What has always struck Black observers of this phenomenon isn’t just the irony of white America fiending for Blackness when it once debated whether Africans even had souls. It’s also the way They have always tried to erase the Black presence from whatever Black thing They took a shine to: jazz, blues, rock and roll, doo-wop, swingdancing, cornrowing, antidisimanation (sic) politics, attacking Dead Men, you name it.

Readers of Black music history are often struck by the egregious turns of public relations puffery that saw Paul Whiteman crowned the King of Swing in the 1920s, Benny Goodman anointed the King of Jazz in the 1930s, Elvis Presley propped up as the King of Rock and Roll in the 1950s, and Eric Clapton awarded the title of the world’s greatest guitar player (ostensibly of the blues) in the 1960s. Whatever Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chuck Berry, B. B. King, and other African-American pioneers thought about these coronations, they seem to have wisely kept between pursed lips—at least until Little Richard declared himself “the architect of rock and roll” rather than announce the winner at a late-eighties Grammy Awards ceremony. The same market forces that provided Caucasian imitators maximum access to American audiences through the most lucrative radio, concert, and recording contracts of the day also fed out whatever crumbs Black artists could hope for in the segregated American entertainment business.

–Greg Tate

(via the dopest ethiopienne)


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