Diversity and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


I write this as we come off the official announcements of the 2017 Rock & Roll HOF inductees.  Journey made it, as did Pearl Jam.  Excellent!  I approve.  With very limited slots, though (only 5 to 7 make it through each year) I was dismayed to see Jane’s Addiction not make the cut.  Then… supremely puzzled to see that Tupac did.  Odd.  This is under the name of ‘diversity’, but is ironically anything but that.  ‘Diversity’ doesn’t get in foreign language groups, or foreign music.  To the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Jann Wenner “Diversity” is limited to black artists, because they (wisely) want to be more inclusive of black culture… since it spawned rock and roll.

So, I am ok with that.  Ok, no I am not.  If I were, why would I be writing? If we are going to bounce Jane’s Addiction for a non rock, black only, act… why not go back to the pioneers?  How about Son House or Leadbelly?

See, if we are going to play the diversity card, and talk about how much black music and culture inspired rock and roll… let’s give those old guys credit, first.  I am talking about the actual people who inspired and invented rock and roll.  They don’t, because no 18 year old black kid (or white kid… or any kid for that matter) can relate to a 95 year old guy and some super terrible lofi recordings from 60 years ago).  They (the Rock Hall of Fame nominating committee Jan Wenner) want to be relevant to today’s youth and culture.  It is a smart and business savvy move… but that is all it is.

How can I best explain my frustration?  Better question; how can I best describe my frustration without coming across as racist?  As always, it is analogy time!

Imagine there was a rap hall of fame.  Imagine that they had the same rules as the R&R HOF… like they can only let in 5 groups a year.  Imagine, then, that NWA and Tupac were not in yet.  Imagine they were on this year’s ballot, but instead James Taylor and Neil Diamond made the cut.  How would that go over?   Go tell the black community that, although NWA are great, the Rap Hall of Fame needs diversity.  Not pertinent diversity, like Eminem, but Jimmy Buffet.

tangent alarm – 💣

Why not induct Toby Keith (who i just assume is racist, I honestly don’t know.  Between being stuck in his misogynist bars, and the great story of Kristofferson dressing him down proper… we can only assume he is also racist).  ok, I have to finish this little Toby Keith tangent.  I have been to his bars, against my will.  He has women dancing in cages in his bar.  Fucking cages!  That isn’t sexy, that is sickening.  Don’t tell me ‘they are there of their free will, they can do what they want.  They probably make good money’!  It is still wrong.  What if he dressed young black folks as slaves with manacles and such and put them in cages around the bar?  That isn’t sexy, it is fucked up.

Now do you see how dumb it is to tell me that Tupac bumps Jane’s Addiction (or… anyone)?

Can I also say I am disappointed that Bad Brains didn’t make it.  Again, you want diversity, right?  Name a black rock band.  Other than Living Color.  You can’t, racist!  If Jann wants to try and embrace and include black culture… then Bad Brains solves almost all of that.  In fact, musically… they define diversity.  They play speed metal reggae, which is also super spiritual.  Maybe that isn’t rock and roll enough?  Well, the lead singer has a history of drug abuse and arrests.  Still not rock and roll enough?  HR, the bands’ amazing and mercurial singer, also got arrested for braining an audience member with the bass of a mic stand.  Those fuckers are pure steel, and the good ones weigh a hefty 15 pounds.***

** what does the photo up top have to do with this?  It is the cover of the Clash’s ‘London Calling’.  This has nothing to do with the Clash, though, it’s just  probably the best rock photo ever taken.  That photo was not staged, and the photog was lucky  to catch it.  Remember, this is before digital photos and before ‘burst’ photography.  Basically, the photog was shooting the bass player when he happened to capture an epic meltdown.  Probably didn’t even know what she had until a few days later when he developed the film.  that photo just embodies rock and roll on every level.

*** Note how I didn’t say ‘allegedly’ braining an audience member?  That is what is fun about blogging.  I  don’t have to be careful or legal.  Well, I should… but you notice cower behind a pseudonym and stock photoallegedly.


