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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
chet w what if...? (50) RE: what if...? 11 Jan 98


My original message was meant to be a real hypothetical. The "hot" folk acts of the fifties and sixties never made any real money by today's standards. I mean it's great if your creative activities (like performing music) can pay your rent and buy your food and clothes, as it did for Pete Seeger and the Kingston Trio and such. My question is, if the money started rolling in by the millions and the music didn't have to change to suit consumers, would the performers themselves be changed by their new fame and fortune? I guess it would vary from person to person. I recently saw Bob Dylan in concert and his music, his performance, everything was still first-rate. (There were 35 dollar T-shirts for sale in the lobby, though, along with caps,pins, even CD cases, but not a single recording.) I guess I really wonder how it would affect me. I don't think I'd start to tailor my music to mass consumers, but who knows?As for the jazz guys, it wouldn't have made any difference if they had changed their music in those days. In most cases (Benny Goodman AND the Gershwins are prime exceptions), the buying decisions of consumers were very much based on non-musical attitudes. Imagine how it must have felt when Elvis started getting rich doing what black performers had been doing for years. And in still more recent times, remember (I wish I didn't) The New Kids on the Block a few years ago? Their own manager, who was black himself, said that he had been searching for years for white kids who could sing and dance like the black kids that had been doing the same thing, because he knew that he'd make millions of dollars, and he did.Even more recently, the biggest selling rappers (I hate them all. I am a teacher at a school for incarcerated youth. Rap is the soundtrack of failure, criminality, and early death) were Vanilla Ice and the Beastie Boys, the only white practitioners of that vile genre on the market.Did you know that in the fifties, people like Little Richard and Fats Domino had to issue their records with white people on the cover just so parents would let their kids bring them in the house? I guess the point is, at some point, that the consuming public has never been interested in artistic integrity. They just want something that makes them feel good, and right now that something is very strict conformity. A few years ago, in 1990, my wife and I were in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). It was only a year since the fall of communism and our first visit back to my wife's homeland. On the street in Prague I saw a guy wearing a very expensive-looking leather jacket with embroidery on the back that read "Harley-Davidson T-shirt". We laughed about it, realizing that he probably didn't know what it said and that the attraction was that it was evocative of America. On that visit we saw several more things like this, but haven't seen them on subsequent visits. Just before Christmas I was passing through a fancy department store in a mall here in Columbia, SC, and I saw for sale a very expensive shirt that read "Calvin Klein Jeans". I saw somebody wearing one at a music party last night. People are paying big money for the privelige of giving rich companies free advertising. I think John Prine said it best when he wrote "It's a Big Old Goofy World". Sorry to go on so long, but this is such a great place to have these discusssions.

Thanks for participating, Chet W.


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