seem to think.

The Righteous Brothers were emulating black artists during the height of their career and continue to today (albeit in Las Vegas), but I tend to doubt they were responsible for shootings through their influence. Take a quick look at Eminem or other rappers (somebody should really tell him that he's a white kid) on the other hand and offer that they haven't spoken of the acceptance of violence in any way, shape, or form... and then that the kids who listen to that don't think that the artists are actually offering something valid. Just as a quick memory refresher, do you recall the increased number of shootings because kids wanted the pair of sneakers or jacket that the other kid was wearing? I do, and I think that's just one of many direct points that can be looked at as kids acting out what they saw or heard. Kids look up to these people who spout about violence being the answer, but that doesn't have any effect on society, does it?

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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby mikedev » Fri Jan 10, 2003 2:41 pm

Just thought I'd add my 2 penorth - .02c forthe colonials.

I believe that music reflects the culture - not the other way round. The incident that Sandy mentions wasn't brought about by the music. The music is a by product of the people.

On the Blues side, I've just finished the Little Walter book (Blues with a feeling - a great read by the way). Walter led a pretty violent life, he wrote some violent lyrics:

"If I see her in my sights, Boom Boom, out go the lights!".

I don't believe that encouraged others to go out and shoot people. In fact Walter was more shot than Shooter!.

Similarly Robert Johnson and 32/20, and a host of others.

Yes, there were, and probably still are, violent Bluesmen(and women). There are many who have famously servered time for their crimes, Bukka White, Leadbelly, Pat Hare, and others. This shaped their music, it wasn't the music that shaped them.

So what am I saying?

Music, any music, is driven by the environment. The environment is not driven by the music.
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby blueswriter » Fri Jan 10, 2003 4:55 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-10-03 AT 02:45 PM (EST)]Howdy Mike...

It's not my stance that music doesn't in any way reflect social attitudes or conditions, but I do think that rap has had far more influence on the attitudes of youngsters. I don't think it's any secret that many rap artists push the acceptance of carrying guns and using them, or, as is more common, "bust a cap in yo' ass."

As blues fans, we are pretty much aware that quite a few sang of violence, but that was the exception as opposed to the rule. Blues never took the widespread stance that shooting or violence was an accepted form of expression or revenge. I still contend that rap has had a much larger effect on today's culture than most here. The rap labels and their artists have no problem with pushing violence; lyrics about shootings, gang wars, kids getting caught in the crossfire, women who are used as nothing more than an object, or CD covers emblazoned with some gun-toting badass who rapes, beats, and defiles his sexual partners and then brags about it.

Some blues artists (Jimmy Lee Robinson did it very well) reflect what's wrong with society today and the increased numbers of shootings among youngsters and ask for a way to put an end to it. The rap industry, on the other hand, accepts the direct violence that stems from the music, allows it, and steers kids to think it's fine to get even with a gun. Why? Because it sells in far greater quantity than those few who make an effort to point kids in another direction. It's far easier for a child to gain acceptance and be looked at as "normal" if he/she goes along with the masses. I was pretty much an "oddity" through my high school years because I listened to blues instead of Black Sabbath.

No doubt that Robert Johnson, Skip James, Roosevelt Sykes, and many others sang about violence, but I tend to doubt they had as much of an influence on kids as Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, Tupac Shakur, and other rappers have had. Blues records that were considered major hits sold maybe in the tens of thousands, not in the millions. If considered with that in mind, do you still contend that rap is merely reflecting culture as opposed to having an effect on it? Below is part of just one of many studies that have been done linking increased violence to rap music.

"One of the major criticisms of rap music is that it may affect attitudes and behavior regarding the use of violence, especially violence against women. Rap critics have suggested that "rap is rooted in the assumption that women are merely objects of male sexual satisfaction" ("2 Live Crew," 1991, p. 7). Such concerns have prompted groups such as the National Black Women's Political Caucus to seek legislation to control the access to rap music ("Art or Anarchy," 1993).

