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Friday, April 29, 2005

Musical Political Influences

This is another gravitational pull-up. And here I am completely stumped.

Little musical background info here:
My favorite band growing up was Devo. Then I was all about Prince. Then Al Green. (Okay, to be honest, I did go through an A-Ha phase, but it was short!) Interspersed with all this was a steady love of Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and Boz Scaggs specifically, and old Motown generally. Then I entered a rap phase and loved De la Soul and Digital Underground until Gangsta rap ruined rap for me for a while until MC Paul Barman came along. Finally came the D'Angelo, who I found to be a combination of Prince and Al Green and I was like- whoa!!!- I practically worshipped the guy, but to be honest, I was going through a little period of Extasy use when I discovered him and quite a few of my best D'Angelo moments involve E and women on E and soft sheets and sweat, so I don't know if he should count. I still get flashbacks if I listen to him while stoned. Now I dig Alicia Keys and thassabout it.

There are politcal messages in the music I've loved, yet I have no musical influences on my politics. The idea is absurd to me. The overtly political bands actually just annoy me, especially the mad ones. I imagine pissed off middle-class adolescents with no philosophy and too much time on their hands; they are mad at the world because they have little money and can't get laid. They make up songs by paraphrasing leftist cliches and voice their frustration and get some booty from dumb girls who call their whining angst. They think the approval of these poor girls (well, it could be worse for the girls, they could be Hell's Angels or Black Panthers groupies instead of whining skinny dorf groupies) validates their political message, build a swagger that a whole new group of idiots associates with talent, and now they are making money AND getting laid. This new group which mistakes talent's swagger for talent ('cause they're too inexperienced to know real talent) now mistakes talent(lessness in this case) for political acumen.
Next think you know people are saying The Clash was a band full of political genius. No. Sorry. Here's an example of their political genius.

o get back to work an' sweat some more
The sun will sink an' we'll get out the door
It's no good for man to work in cages
Hits the town, he drinks his wages
You're frettin', you're sweatin'
But did you notice you ain't gettin'?
Don't you ever stop long enough to start?
To take your car outta that gear.

LOL! And I can only think that a teen might like that because he/she thinks there is a hidden truth there... Hidden from who? His/her parents and their whole generation, right? That teen never quite realized that it isn't hidden, it is a series of sophomoric cliches his parents ignore, or dismiss as ignorant and rude. One day he will learn what his parents know- that parents who actually work and live the life these never-held-real-job-musicians think they are exposing know that their lives are fuller and richer and more COMPLICATED than a series of bass backed cliches can express. But what really pisses me off is the snob quotient:

Compare the above lyrics to this:

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it's queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Frost's narrator is different than The Clash's. He is not a snob who thinks he is beyond or above hard work and/or duty, or that he's smarter than everybody who has made choices he would not make. He is fully aware of the circumstances of his life, and wishes to end his life, but he will persevere. He is dignified and noble, quiet and strong, though tired. Here he is, stopped, preparing to start again. To me this poem answers The Clash's question very well, and provides a bit of a lecture.

"You don't know everything, kid. You don't know shit. Someday you'll be a man. Until then you'll be a child, and that isn't your fault. But it is your fault that you're whining like a little bitch. If you were just a little bit humble, you'd realize you don't know everything, and shouldn't judge so harshly, those whose shoes you've never tried on, much less walked in."

I was never one of those kids who thought I was smarter than everybody. My sister, 7 years my elder, was. She was also a Deadhead. I think she cured me, well, vaccinated me, so I could not let my politics be influenced by musicians. I don't think I would have been one of those kids, anyway, though. I mean I was sort of... vacant... Up until I was about 27 the world was the sun- I kept looking at it and kept getting dazed, only to walk around dizzy for a while before I looked again.


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