The blues about the blues

Some kinds of music travel well – they propagate out of their native cultures very readily. American rock music and European classical music are obvious examples; they have huge followings and expert practitioners pretty much everywhere on earth that’s in contact with civilization.

Some…don’t travel well at all. Attempts to imitate them by people who aren’t native to their home culture seldom succeed – they fall afoul of subtleties that a home-country connoisseur can hear but not explain well, or at all. The attempts may be earnestly polished and well meant, but in some ineffable way they lack soul. American blues music and to a lesser but significant extent jazz are like this, which is all the more interesting because they’re close historical and genetic kin to rock.

Why am I thinking about this? Because one of the things that YouTube’s recommender algorithms make easy (and almost inevitable) is listening to strings of musical pieces that fit within what the algorithms recognize as a genre. I’ve noticed that the places where its genre recognition is most likely to break down are correlated with whether the genre travels well. So whatever I’m noticing about that distinction is not just difficult for humans but for machine learning as well, at least at current state of the art.

Most attempts at blues by non-Americans are laughable – unintentional parodies by people trying for the real thing. Not all; there was an older generation of British and Irish musicians who immersed in the form in the early Sixties and grokked it well enough to bring it back to the U.S., completely transforming American rock in the process. There are, for some reason, a small handful of decent blues players in Holland. But elsewhere, generative understanding of the heart of the blues is so rare that I was utterly gobsmacked when I found it in Greece.

I don’t know for sure, not being a home-country connoisseur, but I strongly suspect that Portuguese fado is like this. I have a pretty good ear and readily synchronize myself to different musical styles; I can even handle exotica like Indian microtones decently. But I wouldn’t go near fado, I sense a grave risk that if I tried any actual Portuguese fado fan would be politely suppressing a head-shaking he-really-don’t-get-it reaction the same way I usually have to when I listen to Eurojazz.

And Eurojazz players have a better frequency of not ludicrously failing than Euro blues players! Why? I don’t know. I can only guess that the recognition features of “real” jazz are less subtle than for “real” blues, and imitators are thus less likely to slide into unintentional parody. But since I can’t enumerate those recognition features this remains a guess. I do know timing is part of it, and there are uses of silence that are important. Eurojazz tends to be too busy, too slick.

If it’s any consolation to my non-American readers, Americans don’t automatically get it either. My own beloved wife, despite being musically talented, doesn’t have the ear – blues doesn’t speak to her, and if she were unwise enough to try to imitate it she would doubtless fail badly.

One reason I’m posting this is that I hope my commenters might be able to identify other musical genres that travel very poorly – I want to look for patterns. Are there foreign genres that Americans try to imitate and don’t know they’re botching?

And now a different kind of blues about the blues…

There’s an unacknowledged and rather painful truth about the blues, which is that that the primitive Delta versions blues fans are expected to revere are in many ways not as interesting as what came later, out of Chicago in particular. Monotonous, repetitive lyrics, primitive arrangements…but there’s a taboo against noticing this so strong that it took me over forty years to even notice it was there, and I might still not have if I hadn’t spent two days immersed in the rootsiest examples I could find on YouTube.

I found that roots blues is surrounded by a haze of retrospective glorification that (to my own shock!) it too often fails to deserve. And of course the obvious question is “Why?”. I think I’ve figured it out, and the answer is deeply sad.

It’s because, if you notice that later, more evolved and syncretized versions of the blues tend to be more interesting, and you say so, you risk making comparisons that will be interpreted as “white people do it better than its black originators”. And nobody wants that risk.

This came to me as I was listening to a collection of blues solos by Gary Moore, a now-deceased Irishman who played blues with both real heart and a pyrotechnic brilliance you won’t find in Robert Johnson or (one of my own roots favorites) John Lee Hooker. And found myself flinching from the comparison; took me an act of will to name those names just now, even after I’d been steeling myself to it.

Of course this is not a white > black thing; it’s an early vs. late thing. Recent blues players (more likely to be white) have the history of the genre itself to draw on. They have better instruments – Gary Moore’s playing wouldn’t be possible without Gary Moore’s instrument, you can get more tone colors and dynamic range out of a modern electric guitar than you could out of a wooden flattop with no pickups. Gary Moore grew up listening to a range of musical styles not accessible to an illiterate black sharecropper in 1930 and that enriched his playing.