Friday Fives – black acting school

Black History Month – we’ll keep it light

* disclosure.  This is black history month, and last week I did an edition called ‘color blind’.  Sounds like a great jumping off point for some racial discussions.  Yeah, I missed that one, and talked about car colors.  big miss by me.  This is why I have sidelined my racist editor this week and gone forward with the deal discussion you little proletariat probably have with your racist little bbqs.

** other disclosure.  As is always the case, I will refer to black, african americans as ‘blacks’.  This isn’t to be disrespectful of the culture nor the nomenclature.  It is because it takes FAR too long to type out ‘African American’.

*** last disclosure – that picture up there isn’t in black and white.  They are just so black their mere presence removes all visible light around them.

Over-rated black actor

Denzel Washington. I mean… he could be a great actor… but we’ll never know. He plays the exact same character every time. Cool, confident… a little too into himself.   Like Liam Neeson, though, his characters will fuck you up at the drop of a hat. This happens to too many actors. I call it the ‘Dennis Farina syndrome’.  That is all Al Pacino did for the last 40 years, with the exception of his awesome portrayal of Dr Kevorkian.

Under-rated black actor

Black actor who is awesome and under the radar? How about Mos Def? That isn’t his name anymore, though. He changed it. Oooh… Denver’s own Don Cheadle. Sure, he is famous, but he is much bigger acting chops than most of us realized.  I mean… how do I follow a guys career if he keeps changing his name?  I am still not totally sure what my wife’s last name is anymore.

How come there are no black rock bands?  I mean… white guys rap, right?

Great question, self. There was all kinds of great black music in the mainstream a couple of decades ago. I can think of only two. Living Color, which was a flash in the pan. The other being one of a great rock bands of all time. These guys are so black it’s silly. Bad Brains. You don’t see them anymore because their singer is nuts. Total headcase. Sad story, really.

We had Sly Stone, but he has been out of the spotlight for 40 years.  Poor guy, last report was he was homeless.

Oh, wait… there is Prince.  not sure if he counts.  His band is white, he lives in Minnesota, is a Jehovah’s witness, and is only 3 feet tall.  I should not talk shit about his purpleness… google ‘greatest guitar solo’ of all time and watch the Prince clip on ‘while my guitar gently weeps’.

Thoughts on the Tyler Perry franchise

Why is this shit loved by blacks? It looks to me to be tired tropes and stereotypes of the black experience. Why were their no black faces winning Oscars this Sunday? Well, sure the board is racist. However, what the mainstream audience has to chose from is a Tyler Perry movie. They are like Sandler movies, he can shit out 2 to 3 a year.

Al Sharpton is the self appointed public face of black issues.  Who would be the white equivalent… and not doing the job currently?

I am thinking maybe James Taylor here… the whitest of the white, and super agreeable. Or… Neil Diamond? It would have to be someone we trust, at least initially.  Perhaps the answer to that lies in this.  Someone recently piped up and said “black history month, when is white history month?’  Someone else astutely and quickly piped up ‘the other 11 months’.

I am not anti Sharpton, either.  He is the first guy in the public eye who stood up and said what I have been saying for years… gay marriage is a civil rights issue.  He talked about this openly when running for president.  I was so impressed.  See, to say gays can’t marry (to me, and Al, anyway) is the same as saying ‘tall people can’t get married’, or ‘gingers can’t get married’.  That thing about Gingers… I mean… we all think it, right?   Doesn’t mean you say it out loud, though.

Lastly, I should let you in on this.  The title is a reference to this classic bit from Robert Townshends’ ‘Hollywood Shuffle’.  It’s where he teaches actors to act black(er).  it is genius, and easily up there with Eddie Murphy’s ‘White like me‘.

Friday Fives – another cop out edition

Ok reader, I don’t have anything good for this week.  So, I will do what I always do in this situation.  I will put my music on full random and tell you my relationship with the first 5 or so songs that come up.  Once I did this last year, and I killed Amy Winehouse.

Smashing Pumpkins – in the arms of sleep > Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Basically, this song is filler.  For filler, it is quite good.  This album is a landmark in rock, and a landmark for me.  It was the growing up and maturing of both Billy and myself.  I have had an amazing relationship with this band.  if you know me, you already know that.  For years, my goal was to meet Billy in person and thank him for Siamese Dream.  I finally got to do that when he was touring with this terrible book of poetry.  Still, I love him, and all the Pumpkins music.

