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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Race and the Rock Era

OK, so my ethnocentrism (that sounds more palatable than racism, doesn't it?) showed itself just now--I read a teaser on Yahoo about Rolling Stone magazine's poll of top 100 singers of the rock era. The teaser said Elvis was NOT number 1 in the poll, but rather number 3, thus inviting the reader to guess the two ranked ahead of him before clicking the article. (

I guessed two other white boys--Springsteen and Bono. Turns out the two ahead of him are both black--Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. My only, weak defense is that I read "of the rock era" as meaning "of the rock (and roll) music genre." Yeah, right, like I said, a pretty weak defense--latent racism is the more plausible explanation.

Turns out that blacks dominate the Top 10 on this poll: 1. Aretha Franklin; 2. Ray Charles; 4. Sam Cooke; 6. Marvin Gaye; 8. Otis Redding; 9. Stevie Wonder; and 10. James Brown. (The whites are 3. Elvis; 5. John Lennon and 7. Bob Dylan--in his case, using the term "singer" loosely!)

Of course, in our officially color-blind society, we can't POINT OUT in the article the dominance of blacks--it might be taken as a criticism, or a statement of black superiority, or something, so the article only points out the prponderance of dead over living artists in the top 10.

Just makes you realize that this color-blind nonsense deprives us of recognizing and enjoying the diverse colors of the human rainbow.

P.S. It's also worth noting that the poll was of industry insiders, not of readers. Had it been readers, I doubt the outcome would have reflected quite the same impact and influence of African-American singers since the mid-1950's.

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