But white blues players may be at an unfair disadvantage in the reputational sweepstakes forever simply because nobody wants to takes the blues away from black people. That would be a particularly cruel and wrong thing to do given that the blues originated as a black response to poverty and oppression largely (though not entirely) perpetrated by white people.

Yes, the blues belongs to all of us now – it’s become not just black roots music but American roots music; I’ve jammed onstage with black bluesmen and nobody thought that was odd. Still, the shadow of race distorts our perceptions of it, and perhaps always will.

94 thoughts on “The blues about the blues

  1. But the voices! There is a power to the voices of those early roots blues players that the more modern blues often lack. I think that’s what calls people to that music, not the (by modern standards) rudimentary instrumental work.

    • This. 10x

      Technical instrumental virtuosity, while impressive, isn’t something that evokes the emotions targeted by The Blues.

      • Early blues definitely has something modern blues does not. I’m not sure how to characterize it. “Grit,” perhaps. Or maybe it’s that first burst of energy from a new form? Or maybe the way the music of the best early blues players effortlessly transcends the cheap/primitive instruments they had?

        I’m not sure a purely racial interpretation is accurate here, but you sure as hell either feel it or you don’t!

        • >Or maybe the way the music of the best early blues players effortlessly transcends the cheap/primitive instruments they had?

          Huh. I think you’re on to something there. It’s true you don’t usually get the same startling feeling of diamonds emerging from the rough out of more modern performers. Though I can think of one exception, maybe – Joe Cocker singing while drunk off his ass sometimes generated a strong jolt of that. He wasn’t my choice of listening music but yeah, I get why he had fans.

          I’m thinking now of the astonishing cover of Hurt that Johnny Cash recorded shortly before he died in 2003. It doesn’t have the modal signature of the blues, but it’s a distillation of all the pain and damage of Cash’s rather colossally fucked-up life through a deliberately spare arrangement that has all the impact of Leadbelly or Robert Johnson.

          There’s an emotional tone at the heart of Portuguese fado that they call “saudade”; the word doesn’t translate well into English but its semantic field seems to encompass feelings of tragedy, damage, and irrepairable loss. There’s a lot of saudade in that Cash cover, and something closely related to it in the best roots blues – not even a feeling of having lost happiness but of never having had the possibility of it to begin with.

          “Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

          • @esr: I’m thinking now of the astonishing cover of Hurt that Johnny Cash recorded shortly before he died in 2003. It doesn’t have the modal signature of the blues, but it’s a distillation of all the pain and damage of Cash’s rather colossally fucked-up life through a deliberately spare arrangement that has all the impact of Leadbelly or Robert Johnson.

            Iconic black musician Ray Charles recorded a couple of albums of country and western, pointing out that it was “white people’s blues”. The blues expressed pain and sorrow, and that’s what the most memorable C&W did too. Various black listeners realized Ray was right, and could see the soul in C&W.

            (For that matter, there were lots of black C&W musicians, like Otis Williams and the Midnight Cowboys, or Charley Pride, whose earliest album, IIRC, made him appear to be more like a Native American on the cover shot to avoid scaring away potential white buyers.)

            >Dennis

            • “Iconic black musician Ray Charles recorded a couple of albums of country and western, pointing out that it was ‘white people’s blues’. The blues expressed pain and sorrow, and that’s what the most memorable C&W did too.”

              Absolutely true. There are C&W songs that are upbeat rather than blues, such as Walk On, but they are the exception.

              Hmm, if both the blues and C&W struggle to produce performers from outside their core regions/nations, is that a pattern emerging? Is there something about folk music that expresses the longings of a people, any people, that doesn’t translate as well as technical virtuosity?

          • >“Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

            I re-listened to Albert King’s original and a couple of covers, including Eric Clapton’s and Joe Bonamassa’s, and discovered a deep and bitter irony there. King’s 1967 original seems to me somewhat inferior to later versions, and I think it’s because King felt he had to pretty it up to be accessible to white audiences of the time. It feels a little rushed, a little nerfed.

            I often get the same feeling from B.B. King playing for white audiences – that the music has been made safe for suburbia and is blander than it really ought to be. I’m not really criticizing, even – these men needed to eat and pay bills and did what they had to.

