Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Dear David Brooks,
Normally, I would be content to observe brother driftglass dismantling your political playhouse in the digital square from afar, with pipe and a frosty beverage close at hand...But evidently you have chosen to step into a domain of mine, perhaps seeking shelter from that unforgiving storm in vain.
Frankly, upon first reading, I can't determine how much of this opinion piece is your own, and how much comprises the thoughts of Steven Van Zandt...The ancient scribes trick of paraphrasing the interviewee obliquely seems to be in effect.
Nevertheless, 'one goes to war with the quotes they have', so to speak.
"It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles."
Where, and by whom, exactly?
Some emo kid who thinks System Of A Down is an oldies act?
The history of American music is 'African-American styles' wrapped like a big pink bow with the white folks (among others) who emulate them for love or money.
Perhaps some teen-something brain, ravaged by TRL can pretend otherwise while Carson Daly whispers sweet nothings into their wallet, but certainly not anyone with more than a passing glance toward sophistication.
Without African-American styles, you've got no Jazz, no Blues, no Funk, no R & B Soul, no Hip Hop, no New Country and about one quarter tank of Rock and Roll...That leaves hillbilly hollers, Doris Day, and Classical Gas.
Not exactly the Sound of Young America, now is it?
And indeed, inferring that the creator of Sun City is 'inappropriate or even immoral' (as you have surely done) shows a certain offhandedness toward the purported source of your information.
Then that loaded statement is bookended with, "And there’s the rise of the mass educated class.People who have built up cultural capital and pride themselves on their superior discernment are naturally going to cultivate ever more obscure musical tastes."
Is this snootspeak for 'they done got themselves broadened', or what?
What exactly constitutes 'cultural capital' in the dog's breakfast of North American entertainment pursuits?
And does this mean that hifalutin' edumacated types can turn up their nose at that dirty old Rock & Roll upon drinking from the sacred chalice of higher learning?
Sadly, I don't see an uptick in sales of chamber music or Urdu throat-singing commensurate with this assumption.
Yet grimy Rock artists celebrating their fourth decade in the marketplace soldier on, gamely cashing royalty cheques from their third and fourth generation fans.
Then we get to a strong declarative, indeed.
"He argues that if the Rolling Stones came along now, they wouldn’t be able to get mass airtime because there is no broadcast vehicle for all-purpose rock."
Now, now, pay no attention to Clear Channel outlets, for one, playing Nickelback and other current AOR fare into the ground - that might cause an upset.
Oh, and that classic-rock radio thing spinning Mr. Van Zandt's erstwhile employer hourly, among other moldy goldie oldies? Just a fad.
One of the biggest reasons for an artist's lack of radio access is shared with Radio by the dinosaurs of major recording labels, stuck squarely in a tar pit of their own making...Rather than cultivating increased sales through prudently nurtured diversity, Radio and Majors gamble all their resources on overhyped pre-fab stars and familiar warhorses desiring continued relevancy, in a joint quest for the perfect storm of traffic building.
This their CEO tells them so from high atop their thrice-counted bean hills, while an artist-friendly internet thrives and expands beyond their skittering, petty reach.
Of late, a variant of the same paradigm is playing itself out in the current Hollywood labor difficulties and, (barring the greed and desperation of those who assume a union membership promises them employment without the responsibilities of safeguarding it) will likely come to the same eventual denouement.
To sum up...If the culture beat is your new assignment, Mr. Brooks, please...Quit your day job.