Sister Rosetta

When most people think of the Blues, Rhythm and Blues and early Rock ‘n’ Roll artists who had a major influence on the development of Rock ‘n’ Roll, they tend to mention the male musicians like Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, Louis Jordan, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Big Joe Turner and Ike Turner. However, female musicians, like Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Sippie Wallace, Victoria Spivey, Ida Cox, Memphis Minnie, Geeshie Wiley, Koko Taylor, Big Maybelle and of course, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, are not given as much attention or only given a small role in the development. Tharpe is one of the few women who is at least mentioned often by several Rock ‘n’ Roll musicians.

As seen above, the British band, The Noisettes recorded  “Sister Rosetta” in tribute to her. Allison Krauss and Robert Plant also recorded a song in tribute to her called “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” which was written by singer Sam Phillips. Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and much more have all claimed her as an influence and most have done covers of her songs. However, one of the strange facts about Tharpe as an influence for Rock ‘n’ Roll, a genre that is called “the devil’s music” is that she was a gospel singer. Even more interesting is that, unlike other gospel singers, Tharpe straddled the line between sacred and secular. Instead of the church, she performed in nightclubs and concert halls for big bands and her singing style, guitar-playing and performing style reflected that of Blues and Jazz singers, and later contributed to the style of Rock ‘n’ Roll artists. She is a true testament to the fact that you can be influenced by anyone and anything. If you want to read more about Tharpe, I suggest “Shout, Sister, Shout” by Gayle F. Wald.

Up Above My Head

Rock Me

Rock Daniel

Strange Things Happening Everyday


Resurrecting the Man in the Mirror

Dangerous Album

It has been two years since Michael Jackson has died and his cultural impact is still reverberating throughout the world to this day. Today, I came across a 2009 article by Greg Tate in which he gives his thoughts on why Jackson’s icon status was so huge, especially for Black people around the world, and how it fits into an Afrofuturist context.

“What Black American culture—musical and otherwise—lacks for now isn’t talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral. You can still feel it when you go hear Sonny RollinsOrnette ColemanAretha Franklin, or Cecil Taylor, or when you read Toni Morrison—living Orishas who carry on a tradition whose true genius lies in making forms and notions as abstract, complex, and philosophical as soul, jazz, or the blues so deeply and universally felt. But such transcendence is rare now, given how desperate, soul-crushing, and immobilizing modern American life has become for the poorest strata of our folk, and how dissolute, dispersed, and distanced from that resource-poor, but culturally rich, heavyweight strata the rest of us are becoming. And, like Morrison cautioned a few years ago, where the culture is going now, not even the music may be enough to save us….

[Later in the article ]

Furthermore, unlike almost everyone in the Apollo Theater pantheon save George Clinton, Michael now seems as important to us an image-maker—an illusionist and a fantasist at that—as he was a musician/entertainer. And until Hype Williams came on the music-video scene in the mid ’90s, no one else insisted that the visuals supporting r&b and hip-hop be as memorable, eye-popping, and seductive as the music itself. Nor did anyone else spare no expense to ensure that they were. But Michael’s phantasmal, shape-shifting videos, upon reflection, were also, strangely enough, his way of socially and politically engaging the worlds of other real Blackfolk from places like South Central L.A., Bahia, East Africa, the prison system, Ancient Egypt. He did this sometimes in pursuit of mere spectacle (“Black and White”), sometimes as critical observer (“The Way You Make Me Feel”), sometimes as a cultural nationalist romantic (“Remember the Time”), even occasionally as a harsh American political commentator (“They Don’t Care About Us”). Looking at those clips again, as millions of us have done over this past weekend, is to realize how prophetic Michael was in dropping mad cash to leave behind a visual record of his work that was as state-of-the-art as his musical legacy. As if he knew that one day our musical history would be more valued for what can be seen as for what can be heard….”

(Other Michael Jackson tributes)

Here is another example of Jackson’s “musical griot” nature:

Michael Jackson – “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”

Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa (1972 single by the Cameroonian saxophonist, sampled by Jackson in “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”)

“Why Can’t We Be Happy”

This is the new single from Asa, the Nigerian-French singer-songwriter. I love the old-school vibe of the song and video, including the 50s technicolor look, the Soul Train line and dances, and the Ska/Reggae feel to the song. It’s a great song to start the summer!

Afrofuturism’s Stranger Blues (via Nuñez Daughter)

Here is another post from Nuñez Daughter connecting the song “Stranger Blues” from “Sweet Honey in the Rock” to the feeling of being an “alien” in Afrofuturism and science fiction, and the alienation that oppressed people of the world feel everyday. Also, please help support these ladies in their efforts to go to Detroit for the Allied Media Conference.