Pearl Jam – Bee Girl – unreleased

This is a bootleg that has circulated for some time.  It’s a cool story, too.  The song was in improvised ditty by Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready doing an appearance at a radio station.  Ed was knee deep is his “I don’t want to be famous anymore” phase.  This song is a cautionary tale told to the girl who danced in the Blind Melon video for ‘No Rain’.  The band finally released it on their ‘Lost Dogs’ double disc, but I am not counting that.  This song, if legend is to be believed, was recorded at the same radio station as ‘Yellow Ledbetter’.  Ledbetter is one of the most iconic songs of the band, and it never had an official studio version.  it still doesn’t, yet it has become one of their biggest songs that ends nearly every show.  Pearl Jam was very cool to allow taping and trading of live show. So, we all knew about this song ten years before it was ever acknowledged by modern radio.

Bonus silliness > absolutely no one can tell what Ed is singing in this song.  This is because he changes the lyrics often to suit his mood.  Since there is no official version of the song, there are no printed lyrics.  There are, however, lots of misheard lyrics.  Enjoy!

Bad Brains – She’s Calling You – I against I

Bad Brains are amazing, and incredibly unique.  They are a group of black rastafarians who sing speed metal… with a reggae feel thrown in.  It’s too strange and wonderful to explain, so click here for a clip.  Their heydey was in the 80’s, but they are still together.  They have never crossed over to radio play, but I don’t blame ‘the man’ for that.  I blame their lead singer.  HR is legendarily self destructive and just an all around asshole.  He even attacked a fan at a show with a mike stand… the bottom of one.  Ended him up in jail again, which forced Madonna to drop them from her label.

However, interesting story about HR and jail.  Their song ‘Sacred Love’ was reportedly recorded over a prison phone during one of HRs MANY stints in jail.  It is a powerful and beautiful vocal.  I think the modern era knows Bad Brains due to the Beastie Boys.  The Beasties were raised on the sounds of Bad Brains.  So, when the Beasties hit is really big with ‘Ill Communication’, they took Bad Brains on tour with them.  This was Beastie’s touring on Sabotage at the top of their game.  However, that was a terrible era for Bad Brains.  HR decided he only wanted to play trumpet and do reggae.  So, while they had a chance of re-conquering a new generation, HR blew it again.

Also, I hate to sound like a hipster douche by saying I knew about them long before then, but I did.  We can credit Ezra for that.  Before we would go out and party in high school, we would spool up ‘I Against I’ and pound cans of Keystone to get us ready for our epic adventures.

The Story – Brandi Carlile – live a Benaroya

Brandi Carlile is awesome, and this is her signature song in every sense.  I can’t say enough good things about this song.  So, just go here and dig it.  Also, she has an album by the same title.  Buy it now, I am cereal!  Watch the passion and the fire in that performance linked above.  it is SICK.  I had the good fortune to see her live, and it was incredibly impressive.  In fact, all of the bands mentioned on this page I have seen live.  A lot.  Probably seen the Pumpkins 10 times, Pearl Jam 10 times, Bad Brains 4 times, and Brandi one, and the Allmans’ probably about 20 times.

Allman Brorthers – Old Before My Time – Hitting the Note

This is a recent album, at least by the standards of the Allmans.  This album is really really good.  I see no reason not to call this their best album ever.  Interesting to note, this album is all Warren Haynes.  He sings a few songs, but he wrote them all.  Here is what is weird.  I am a lifelong Allmans’ fan, having seen them every year since high school.  I still can’t tell when I am listening if I am hearing Greg or Warren.  It’s also important to note that Warren is the hardest working guy in music.  He works fulltime for the Allman Brothers, the Dead, Govt Mule, and the Warren Haynes band.  Back about ten years ago, I saw the Allmans’ open for the Dead at the Gorge.  Both bands are well known for their long sets.  Warren was out there for nearly 6 hours playing for both bands.

* now, lets see you do the same.  Grab your phone, hit full random, and tell me about the first few that pop up… and (most importantly) why.