Run DMC: Run for It

DESPITE WHAT you may have read, there is no such thing as a monolithic black American style. The attempt to pigeonhole black creativity into narrow avenues of economic and emotional predisposition is nowhere more apparent than in music, where mavericks must overcome tremendous commercial bias. With rap music, which barrelled out of America’s urban environments in the late Seventies, full of the sass and sexual vigor that had all but vanished from disco, commercial acceptance was slow but inevitable. While rock reworked creaky cliches and disco lay dying, the energetic, agile imaginations that animated street-party music were having big fun. Aggressive young Jewish and Italian entrepreneurs who’d capitalised first on the girl group era, then on disco, were now — as critic Aaron Fuchs once put it — selling quickie rap records out of the backs of their station wagons. Continue reading “Run DMC: Run for It”

Pablo Moses’s Acid Reign

RASTA IDEOLOGY has always been profoundly Spenglerian. The German philosopher’s contention that our parasitic, capital-based machine age will be defeated by “another power, not by a principle,” certainly echoes Rasta belief. What Oswald Spengler called “Caesarism” could well be construed as Rastafari, and the conflict he foresaw between blood and money, where “the master-will subdues again the plunderer-will,” is certainly on the agenda of the Rasta Armageddon. Continue reading “Pablo Moses’s Acid Reign”

Confronting Marley’s Legacy

King Tut was playing Munich when I arrived in January of 1981 to pay my last respects to Bob Marley. I remember well because I passed the museum on the way to Dr. Issels’s cancer clinic. The synchronicity was impressive: the sarcophagus and golden relics of an Egyptian king (who also died young) being in Germany while the King of Reggae was struggling against his own mortality. Continue reading “Confronting Marley’s Legacy”

Kid Creole & the Coconuts: To the Life Boats

“Strange, how potent cheap music is.”
— Noel Coward, Private Lives

AUGUST DARNELL, master of glib sophistry, is back again. Look over last year’s notices: amid the wisecracks, the nonsense and the slander there are glimmers of truth . . . but nothing that even vaguely resembles a straight answer. The Kid Creole world is rich in innuendo and intelligence, but few writers have come close to describing the Real Deal. It is neither tea party nor revolution, so neither the party crowd nor the revolutionaries have properly assessed its triumphs and its failures. Continue reading “Kid Creole & the Coconuts: To the Life Boats”

Kitty Cornered

All By Myself: A musical portrait of Eartha Kitt.
Produced and directed by Christian Blackwood.
Released by Blackwood Productions Inc.
At Film Forum 1, (57 Watts Street. 431-1590.)
May 4-17

The camera has never been invited to witness Greta Garbo’s isolate, genteel decline; and when Marlene Dietrich reappeared a while ago in Just a Gigolo, long time fans were mildly appalled: was this the woman who’d immortalized “Hot Voodoo” in Blonde Venus? Similarly, people with fond memories of Eartha Kitt in St. Louis Blues (1958) or Anna Lucasta (1959) may be of two minds about Christian Blackwood’s biographical documentary, All by Myself. It is, by anyone’s reckoning, a strange film; part Grey Gardens intrusion and part Grand Guignol illusion. Continue reading “Kitty Cornered”

August Darnell and the Creole Perplex

“The dominant feeling of the black poet is one of malaise, better still of intolerance. Intolerance of reality because it is sordid, of the world because it is a cage, of life because it has been stolen on the high road of the sun.”– Aime Cesare, “Introduction à la poésie negre américain” (Tropics # 2, 1941).

Continue reading “August Darnell and the Creole Perplex”

The Black Music Association Movement of Jah People

DURING A DEFINITIVE rendition of “Exodus” which capped an hour-long show by the Wailers, Stevie Wonder joined Bob Marley on stage and moved 2,000 members of the Philadelphia-based Black Music Association to their feet in a visceral optimism so strong that for a palpable moment all the tensions and doubts provoked during last week’s conference seemed resolved. Music has been known to do that. Continue reading “The Black Music Association Movement of Jah People”