How Music Killed Racism

in music •  2 years ago


Before I even get started, let me say that racism in America will never disappear completely. So, if you're one of those hyper-sensitive people that looks for evidence no matter how obscure, this is not for you. I suggest, with all DUE respect, go back to your coloring and eating boogers. I'm speaking in general terms about how America was transformed from a country with predominantly racist views to one in which it had all but disappeared for all intents and purposes. Music, and more importantly, black musicians, is what/who we have to thank.

I grew up in a culture that remembered discrimination very well. I listened to older Italians talk about how they couldn't get jobs because of their nationality. I've been on my own since I was 12 or 13 living on the streets of Boston and my friends were a mixed bag of misfits who had one thing in common...The Blues. My friend Entz (whose family was from Germany) had a record player in his basement and we would gather on weekends or afternoons and listen to the greats- Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Elmore James and a host of others. Almost all of our musical "heroes" were black, so racism just didn't seem to make any sense to us.

Music was the catalyst that brought 1950's America out of it's racist coma. Values that pervaded white culture since after the War of Northern Aggression were vanishing. As the saying goes, "rock & roll was here to stay." It was driven by music that had it's roots in black culture. The blues and later jazz were products of the gospel music and "slave songs" of the American South and were perhaps the only uniquely American contribution to world culture.


Not many in my generation will ever forget sitting in a car with their girlfriend listening to Johnny Mathis to "get her in the mood." Johnny's singing transcended race and spoke to us on a much deeper level (somewhere just below the beltline in many cases). Black music was pervading America's youth culture, much to the dismay of many parents and other authority figures; but we didn't care...and we also didn't care that the musicians themselves were predominantly black.

Chuck Berry brought us Rock & Roll. Admittedly, there were many, many white R & R musicians and they were good as well, but there was something special about Chuck- he was animated! While most musicians stood and played, Chuck danced around the stage doing his now famous "duck-walk." Elvis may have come fairly close, but most of his early music was cribbed from black artists and while Chuck danced, Elvis shimmied and shook. He reminded my friends and I of an "escaped mental patient." (Not my words, you can thank Peter Christian [not his real name] for that)

As the 50's turned into the 60's the music got even better and racial barriers melted even more, despite the cries of racism by people who stood to gain themselves. The black music culture gave us Jr. Walker, the Temptations, Otis Redding, B.B. King The Four Tops and many others. Artists such as B.B. King and Otis Redding had been around for years and were being discovered by white audiences. Racism, as an institution was disappearing. There will always be instances of it somewhere, but the outright practice was all but gone. The Civil Rights Movement and ensuing legislation was made possible by black musicians who made their culture acceptable to white youth.

Next: How Politicians Brought It Back

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Great article. I live in South Africa and sadly there is more racism now, after Nelson Mandela, than before. It's closely linked to economics and politics, but the only way it's gonna go away is when we all see each other for what we really are - human beings fully deserving of dignity, respect and consideration.

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Wow, this is an old one! You're right. Mandela was a race baiter just like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton here in the US. Before Obama got elected racism here was a thing of the past. I live in the American South where we have a lot of black people and we all get along fine. In fact one of my friends is an elderly lady that works at the supermarket where I shop... we always show pictures of our grandchildren and we both support the Children's hospital.

There's big money in racism and turning the races against one another is part of the Cultural Marxist plot! Thanks... One of my favorite singing groups is from S. Africa- Ladysmith Black Mambazo... Beautiful harmonies!

We are all one under this same sky,

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Amen my friend! I've lived with all sorts of people and they only come in two sizes... Good and bad!

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Bruce Lee said it best my man.

Looking forward to your next article! Followed :)

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Thank you...will be this afternoon

Good post. Music helps progression in so many fields, and help easing racism is part of that. This post made me think of two things, one, I am surprised how prevalent racism is slightly sticking it's head out in the public more as though as it is okay https://steemit.com/life/@nc-mgtow/blacks-and-hispanics-are-the-new-american-racists

Two, something more positive, is how comic books also has been present in attempting to bridge prejudice ways of thinking. Even as of recent, just a couple of weeks ago this was in the news "Civil Rights Graphic Novel March: Book 3 Is The First Comic Book To Win A US National Book Award" Source http://www.kotaku.com.au/2016/11/civil-rights-graphic-novel-march-book-3-is-the-first-comic-book-to-win-a-us-national-book-award/

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Thank you so much! Tomorrow I'm writing about how politicians have brought it back...for fun & profit!

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I was about to mention our distinguished politicians inciting race riots. Good job covering the subject

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Thank you in advance (I haven't quite got there yet)

I thoroughly enjoyed that, I now appreciate where singers such as Prince get their funk. In my view music has always been the language of the soul, except today where that is fading for profit. Thank you for the gentle reminder, great work!

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Thank you very much...As you pointed out, the soul has no color!

Killer post earned my follow.

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Thank you so much!

Thank you so much for this post ! No one needs to oppress people because of different skin color ! African Americans brought us their culture , their music and songs . I thank them for that ! I will follow you !

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Thank you. Music was the catalyst...I watched Cadillac Records (good movie) and when Chuck Berry came on the kids took down the barrier separating them by color. That gave me the idea for the article...I started thinking about it and it was really the same for me and my friends.

As we see more of all the "races", we stop thinking that they don't exist.

Great post Rich but you are right as unfortunately racism will never stop

There's a fascinating story about a musician named Daryl Davis who has become friends with many KKK members, he also lets them borrow his tour bus for their events. He says the same thing that music can bring people together. Here's a little clip about him

oh yes .. thanks for this ... listening now to the chamber brothers and I needed this... great energy post here..woo followed

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They were/are great guys...They picked me up hitchhiking in upstate NY when I was on my way to Haight Ashbury in 66. I stayed a couple days...great fun and great times!

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seriously that is so cool I cant even tell you.. Would love an experience like that. Im a traveling musician and artist and I love meeting people, this would have been a high end life experience. kudos and congrates on that ...

Very nice post !

great post is really amazing how the music sports and the brave fight get down the racism. my blog is dadicade to music i will repost this :)

In other words, music is a market solution! Without any form of coercion whatsoever, it was able to lower barriers long before they were formally dismantled.

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I guess if you want to look at in those terms. I just saw barriers begin to disappear as black music began to mainstream.

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Think about it: Blacks had been considered second-class citizens as a whole in the deep South until at least the 1960s. When they "invented" music, they were able to please so many ears, no matter their race.

I remember an anecdote about the Rat Pack and how their black musician wasn't allowed in a hotel; Frank Sinatra just canceled the reservation altogether.

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I grew up in Boston and live in the South by choice. Boston is the most racist place I've ever seen...I don't know about prior to the 60's with the KKK and all that in the South, you're probably right but in my experience people get along much better here than anywhere else I've lived.

Fantastic read! Music will always transcend all borders!

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Wow! You must have done some digging to find that one... it's got to be over a year old!!!

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I'm a big reading lover :-)