Tuesday, July 7, 2015

only the music got away clean

"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before."
> Edgar Allan Poe
   1809 - 1849

Last week, reading from Peter Guralnick's book Sweet Soul Music, typed here a quotation from U.K. writer Clive Anderson:  good musicology-writing, except one point we couldn't agree with -- he said, "it is a completely vocal art..."  Rmmh -- the instruments playing are important too.  (Try to imagine Aretha Franklin's "Respect" without the

STRROMM!  wong-wong-wong!

at the beginning...)

According to the Muscle Shoals documentary, Aretha found her sound working with the studio musicians in Rick Hall's F.A.M.E. Studio.  "The Swampers," they were named -- later, by Duane Allman ("now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers, ooh ooh ooh...") One of these players says, in the film, "Funky was how we played, simply because -- we didn't know how to make it smooth!"

------------------------- [excerpts, Mystery Train] -----------------

It was, as Southern chambers of commerce have never tired of saying, A Land of Contrasts.  The fundamental contrast, of course, could not have been more obvious:  black and white. 

Always at the root of Southern fantasy, Southern music, and Southern politics, black Americans were poised in the early fifties for an overdue invasion of American life, in fantasy, music, and politics. 

As the North scurried to deal with the problem, the South would be pushed farther and farther into the weirdness and madness its best artists had been trying to exorcise from the time of Poe on down. 

Its politics would dissolve into night-riding and hysteria; its fantasies would be dull for all their gaudy paranoia. 

Only the music got away clean.

----------------------- [excerpt 2]

"This is the mystery of democracy," intoned Woodrow Wilson (dedicating the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born...) "that its richest fruits spring up out of soils which no man had prepared and circumstances where they are least expected. . . . "

...Historical forces might explain the Civil War, but they don't account for Lincoln; they might tell us why rock 'n' roll emerged when it did, but they don't explain Elvis....

{Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus.  Plume / Penguin.  1975}


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