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Why don’t black folks listen to rock?

Loosely accompanies Gab & Jam,

319. Why don’t black folks listen to rock?

A recent Living Colour quote on X prompted today’s discussion. We’ve talked about issues related to entertainment and race before, but we have YET to ask a question that is always hanging out in the atmosphere.

We’ve talked about issues related to entertainment and race before–like appropriation vs. appreciation ( ) and the “urban music” category nonsense (  ) –but we have YET to ask a question that is always hanging out in the atmosphere. 

Check out the episode for the full discussion.

Here are thoughts to ponder: ⭐️

1. Check out the Living Colour quote

This is where we started the idea for this episode. While the Black Rock Coalition (formed in 1985) was set up to encourage rock listeners to tune into black rock bands, we thought the more interesting conundrum is why more Black folks don’t listen to the music they created.  Let us explain…

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2. All American music have black origins

Not just rock, but blues, jazz, funk, country all have African American roots.  According to Grand Valley College’s publication, Lanthorn, “The most direct evolution into rock ‘n’ roll came through the rhythm and blues type songs played during the 1940s and 1950s which the record companies called “race music.” But the same can be said about many of these other emerging genres, including blues, jazz, funk, country.  In fact, Ken Burns’ documentary, “Country Music,” he says as much. In a Time Magazine article, it says that, “Burns shows that, just like in rock, jazz and pop, every facet of country — from its instrumentation to repertoire to vocal and instrumental techniques — is indebted to African and African-American traditions.” Though it doesn’t seem that younger generations are aware of this reality does not change what history teaches us about it.  –In fact, the banjo—which is often a core component of country music—is an African instrument, but it is rare to see African American artists playing it and, instead, many people may assume that, because it is associated with country music, it has European origins.  Therefore, it is sad that artists, like Living Colour, are accused of playing “white” music.

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3. Early rock artists give the nod

According to THIS article, any artists, like the Rolling Stones, give credit to being “awestruck” by blues artists and using these influences to create their own music. This has never been a secret.  But, even though white artists acknowledge that they were inspired by blues artists, but it does not seem to help many blacks from calling rock “white” music.

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4. Many safeguard the origins of rap

While we “protect” rap as having black origins, we ignore that these other forms of music have similar origins. Many rap enthusiasts are sometimes dismissive if anyone other than black artists are competing to be the “best” rap artists. According to an article, “But as more white artists began to make a name for themselves on the radio, some, like Bubba Sparxxx, acknowledged that there is a very fine line to walk as they contribute to the genre they love without appropriating the Black culture that created it.” White rappers are accused of “appropriation,” while that cry is A LOT less prevalent when it comes to rock, country, and jazz.  Though there are MANY reasons for why this sea change has come about, it DOES beg the question as to WHY rap is more fiercely protected than any other form of music originated by black creators?

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The bottom line….

Though all forms of American music were pioneered by African Americans, you would be hard pressed to find many American blacks who have bought it, who listen to it, and/or have gone to see it performed live. Therefore, groups like Living Colour struggled to continue their success and owed MANY of their accolades from entertaining mostly white audiences. 


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Did you know that along with putting together our next album, we are working on our first book? Here’s the link, if you want to pre-order:

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