In possibly the first empirical investigation of the effects of exposure to rap music, Johnson, Jackson, and Gatto (1995) demonstrated that such concerns may not be groundless. They found that exposure to violent rap music did, in fact, tend to lead to a higher degree of acceptance of the use of violence (including violence against women). Since the subject population in the Johnson et al. (1995) study was restricted to males, it is not clear whether the effects of exposure to rap music videos will vary as a function of gender. A second issue involves the effects of exposure to music videos which do not contain violence, but do contain images of women in sexually subordinate roles. This is relevant because there is evidence that exposure to such depictions of women in videos will, in fact, affect perceptions and attitudes. For example, Hansen & Hansen (1988) demonstrated that exposure to rock videos containing female sexual subordinate content had profound effects on subsequent judgments of male-female interactions."

AJ, while your friend who listens to Eminem might be a married professor with a home bursting at the seams with stuffed animals, the larger portion of individuals influenced by him, or indeed those who influenced him, are far younger and more malleable.

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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby bosco » Fri Jan 10, 2003 7:40 pm

>***BOSCO: "Rap has directly caused murders ..." No. Certain
>rap MUSICIANS have murdered. For that matter, certain BLUES
>musicians have murdered. The same goes for country, rock,
>what have you. Can you name more rap musician murderers than
>blues musician murderers?

AJ-

My original assessment stands. The number of Blues vs Rap murders is irrevelant as it deviates from the CAUSE of the murders which in this case was the Rap music itself. I offer as proof;

Two of the more infamous bluesmen that were murdered were Robert Johnson and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband after RJ had disrespected the man's marriage. Williamson was was beaten to death for the money he had won earlier the same night in a back alley dice game. Although both men were blues musicians, neither murder had anything to do with blues music. Yes, historically a large number of bluesmen have spent time incarcerated- for crimes against society. I doubt if any evidence exists that a bluesman was murdered/or has murdered as a direct result of blues music.

The deaths of Tupak Shakur(9-13-96), and Christopher Wallace aka "Notorious B.I.G." (3-9-97), were direct results of Rap music. No matter how many sources you reference, it is universally accepted that Shakur was murdered by the Wallace faction as a result of his boasting of sleeping with Wallace's wife, Faith Evans, on Tupak's 1996 release "All Eyez On Me." An East coast/West coast Rap perpetuated gang war ensued, culminating in the death of Wallace six months later. I ask if anyone would believe that gangs from L.A. and Brooklyn, whose "turf" is thousands of miles apart, would have any reason to be at war without the feud that escalated directly through their perceived leadership's music lyrics. Sure modern media played a part, and the artists chose to air their grievances publicly through an art form. But because it was a public feud, through Rap music, neither party would back down or "loose face." Many other murders have been directly attributed to this conflict in addition to the two star participants. I maintain that these people died directly as a result of specific Rap music, not just Rap as a cultural influence or a genre in general. Although murder has followed the blues, largely because of the socio-economic denominator, I doubt if anyone has ever been murdered as a direct result of blues music, or country, or rock for that matter.

"Think wrongly,if you please, but in all cases think for yourself."
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby mtblues » Fri Jan 10, 2003 11:58 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-10-03 AT 07:00 PM (EST)]Age old dilemma: Does art imitate life OR does life imitate art? Arguments could be made for either view, when in reality, the answer may rest somewhere in the middle.

In the "day" of blues, the artists were not held up as examples of behavior; rather, they sang about their societies, lifestyles, and environments as statements of fact--not necessarily as desirable or something to which the audiences should aspire; a key difference obvious in rap music of today. For the most part, violent blues lyrics seem to arise from a feeling of "getting even" or meting out a form of justice. In all music styles, instances of violent accounts expressing feelings or describing events can be found. The overwhelming majority of rap music available today appears to revel in the violent act itself--violence for the sake of violence. This goes a few steps beyond just recounting experience or illustrating behavior.

Not only is violence in rap glorified and NOT a mere statement of a dysfunctional, unfortunate social environment, it is shamelessly promoted by TV and radio stations, media, and advertising to underage, impressionable young people. It is held up, in many instances, as the standard for "cool" -- something not associated with the creating and selling of blues music in days gone by (nor today, I might add).

Of course, when something is promoted as desirable, cool, and a must-have-must-be, teens appear to flock to it in droves striving to "belong." Thankfully, very few of these kids actually go out and commit the crimes (most being content simply to achieve "the look"), but if even a few do because society appears, not only to condone it, but to idolize it, then the damage and implications are undeniable and immeasurable.