            Clapton and Bonamassa and others, recording at a time when the blues already had an established white audience, weren’t under that pressure. They could be sadder and slower, take longer and deeper solos, reach more determinedly for the emotional core of roots blues, and be understood while doing that.

            What a turn of the screw, eh? Genuine roots artists recording inferior blues because they didn’t dare be too black…

        • Once recorded music was established, I think you’d be hard pressed to name a musician who didn’t learn music to a significant degree by listening to recordings. The history of blues since the earliest recordings is the history of an increasingly refined art, and nearly every blues musician draws heavy influence from the subset of blues recordings that had already been made at the time they first started learning the blues. If you’re familiar with a blues musician, you can generally easily pick out their influences.

          But those early musicians were something entirely else. They learned to play the blues by listening to other musicians, not from listening to recordings, so their influences were very localized and those early blues recordings captured an enormous amount of musical diversity — musicians who had not musically cross-fertilized to the point where they all started to sound the same. Geographical pockets of unique musicianship.

          The music was less refined because all music essentially only survived in the form of the musicians who imitated them. Those recordings are a rare and unique demonstration of the limitations and possibilities of what can be achieved when musical knowledge is transmitted by direct experience only and not through recording or transcription.

          Put on a blues record made since the 1930s and you can pretty much categorize it in a few seconds. Put on an old Paramount 78 and anything can happen. To me, at the last, that’s the exciting and intriguing aspect of early blues.

  2. >>> But white blues players may be at an unfair advantage in…

    I think you mean “an unfair disadvantage.”

      • No, I think Eric meant “unfair advantage”. He meant that the modern players, who are more likely to be white, can sound like better artists because they have access to better instruments.

        When Eric says, “[Delta blues] are in many ways not as interesting as what came later,” he means that the later artists had that unfair advantage, which let their music be more interesting (even though critics are not supposed to notice this).

  3. I think the main issue is that it’s attempted by another culture more frequently than many other styles of folk music, so you’re more likely to hear inadequate blues from Europe than you are to encounter subpar throat singing from Cuba or a poor attempt at mariachi from India. I don’t believe that the other styles are more easily replicated – but you don’t have the constant stream of failed attempts to illustrate the fact. It seems likely this is due to the amount of time the American military has spent in Europe since 1914 and servicemembers’ appetite for familiar music.

    The only real exception I can think of is Celtic folk music – I’ve heard reasonably good examples thereof from Central Europe to South America. Perhaps it’s more worth considering why that’s an exception to the trend? Blues as a form of African-American folk music seems to be pretty typical otherwise.

    • @d5xtgr: The only real exception I can think of is Celtic folk music – I’ve heard reasonably good examples thereof from Central Europe to South America. Perhaps it’s more worth considering why that’s an exception to the trend?

      That’s not actually a surprise, given how widespread the Celts were. We normally think of Irish, Scotch, and Welsh as Celts, but they came out of Eastern Europe back in the New Stone Age or thereabouts, and there are suggestions that the Germanic tribes and the Norse may be Celt offshoots. The Celts passed through Eastern Europe on their way west, and folks of Celtic ancestry emigrated to South America.

      >Dennis

      • >but they came out of Eastern Europe back in the New Stone Age or thereabouts, and there are suggestions that the Germanic tribes and the Norse may be Celt offshoots.

        That may be up for revision. Recent genetic evidence from grave finds and some curious facts about the archeology of Celtic artifacts is bidding to upend the traditional picture.

        DNA analysis of a recent grave find under a pub in Dublin revealed that there were people with the genetic signature of modern Irish already there 9000 years ago. And the oldest “Celtic” artifacts aren’t found in Central Europe but on the Atlantic seaboard.

        It’s beginning to look as if the West-migrating Keltoi known to the Roman weren’t ancestral to modern “Celts” at all – the Book of Invasions brought in new language but apparently not a lot of new genes. Nineteenth-century Romanticism may have led us more astray than we realized.

    • >The only real exception I can think of is Celtic folk music

      That’s a good point – Celtic folk travels almost as well as rock and readily syncretizes with local styles. I’ve heard some blends of it with African polyrhythms that were utterly delightful. (Loreena McKennitt’s The Mummers’ Dance leaps to mind.)

      Whether “travels well” is the exception in folk styles or the rule it still poses the same problem: what makes the difference?

      • Whether “travels well” is the exception in folk styles or the rule it still poses the same problem: what makes the difference?

