In the mid-60s I gravitated to playing delta blues, country blues. Over the years I got to hear some of the legends, even talk with a few but this was not music embraced by many people of color. Jazz, yes and R&B…but in this time of emerging civil rights and racial pride, blues seemed declasse, lower caste, primitive. So I didn’t learn my music from my people. I learned it from Bob Zaidman and Arlen Roth. Eddie Simon (Paul’s brother) opened the Guitar Study Center in NY. Today you can go on Youtube and view dozens of masters giving you the minutia, the intricacies of chords, phrasing, the whole 9 yards. Back then, we’d go to the Village, sit around the fountain, trading licks…until tableture came along
Some young Brits also admired the intensity and passion of blues. They later formed groups like Cream, The Yardbirds, the Stones. Was their interpretation exploitative, disrespectful? Would Muddy Waters or BB King have ever spoken out against them? Hell no, those kids gave contemporary relevance to the genre and made many careers possible. Musicologists named John Hammond and Alan Lomax traveled the South to record and document country blues. I’m saying anyone’s culture can be validly examined and depicted by anyone else. Only relevant question: Is The Work good?
I’m writing this in a time of recent comments by Spike Lee about DJANGO, a film by Quentin Tarantino
Let’s talk about this shit, a’iiite? I am a content creator. I am also a content consumer. Don’t feel conflicted. Some of you are insiders, some are civilians. Spike Lee has created a discussion with remarks critical of QT and DJANGO. He hasn’t seen it, says he won’t. OK, Spike is an accomplished artist and entitled to his opinion. If you watch ANY QT film and don’t find something offensive or uncomfortable, Q would probably be disappointed. Art is meant to provoke, stir the pot, to generate discussion. If Ben Afleck were a Tea Party fan, I would still watch his work..because he is a fine filmmaker. Any artist that creates to gain the approval or satisfy anything other than his own sensibilities is pandering, not creating. You can’t dismiss Bigelow’s work on combat simply because she is a woman; judge her by her storytelling ability. Similarly, work by gay artists on straight themes (or straight artists on gay themes) requires the same standards: is the work good, it is authentic, does it resonate? I’ve suggested that a different viewpoint is often helpful to generate work that mines new veins of understanding.
This is not a discussion about the relative merits of DJANGO. I’m talking about the propriety of one artist marginalizing another artist. How do you feel about that?