“Come All You Blackface Freaks and Hillwilliams: 200 Years of Roots-Rock Revival (A Memoir)”

At my new venture, work-titled Hogeland’s Publishing WorkSpace, I’m posting what we now call a “long read”:  “Come All You Blackface Freaks and Hillwilliams: 200 Years of Roots-Rock Revival (A Memoir).” (A note on the title is in the “About” section on the other site.) Here’s the opening:

1. Coon Song

When I was in grade school, cheerful, pretty young women led me and my classmates, well-kept kids born in the 1950′s, in singing doleful lyrics set to catchy melodies. “All the world is sad and dreary,” we sang. “Gone are the days,” and “my heart is bending low.” The songs were written by Stephen Foster, the best-known American pop composer of the nineteenth century. His work had great longevity. A century after his death, I knew it by heart.

But it’s not Foster’s long survival or even his Victorian melancholy that startles my memory now. It’s his most enduring theme. I was born after Brown v. Board of Education. When the first Civil Rights Act of the 1960′s was signed I was entering the fourth grade. Yet throughout my childhood I sang of black people’s unquenchable longing for their days in slavery.  Read more…

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The HoundBlog and John Lee Hooker

The Hound hears more in John Lee Hooker’s best work than I do, and this has got to be right:

…he was not only one of the most famous blues singers of all time, he really was probably the most primitive artists to sell a lot of records.

Well observed, that, based on a deep history of vernacular recording. The Hound’s whole post makes me want to re-explore the (non-crap) JLH. I’m also intrigued by the Hound’s remarking casually

… the group of record collectors and fans that grew up in the eighties and nineties know all about obscure acts like Esquerita and Kid Thomas but don’t own one John Lee Hooker (or Lightnin’ Hopkins or Jimmy Reed) record.

Happy to learn that the kids (i.e., record freaks in their thirties and forties) know all about Esquerita. Startled by the current obscurity especially of Hopkins.

Boogie, chillen.

Rock and roll can never die

I’m happy to see not-especially-penetrating historical descriptions of rock and roll now casually defining it as arising in the 1940’s. (Here, for example, and here, and here.) Because that’s right.

History helps clarify. Everybody admits that Alan Freed started talking about rock and roll in ’51 — but doesn’t that sort of have to mean that, as a surging creative force, the thing was already over by then?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of course, says otherwise, telling the pre-chewed story we think we already know. Getting it wrong is what halls of fame are for.