        Some factors that probably contribute:

        Celtic music doesn’t have peculiar intervals – pretty much any culture can play all the notes in the scale with the instruments they’re proficient with. This is not true of Arabic, Indian, or Turkish music, for instance.

        It’s mostly characterised by melodic features rather than polyphony – you can hear a tune and walk away whistling it. Blues, by way of contrast, tends to use dense chords with the flatted fifth and dominant seventh which require familiarity to hear and use correctly, and this familiarity isn’t necessarily well-developed in local musicians.

        Foreign instruments aren’t necessary to play it – hand drums, flutes, and bagpipes exist in many musical traditions, and fiddles have been widely introduced with educational programs well established. Other traditions require things like a guitarron in mariachi bands, or using your voice in uncommon ways like throat singing.

        There’s a good repertoire in English – it benefits from airplay preference, audience acceptance, and ability to reproduce the phonology. Any random transplantation of “folk tradition X to culture Y” has a tougher language barrier to transcend.

        I don’t think there’s any one trait that can separate music that travels well from music that doesn’t – it seems that generally folk music doesn’t, but the reasons vary in each case; Celtic folk is the rare exception where the stars align and it grew beyond its homeland.

        • It’s been some time since I studied music but I remember the teacher making the same point about intervals. I had to listen to a fair bit of arab, indian and asian music before I was familiar enough with it to really start listening, and not be distracted by the ‘why does it sound a bit weird?’ factor.

          There’s an Australian wadaiko group called Taikoz who have composed some very decent, to my ears, Japanese music.

  4. @esr: Muddy Waters was asked in an interview about white musicians playing the blues, and he said “They can play anything they want to. They just can’t sing them!!” I think that’s apposite, and a reason why the form might not travel. (On those lines, how many good white Gospel artists can you think of?)

    Yeah, the old delta blues stuff gets respect because it’s roots music, but more recent work is arguably better. I think a good bit of that is explainable by what anthropologist Edward T. Hall was talking about when he broke down culture into Formal, Informal, and Technical. In Hall’s terms, the blues was Informal culture, but culture can move from one form to another. It becomes technical when it can be analyzed, written about, and learned by other methods besides direct instruction.

    The blues grew out of slave field chants and hollers, the writers may not even have been literate, and the instruments they had to play were what they could manage to make or buy. You learned to play by being taught by an existing musician, and what you learned was limited by what he knew and could teach. A lot of the surviving recordings originated in the work of people like Alan Lomax, who toured the back country recording and documenting the music. (There’s a story of Leadbelly doing over 100 verses of “Old Joe Clark” at a party, and saying “Man oh man, wait till Mr. Alan Lomax hears about this!)

    Time passed, black people from the South migrated North in search of opportunities, and there were communities with more opportunities to learn, more people to learn from, better instruments to play, and the possibility of making music for a living. One major change was the introduction of electricity and amplified instruments. Chicago was probably the main center of development for modern blues. Increasing technical proficiency based on better instruments, better instruction, and the ability to read sheet music was a major part of that. Later blues musicians could simply play better.

    I saw Muddy live back in the day, and he put on a good show. There were other blues guitarists who were more technically proficient, but they couldn’t sing like Muddy. (His band at the time included a white harp player. Muddy mentioned gigs where they parked him at an all night diner to have a meal and picked him up after the show because the audience at that gig would have a problem with a white guy in the lineup, but he could play well enough to be in Muddy’s band.)

    I started paying attention to the blues in the late 60’s when the blues was a thing, and every band I saw felt compelled to do at least one stone blues number as part of their set. That worked about as well as you might expect, and many of the attempts were cringe worthy.

    The Rolling Stones began as a blues and R&B cover band, and in the early days their goal was simply getting three steady gigs a week in the London area so they could make a living playing the music they loved. Keith Richards talked about doing musical archaeology, listening to a musician, and saying “There was some guy who was shit hot when he was learning to play. Let’s find out who he was and what he did!” You can make a case that the Stones introduced the blues to a wider audience. (They certainly introduced me, and hearing the Stones do blues tunes got me to seek out what they were drawing from.) For that matter, rock music introduced a number of earlier forms to audiences, as bands influenced by classical music, country music, folk, jazz, and world music gained popularity and audiences went back to the stuff the bands were drawing upon,

    I’d add Rory Gallagher to Gary Moore as an Irish musicians who could do creditable instrumental blues. And speaking of Greeks, Johnny Otis was a Greek who married a black woman and played blues and R&B. His son Shuggie became an accomplished blues guitarist.

