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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,jeff Have blacks rejected blues? (100* d) RE: Have blacks rejected blues? 08 Jan 11

My wife and I were invited to a bar-b-cue by a co-worker of hers who happens to be black. His wife asked that I bring my guitar as she knew I played. After the food, drink conversation, etc. the cds came on and eveyone danced or played catch w/water balloons.

We were the only white people there and my wife's co-worker turned off the dj booth and asked me to play. You can imagine the intimidation as I was well-versed in country blues, blues, celtic, bluegrass but have never played before an entirely black audience. And certainly never following a DJ set that no one wanted interrupted. We're all outside w/no PA system and I'm sitting on a picnic table. Everyone was looking at me like, "Ok, show us somethin', white boy.'

That being said I kicked it off w/Ray Charles' 'Hallelueah I Love Her So'. It was joy and shouting from the first verse on and every song no matter what the style was met with acceptance and enthusiasm. When I played Andy M. Stewart's 'Donegal Rain' one could only hear me and a nearby highway. Doing a ballad outdoors is a big risk, but there was rapt attention as the lyrics unfolded. I played 'til my fingers bled. About 2 hours...they wouldn't let me stop. Gospel, blues. Motown, Stax...everything. One guy hollered out, "Hey man, play somethin' about you." So, I played an original and it was met w/acceptance as well.

Afterward several youngsters came up and told me they had never appreciated their parents' and grandparents' 'grown folks' music' until they heard me. I was touched, somewhat embarassed and honored. Others thanked me for 'schoolin' their children. I was told several times I was 'a bad man'. High praise. Some of the kids wanted to hold my guitar and I let some flail away and showed others some chords. Who knows what will come of the musical exchange. It was all very human.

The point I'm trying to make is that alot of young people will reject their parents' 'everything' for one reason or another including music as they make their way through puberty, adolescence and young adulthood. It's a natual outgrowth of separation and self-definition. That bar-b-cue was a cultural revelation for me as I rejected Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Patty Page, etc. in lieu of the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, John Hartford, etc. Then as a more experienced and matured musician I came back to 'the standards' w/a greater appreciation as I learned previously rejected material for 'casuals', etc.

So, I think it's a matter of exposure in the right venue or context that sets the lightbulb off, regardless. And it would seem it's not a rejection of the blues out of hand in as much as it's a lack of relevance to a given, young black person's experience and perception as the world relates to them and vice-versa.

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