Adding very little of substance to the scores of recent books which have analyzed black/white interaction in pop-music...



Adding very little of substance to the scores of recent books which have analyzed black/white interaction in pop-music history, Bane offers a spotty, slangy overview of black-influenced music since the Fifties. First comes a brief rundown on the pre-20th-century antecedents--emphasizing white religious music as well as the slaves' African drums (""The beat went on""). Then: a perfunctory look at black elements in Country music and a close-up of the Blues, especially as developed on Memphis' Beale Street--with some welcome specifics (interviews with blues-man Tommy Pinkston), but also with Bane's banal pseudo-poetics (""Like the wind, the blues simply exist""). And, after a short, slightly idiosyncratic recycling of the familiar rockabilly/Muddy Waters/Elvis explosion in the mid-Fifties (""A bunch of rednecks caught black music the way some people get the gospel""), Bane covers the years since in selected short-takes: the early Sixties (""Everybody, but everybody, was doing the Twist""); the Beatles (""They repackaged American rhythm and blues""); Motown (a gospel beat with enough ""class"" to appeal to whites); the ""white blues kids"" like Paul Butterfield; Janis Joplin, who ""ushered in the age of the white nigger""; Southern rock groups like the Allman Brothers; disco and Saturday Night Fever (""the white boy singing the blues had finally displaced blacks altogether""); and now, in reaction against the black sound--""self-consciously White"" New Wave music. Throughout, Bane's perceptions are not without some validity; and he avoids the easy moralizing about exploitation which often comes with this territory. But, though a few of the particular artists under discussion are relatively little-known, most of the material is second-hand (Bane frequently quotes from other, better writers); the analysis is sketchy; and the jivey, autobiographical, Rolling Stone style has rarely seemed so anemic. (""I can't recall the exact moment when I figured out that I could grow up to be a nigger, but I do remember the concept swelling my head until it was almost ready to burst. A Nigger! A nig-ger!"") Uneven treatment, then, of a theme which has quickly become a clichÉ (however true) of rock-music journalism.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981