Maybe it's kind of like a "circle" effect, though. It IS because we demand it; we demand it because it IS.

This is not the attitude exhibited by society concerning blues--past OR present. I fail to see how the two (rap, blues) and their contents can possibly be equated or compared. Certainly marketing techniques and profiling for blues differ greatly from those used for rap-- the "gangsta" image promoted and representing rap; the "troubled soul," in all its forms representing blues.

It is the responsiblity of society to police itself, and when we decide in favor of the undesirable, then we risk the undesirable dominating society. If we embrace the "art," the "art" will surely dictate our outlook.

Those are my "Preachin' Blues" for the day.

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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby chillywilly » Sat Jan 11, 2003 5:23 am

Wow, this turned into one HEAVY thread. I'm at a loss for words, think I'll go put on Son House "Death Letter Blues" and try to cheer up.

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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby ricochet » Sat Jan 11, 2003 6:49 pm

Think I'll tune up the Tricone and play "Trouble In Mind."
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby houndog » Sat Jan 11, 2003 10:54 pm

Are the Doobie Bros a blues rock band???

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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby sandy » Mon Jan 13, 2003 1:47 pm

Of course we are all falling into the trap of putting everything in little boxes. Not all rap is the same. Not all blues are the same. We've delved deep into the what-is-blues? pond on several occasions, and I think the final consensus was commendably inconclusive.

But BW, when you say "Take a quick look at Eminem or other rappers (somebody should really tell him that he's a white kid)" ... why? You don't get much whiter than Johnny Winter and he plays a kind of music that was originally played by blacks, wasn't it?
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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby blueswriter » Mon Jan 13, 2003 2:38 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-13-03 AT 01:10 PM (EST)]"But BW, when you say "Take a quick look at Eminem or other rappers (somebody should really tell him that he's a white kid)" ... why? You don't get much whiter than Johnny Winter and he plays a kind of music that was originally played by blacks, wasn't it?"

Sandy...

I think one of the major differences I see between Eminem and Johnny Winter is that Johnny hasn't gone as far as doing an Al Jolson routine, which Eminem thankfully stops just short of. I'm not convinced that there are any white rappers who truly embrace and respect the African-American culture, I think it's far more the fact that these white kids consider the attitudes exemplified by black rap artists to have more of the tough approach they desire. Which might explain why so many white, middle class youngsters work so hard at trying to get a handle of how African-American rappers look, walk, talk, and phrase.

Johnny Winter, Kim Wilson, James Harman, Sean Costello, and many others have the decency to let their audiences know whose music it is they're doing and they don't look ridiculous doing it. These guys show respect for the culture and people without making a mockery of it. Maybe I just need to know more about Eminem, but I've seen a couple of interviews with him on TV and never once heard him say anything about where his stuff came from. It's almost like he expects people to believe this is all him and that he fell out of his mother's womb sounding like he does today and I'm a bit skeptical of this as a possibility. Just my opinion... your mileage could and should vary.

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RE: Blues | Rock - Where's the line

Postby bosco » Mon Jan 13, 2003 6:10 pm

>Not all rap is the same.

Sandy- I totally agree. When immersed in a discussion about the vile nature and violence that surrounds SOME rap, it is far too easy to overlook the other styles. PM Dawn had some marvelous rap releases, delivered in almost a whispered reverence. Very easy to listen to, well enunciated, very melodic and with actually a soothing quality- all terms you seldom hear used in reference to rap.


>I think it's far more the fact that these white kids
>consider the attitudes exemplified by black rap artists to
>have more of the tough approach they desire. Which might
>explain why so many white, middle class youngsters work so
>hard at trying to get a handle of how African-American
>rappers look, walk, talk, and phrase.

BW- Very well said...I believe you hit the proverbial nail on the head. After the grunge movement of the early 90's faded, teenage America was quick to look for another outlet for it's angst and hostility. I witnessed this transformation firsthand with my then 14-year old stepson who adopted the whole persona, complete with attitude, mannerisms and costume. Although an age old story of generational difference, growing my hair out in the 70's doesn't quite compare to this new edition of total personality adoption.

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