    >Dennis

    • >(On those lines, how many good white Gospel artists can you think of?)

      Excellent point. Gospel travels even less well than blues!

      >I’d add Rory Gallagher to Gary Moore as an Irish musicians who could do creditable instrumental blues.

      I would too. Moore sang blues better, though.

      >You can make a case that the Stones introduced the blues to a wider audience.

      There’s at least as good a case for Led Zeppelin or Eric Clapton being the pathbreakers there.

      Your general contention that the vocal power of the best roots blues players was not matched by later ones – I’m not certain I agree, some white performers like James Stewart (singer for Robin Trower) or Bonnie Raitt before she got rich and lazy have had pretty damn good pipes and the will to use them. But it’s at least defensible.

      Otherwise your account of how blues got richer and better closely matches mine.

      • @esr: You can make a case that the Stones introduced the blues to a wider audience.

        There’s at least as good a case for Led Zeppelin or Eric Clapton being the pathbreakers there.

        Among them, yes. But bear in mind Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton both came out of earlier bands and had already established themselves as blues players. (I liked the Yardbirds better than I liked Zep.) The Stones were the first British band doing that sort of thing to break big in the US and inform people that the blues existed. Once they opened that door, others could come in and spread the word wider.

        Your general contention that the vocal power of the best roots blues players was not matched by later ones – I’m not certain I agree, some white performers like James Stewart (singer for Robin Trower) or Bonnie Raitt before she got rich and lazy have had pretty damn good pipes and the will to use them. But it’s at least defensible.

        That wasn’t exactly what I said.

        White blues singers certainly emerged . Muddy’s comment I mentioned above was specific to his time and place. But in the earlier days, white musicians could play the blues better than they could sing them.

        And I’d add Tracy Nelson from Mother Earth as a white singer with pipes who could use them. One of the best shows I ever saw was a Mother Earth gig in Philly. Tracy had apparently just had a relationship end, was feeling low, and expressed it. Their organist did an inspired keyboard break, was coming to what he thought the end should be, but the rest of the band were quite clear he was in the groove and should keep playing. He did, and we melted down into happy puddles. It was a brilliant show.

        For that matter, Don Van Vliet (a/k/a Captain Beefheart) likely could have been one of the best blues singers, had he chosen to play what would be recognized as blues, and Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker likewise has a great set of pipes (and came up playing blues and R&B in cover bands before forming his own.)

        Otherwise your account of how blues got richer and better closely matches mine.

        I thought it might. Increasing opportunity leads to increasing proficiency.

        >Dennis

    • (On those lines, how many good white Gospel artists can you think of?)

      One — Elvis Presley.

      So, not zero, but not very many either.

      • Johnny Cash and the Carter Family as well, and quite a few others of that generation and the one before it.

        There were a number of excellent white Gospel singers before the tradition of Mountain Gospel was subsumed into C&W and Folk music.

        The reality is that Gospel was very regional, and specific to parts of the South and didn’t travel well. The whites who sung it well typically found other related genres better paying, while it was a staple for black musicians much longer (before R&B really took off)

  5. Good instinct on the Fado issue. ;-)
    It’s a culture thing, and the only reasonable non-Portuguese fado singers I’ve heard were from Cape Verde (which is where the roots of Fado lie).

    • >Good instinct on the Fado issue. ;-)

      Oh good. Please do me the kindness of listening to this and tell me if I have correctly identified its emotional tone as very similar to saudade. If not, can you articulate anything about how I have misunderstood the concept?

        • >Love Cash’s version of that song.

          Listening to it, I can’t escape the feeling that Cash knew he was dying and was summing up all the pain of his life – the early poverty, the drug and alcohol addiction, the failed relationships. The moment at the end of the video where he shuts the piano lid and caresses it slightly is like he’s looking death in the eye and thinking “I’m ready – goodbye, life.”

          • Absolutely my interpretation also…no doubt in my mind. I think the song fits him far better than it did NiN.

            That’s a quality that keeps rearing up in a fair number of his works. Kicks you right in the feelz.

            Then you’re howling with laughter at “A boy named Sue” ;)

              • Which is saying something, because that song is the closest thing to an autobiography that Trent ever wrote.

