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Blues Music in the Sixties

Blues Music in the Sixties: A Story in Black and White

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Blues Music in the Sixties
    Book Description:

    Can a type of music be "owned"? Examining how music is linked to racial constructs and how African American musicians and audiences reacted to white appropriation,Blues Music in the Sixtiesshows the stakes when whites claim the right to play and live the blues.In the 1960s, within the larger context of the civil rights movement and the burgeoning counterculture, the blues changed from black to white in its production and reception, as audiences became increasingly white. Yet, while this was happening, blackness--especially black masculinity--remained a marker of authenticity. Crossing color lines and mixing the beats of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Janis Joplin; the Newport Folk Festival and the American Folk Blues Festival; and publications such as Living Blues, Ulrich Adelt discusses these developments, including the international aspects of the blues. He highlights the performers and venues that represented changing racial politics and addresses the impact and involvement of audiences and cultural brokers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4948-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The two positions presented here, different as they may be, demonstrate the somewhat limited degree to which blues scholarship has been involved in a discussion of the music’s racial politics. Both the all-inclusive definition of the blues represented in the first quotation and the essentialist view of the genre as an exclusively black music represented in the second simplify the intricacies of race that have shaped the blues in its over one hundred years of history. To examine the changing racialization of sounds, images, and audiences associated with the blues, this book focuses on the key decade of the 1960s....

  5. 1 Being Black Twice: Crossover Politics in B. B. King’s Music of the Late 1960s
    (pp. 13-29)

    On July 29, 1969,Rolling Stonemagazine ran an ad forLive and Well, the latest recording of the blues singer and guitarist B. B. King, as well as for his appearance at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on six different dates. “Pop! goes the King,” the ad proclaimed in big letters.¹ For many readers of the magazine, this might have been the first encounter with one of the authenticated originators of blues music, which had been transformed and popularized by musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Johnny Winter. But what exactly did “going pop” and playing at...

  6. 2 Like I Was a Bear or Somethin’: Blues Performances at the Newport Folk Festival
    (pp. 30-56)

    In 1960, when the folk revival was just beginning to gather momentum, blues singer Muddy Waters appeared with his band at the Newport Jazz Festival. In an attempt to revitalize his career, Waters had just put out an album of songs associated with folk blues singer Big Bill Broonzy, but at Newport he played a rather raucous set of electric blues, including two versions of his showstopper, “I Got My Mojo Working.” Yet, when a photographer asked Waters to pose for the album cover of his recorded set, he left his electric Fender Telecaster on the stage and grabbed his...

  7. 3 Trying to Find an Identity: Eric Clapton’s Changing Conception of Blackness
    (pp. 57-77)

    When the world-famous blues guitarist Eric Clapton stumbled onstage in Birmingham, England, on August 5, 1976, and announced his support for the anti-immigration campaign of British politician Enoch Powell, many of his fans were outraged. How could a white musician who had been making his living playing black music for more than a decade endorse racist politics? Hadn’t Clapton always shown his utmost respect for and deep understanding of black music, and hadn’t he just had a number-one hit with a cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”?

    Like other musicians from the 1960s (notably members of the Rolling...

  8. 4 Germany Gets the Blues: Race and Nation at the American Folk Blues Festival
    (pp. 78-97)

    In June of 1966,Ebonymagazine published an article about the blues performer Memphis Slim and his life as an expatriate in Paris. After touring Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962, the singer and pianist had decided to stay in France. Whereas in Chicago his payment had been “rent money and grits,” Slim had now foundla bonne vie: “a six-room flat along Paris’ Boulevard Exelmans, cruises around Montmartre in his bar-equipped Jaguar Mark X, a consistent schedule of club bookings and a growing account in the Banque de France.” The pictures for the article showed the...

  9. 5 Enough to Make You Want to Sing the Blues: Janis Joplin’s Life and Music
    (pp. 98-113)

    In her appearance on theDick Cavett Showin June 1970, blues-rock singer Janis Joplin announced her decision to attend her high school reunion in Port Arthur, Texas, the following August. Arriving with her entourage and media representatives from all over the United States, Joplin attempted to grapple with the memories of her adolescence when she had been taunted and ridiculed by her classmates. She revealed to the reporters that “I was a painter, sort of a recluse in high school.” After the singer cracked jokes and talked about how she had become liberated by switching from painting to singing...

  10. 6 Resegregating the Blues: Race and Authenticity in the Pages of Living Blues
    (pp. 114-134)

    In February of 1969, white blues guitarist Johnny Winter signed with Columbia Records for an unprecedented advance of three hundred thousand dollars. Three months later,Rolling Stonemagazine ran an ad for Winter’s first Columbia album in which the albino musician appeared as “a white flame ignited by black blues.”¹ In the same year, Janis Joplin appeared on the cover ofNewsweekunder the heading “Rebirth of the Blues.”² Ostensibly, by the end of the 1960s the blues had swiftly and successfully moved from black to white in the popular imagination. Yet despite changing demographics, the blues remained deeply connected...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 135-140)

    When Republican George H. W. Bush was inaugurated as the forty-first U.S. president in January of 1989, the festivities ended with a nearly four-hour-long rhythm and blues show at the Washington Convention Center. Bush’s campaign manager Lee Atwater conceived the concert, which featured seasoned blues musicians like Willie Dixon, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Atwater himself, and even, during a brief jam session, the newly elected president playing an electric guitar inscribed “the prez.” TheNew York Timesreported that the evening, despite its title “Celebration for Young Americans,” featured music “not widely popular among young whites or...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 141-170)
    (pp. 171-178)
    (pp. 179-182)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 183-192)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)