Saturday, June 9, 2012


By Cash Michaels

            BLACK MUSIC MONTH - If you want to know what’s popular in music now, just drive around with your nine-year-old daughter one day, listening to the radio.
            Lots of pop hits featuring artists, quite frankly, who can’t sing.
            But they’re selling CDs.
            One thing to take note of, however...the days of the great black singers are over.
            Gone are the Michael Jacksons, the Luther Vandrosses and the Whitney Houstons.
            And the once great singers that are still around are too old to make new records.
            So exactly where is today’s great black music coming from?
            That’s easy…THERE ISN’T ANY!
            Let’s be serious, who can you name from today’s generation of black singers who can hold a candle to treasured artists like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye? Are there any James Browns or Smokey Robinsons out there? What happened to the great girl groups? The LaBelles, Supremes and Three Degrees.
            There’s one thing our generation could count on during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, and that’s that we knew that each musical generation was creating more great artists, just by example.
            So when an Alicia Keyes or India Ari give all praise and honor to the masters like Stevie and Smokey, it’s because as children, they listened to the greats with amazement, and were inspired to learn their crafts.
            Today, what is there to learn from? There is very little, if any artistry out there for young people to emulate.
            It’s sad.
            It is also sad that the songs today are pure crap, undeniable garbage. There is no great songwriting. There aren’t any great, meaningful lyrics anymore.
            What passes for black music today is trashy rap. There is no advancement of the black music culture.
            What’s more, the formula for making good black songs seems to be exploited by folks like Disney and Nickelodeon, who are making a fortune creating teeny bopper TV shows with songs that easily could have passed for black pop 30 years ago.
            And what is really funny (but sad) is listening to some of the new music on pop radio, and realizing that it really is old 80’s disco in terms of composition and beat. The proof is when the station decides to go “old school,” playing a song twenty or thirty years old.
            You really can’t tell the difference.
            That’s bad. That means that old music is definitely being recycled for today’s audiences.
            I bring all of this up because this is supposed to be Black Music month. June is supposed to be the time when we celebrate the rich history of black music, and take time to remember, if not discover, if not rediscover, the greats like Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington and Count Basie.
            We should be sharing REAL music with our children. We should breaking out the old Motown tunes by the Temptations and Tammie Terrell.
            We should be insisting that our children memorize Aretha’s, “To be Young, Gifted and Black” as an anthem of cultural and educational excellence.
            And we should remind ourselves that the reason why the world embraces black gospel, funk, soul, pop, classic rap and of course jazz, is because they are all music of love. Some of the greatest black songs were written and produced by extraordinarily gifted white songwriters and producers like Carole King (who wrote Aretha’s classic “Natural Woman”) and the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (who penned many of Dionne Warwick’s greatest hits like “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and “There is Always Something There to Remind Me?”)
            Instead, we’re allowing our music to die on the vine.
            So I don’t know what we’re going to do this Black Music month. We’re losing one of our greatest resources, and doing little to save it.
            Trust me, when our children hear and see our vintage music, it is like opening a whole new world to them.
            I know. I spent time on YouTube with my youngest daughter, watching old video clips of Gladys Knight and the Pips, Diana Ross, Wilson Pickett and others. It was pure delight watching her get into the classics.
            That is the timeless, boundless power of black music.
            Let’s do all we can to preserve it, shall we?

1 comment:

  1. As long as the airwaves (TV & radio) are controlled by the majority, we will ALWAYS be a minority. That honor comes with exploitation of our fine product and the limited reach we have when radio and TV are in firmly in the control of others' hands. Black music is NOT dead. It's just not getting the mass exposure we enjoyed when we were free to express ourselves. Now that a black president is "in power," the powers that really be don't wish to give us more. That's why we don't have the powerful voices we used to have. One more thing: If OUR powers that be - the Cathy Hugheses the Suttons, the Stevie Wonders who still own a handful of stations - would act as REGIONAL A&R by exploiting WHATEVER we create musically rather than a puny black/urban Top 40 list, we'd rule! Blacks used to be prognosticators of where music was headed, now we're the beheaded! Gary D. Jackson