          • Interesting, and it seems to me that it cannot be far from the truth, at that point in one’s life.

            Another recording that evokes a similar feeling for me is Trees of Eternity’s ‘Hour of the Nightingale’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTAYLA6hIis

            Aleah died of cancer between the recording and the release of the album. I don’t think it has been confirmed that she was aware of her terminal condition during the recording, but listening to it, you can hardly escape that conclusion…

  6. About Jazz not traveling well to Europe: hmm, esr, hmm. There’s a bar on the edge of Bourbon Street* which is the ONLY place there that features jazz exclusively. (There are signs elsewhere that claim they play jazz, but they lie, particularly Maison Bourbon, which books jazz artists considerably less often than twice a month.) It’s called “Fritzel’s European Jazz.” The name keeps out the riff-raff. They don’t play Eurojazz; they play pure 100% Dixieland. When you step inside the venue, the walls are covered in German posters. The bartenders are often a mix of young German men and young Japanese women. The ONLY times I’ve even been in Fritzels when it wasn’t 4/5 Europeans or Asians is during JazzFest, and even then, the ratio of Americans to foreigners is close. (This year, for example, I met some nice folks who lived in the same town as Terry Pratchett, who knew him to say hello to.) Fritzel’s advertises in German travel magazines and websites, English jazz aficionado websites and various Japanese venues. They barely bother to appear in local New Orleans media. And the place is always stuffed. (Granted, it holds about 100, but still.) Oh, did I mention the absentee owner is German and the manager is Austrian?
    In related news, I see more Europeans at JazzFest than I did in my three visits to Disney.** World. A number of B&B’s in New Orleans are foreign-owned and advertise their ability to speak the motherland’s language, the official tourist guide is published in a dozen languages and many of the better restaurants can supply you with a German menu. (If you understand anything about New Orleans, you’ll realize that a French menu is not a real test.)
    I’m sure that somewhere in Europe someone must be listening to Eurojazz, but please do not assume that a reasonable human being’s disdain for the stuff overflows to a dislike of jazz generally. In my limited research, I have formed the opinion that the older the jazz (going back to ragtime, which, yes, is jazz … fight me) the more popular it is in Europe. It is true, however, that were never any no first-rate jazz performers from Europe except for Django Rheinhart. Italians love jazz so much that my wife’s college roommate, a pleasant but undistinguished singer, has made enough money singing jazz standards in Florence to purchase a farm. And many first-rate jazz innovators made a better living in France, etc. than they ever could in the States. (One example: Sidney Bechet.) So, hmm, ear, hmm.
    * If you’ve never been to New Orleans, Bourbon Street is one long pub-crawl. Tourists gather to get drunk fast on cheap sweet drinks while listening to top forty cover bands or singing karaoke. For the real music scene, you have to go the Fauxbourg Mariny to Frenchmen Street and hit the clubs there they play Dixieland, more recent jazz, New Orleans R&B, Zydeco/Cajun and that unclassifiable blend of Dixieland and R&B that New Orleans can do so well and nobody else can do at all.)
    **I have stepchildren, stop looking at me like that.

    • >I’m sure that somewhere in Europe someone must be listening to Eurojazz, but please do not assume that a reasonable human being’s disdain for the stuff overflows to a dislike of jazz generally.

      You seem to be describing a situation in which lots of Europeans have what a linguist would call recognition but not production knowledge. That is, they can understand the language of jazz but not utter it.

    • >It is true, however, that were never any no first-rate jazz performers from Europe except for Django Rheinhart.

      I’m not sure how you can cite Django Reinhardt while forgetting Stephane Grappelli, and it took me all of about three seconds to get from there to Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Miroslav Vitous. Dave Holland? Jan Hammer? Joe Zawinul? Jan Garbarek? Michael Petrucciani? I’m not even trying very hard here.

  7. It sounds as if Mr. Raymond’s experiences w/ blues are primarily recorded examples. I would invite him to two specific events – International Blues Challenge on Beale Street, Memphis the last week of January; also Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS, in mid April.
    At Juke Joint, I’ve heard descendants of Hill Country blues legends drone on with one chord and two lyrics until everyone on the dance floor is in a trance. At IBC, I’ve heard kids younger than my own who flew in from Crimea to compete, playing “Hootchie Cootchie Man” *on the down beat* (friends don’t let friends clap on 1 or 3!!)
    In sum: Mr. Raymond is on the right track, but it seems he could go much deeper, especially in the state of the genre as performed live today.