Afrofuturism's Stranger Blues …I woke up this morning And I put on my walkin’ shoes I’m goin’ down the road Cause I got them walkin’ blues I’m just a stranger here I’m just a stranger there I’m just a stranger everywhere Sometimes I know that … Read More

via Nuñez Daughter

It’s Been Done Before

I was reading a post on Afropunk about Tyler the Creator from the group OddFuture and came across this comment CompoundEgret made in response to calling Tyler the second coming of a charismatic artist to change the industry. He said, “Not really the second coming. Maybe the third, fourth, or fifth. Please check the Horrorcore entry. Like my Dad used to say: “Like who you like, but don’t think they’re the first people that did it.” I agree completely with that last statement. As I grow older, I am less and less interested in putting artists and celebrities on pedestals and worshipping the ground they walk on. I like them, I respect them and I will give them their due praise in putting their own personal perspective on things, but what they do is completely new. We live in a “cult of personality” culture where we are fixated on being absolutely original and new; we do not want to be anything like before, but in actuality we are not. The ability to situate them in relation to those who came before, humanizes those people for me because as it has been done in the past in another form, it will probably be done in the future in another form.

As for the Barenaked Ladies’ song above, it has nothing to do with this post, except for the title, but it is catchy as hell!

Death to Punk

I bet you were thinking I wanted Punk music to die. Nope. This is about the upcoming documentary about the band who predated Punk, Death. Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1971, the band consisted of three Hackney brothers, Bobby, David, and Dannis. Starting off as an R&B group, they switched to rock in 1973 after seeing an Alice Cooper show. The group recorded several demos at United Sound and received attention from Columbia Records executive, Clive Davis, however, Davis was not comfortable with their name and stopped giving support. Death released copies of “Politician In My Eyes” with “Keep on Knocking” on their Tryangle label, but later discontinued as Death in 1976, right before the Punk era began.

The brothers formed other bands after that, including The Fourth Movement, a gospel rock band, and reggae band Lambsbread. Sadly, David died in 2000 from lung cancer, and was replaced by Bobbie Duncan from Lambsbread when Death reformed in 2009, after the label Drag City released the seven 1974 Death songs. In January 2011, Drag City released another album, “Spiritual • Mental • Physical,” which consist of songs from earlier demos. The documentary about the band, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” tells their story and how they are finally getting recognition as a protopunk band after 35 years. In addition to that, Bobby Hackney’s sons are part of a band called Rough Francis, who do tributes to Death and were vital in getting out the word about the band.

Death – Politician In My Eyes

NPR interviewMetro Times article and Suicide Girls interview

“Down Down Baby, Down Down the Roller-coaster”

Do any of you remember that hand-clapping game when you were younger? Now, think of the Nelly song “Country Grammar.” They sound familiar, don’t they? When I heard “Country Grammar” for the first time a decade ago, I did not realize the connection. But this week I finished reading Kyra Gaunt‘s “The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes From Double Dutch to Hip-Hop” and she made it clear. Gaunt is an ethnomusicologist, singer, public speaker, social entrepreneur, author and associate professor at my college, Baruch.

Her 2006 book discusses the relationship between young Black girls’ hand-clap games, cheers and Double Dutch jump rope, and male-dominated Black popular music, especially Hip-Hop. Gaunt concentrates on how Black music and Black girl play relies a lot on “kinetic orality” and embodied musical learning (dance, body movements and gestures). This leads into the gendered power dynamics of Black girl play and male-oriented Black popular music. Often it is overlooked in its contribution to Black popular music due to it being a predominately local (instead of public, mass media product), oral (instead of recorded or transcribed), and female-oriented sphere. So, Black girls as they grow up tend to abandon these games and female performers hardly ever use them in their music. However, several adult male performers have used these rhymes and rhythms in their songs, both past and present. Maybe if that was recognized, Black women would have more of a voice in Black music genres, like Hip-Hop, which have offered us limited access and participation in these fields. I encourage you to add this to your summer reading list. By the way, here is another example of how Black girls’ hand-clap games are used in Hip-Hop.

Mos Def- Ghetto Rock

“Work songs that the slaves sang back then
The playground chants, with little girls clapping

[Chorus 2: Mos Def + (Girls chanting)]
Black Jack Johnson N.Y.C., R-O-C-K-I-N-G
Sun and the moon, earths, stars, and planets
Before the song’s done y’all gonna all understand it
Black Jack Johnson N.Y.C., R-O-C-K-I-N-G
Sun and the moon, earths stars and planets
Before the song’s done y’all gonna all understand it”


The Sankofic Now: Reimagining the Past + Manifesting the Future

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