Friday, September 2, 2011

No Heavy Lifting

This was the closing track of the original cassette from 1981. When we did the CD in 2003 it became the "hidden" track for reasons that were clear to me then but not so much now. While Arlene plays randomly, Steve and I share a joke and I consider breaking out my electric guitar. Although Steve supports the idea, I ultimately decide that it's not worth the effort after (apparently) opening a closet door. It's not really a song - it's just a moment. Le Bonx is an album of moments.

I'm always amused when I see my albums online or in catalogs filed under "Soul". That's always a dead giveaway that the filer looked at the cover picture and made an assumption. "Oh, it's a black guy", I can hear them thinking, "so it's gotta be either blues or soul".

 I was inspired to pick up the guitar by the Beatles and from there I went to Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Neil Young and on down the "white guy with a guitar" highway.  Because I am a black man people don't expect my music to sound like it does and sometimes they unthinkingly point it out: "You don't sound black". I hate that as much as I hate it when people tell me "You don't look black" because I have light skin. I hate it but I understand where it comes from. I'm not going to go all psycho-social here but our society breaks things down along racial lines pretty clearly - especially music. I'm a black man who writes and plays "white" music. One guy even told me, after hearing the Le Bonx tape: "You're like a punk Charlie Pride!" (Charlie Pride was - well, is - a black country singer who was quite popular in the 70's. He's got his own theater Branson now).

I've also been told: "You don't talk black". I remember an incident that happened when I was a telephone operator. A customer called the office manager to complain that an operator had been rude to her. When the manager asked for a description of the offending person's voice the customer replied: "It was a black man". So the manager rounded up all of the black male operators who were on duty when the incident occurred. There were 4 of us - and our voices were not even remotely similar. I asked the manager what a black man sounded like and she of course had no answer for me. It turned out that offender, although black, was actually a woman.

I'm not going to make any profound statements here about racism - it exists and it's everywhere - some members of my own extended family don't speak to me because I married a white woman - but like Popeye says : "I yam what I yam". To some, I'm a musician and songwriter and to others I'm a Black musician and songwriter. Whatever. I will continue to make my music and leave it others to define what they hear.

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