    • >It sounds as if Mr. Raymond’s experiences w/ blues are primarily recorded examples

      It’s true I haven’t been at many live blues or jazz performances. On the other hand, when I was there used to be fair chance I’d end up sitting in with the band.

      There was one time in a smoky bar in the French Quarter back in ’88…ah, golden memories! :-)

  8. >Are there foreign genres that Americans try to imitate and don’t know they’re botching?
    It isn’t exactly a genre or even music, but the anime aesthetic is really infamous for this. The only other people I’ve seen come consistently close to capturing it are always South Koreans. Everyone else either ends up making hideous parodies by accident or develops a vague, international style influenced by anime but distinctly inauthentic.

    The way I see it is that all artists, including kitsch artists, semi-consciously channel things from their time and surroundings into their work. This is probably why many popular musicians become parodies of themselves: they channel something specific to their time and when that period passes, they end up like the thousands of singers and musicians with nothing to channel but existing music. Exceptions to this either adapt or learn to channel less transient things.

    This is probably why throwback bands’ new songs sound inauthentic even with the right equipment and techniques, or some Japanese doodler can pull off a style experienced western illustrators completely bungle. It’s also the reason that remark I made about South Koreans earlier says less about technical skill and more about their uncomfortable relationship with Japan.

    • The only other people I’ve seen come consistently close to capturing it are always South Koreans.

      I’ve seen Chinese-Americans do convincing manga style. But you’re right — until recently you kind of had to be Asian to pull it off. Anime and manga style was the example of a culturally rooted style that I was going to cite, until you beat me to it. These days, with the widespread availability of books that instruct in how to draw in this particular style (the quality of which runs from good to awful), the ready availability of anime and manga online (legally and illegally), the mainstreaming of anime subculture to the point where anime fans join goths and metalheads as the subject of SNL parodies, and the connections Western anime fans can form on the internet not just with each other, but with their counterparts in Japan, it’s become increasingly easier to find Western-drawn anime art that’s not a horrible eyesore of a pastiche.

      • >until recently you kind of had to be Asian to pull it off
        >and the connections Western anime fans can form on the internet not just with each other, but with their counterparts in Japan, it’s become increasingly easier to find Western-drawn anime art that’s not a horrible eyesore of a pastiche.
        And even with all these artists following each other, the Japanese stuff still comes out distinct from technically accomplished but derivative western illustrators. Honestly, most visual art these days is shapeless globalized sludge, stuff that could come from anywhere, and it sucks to see a mixture of agitators and foreign companies like Netflix trying to drag it back into the sludge to appease foreign tastes.

      • Manga and anime aren’t just drawing styles and techniques though – there are a great deal of subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) cultural overtones and undertones woven through the design and drawing, stories, plots, words, characters, and interactions and in the case of anime, the music, movement, and entire system of production and presentation. I think this may be more what hits when we make unfavorable comparisons non-Japanese attempts at producing manga and anime (and this is often an opinion I share).

        As with many things (music, food et al) though, fusions can bring out whole new awesomeness, when they are absorbing things they love and letting those influences flow, without trying to copy or reproduce them, or worse, pretending to them. Where I have seen this in the anime world, and let’s not derail the thread with this opinion, but having watched this with my daughter, I thought the Avatar: The Last Airbender series was incredibly well done and unique for example.

        • Sorry, addendum for a clearer statement – I thought Avatar: TLB used a creditable and quite good fusion of anime and western artistic and cinematic elements.

  9. In southern Louisiana, Cajun Zydeco perfectly fits your description of a localized music genre that has a cultural genesis and resonates with an almost innate affiliation to the local population. I’m guessing that evolved genetics favors a brain wiring that somehow works for musicians and audience alike. If so, these music preferences may be a window into our individual genetic heritage.

  10. And many first-rate jazz innovators made a better living in France, etc. than they ever could in the States. (One example: Sidney Bechet.)

    My favorite of those is Josephine Baker, who went on to join the French Resistance and earn the Croix de Guerre and membership in the Legion of Honor during World War II.

  11. You almost sound like you’re about to use the phrase “cultural appropriation” near the end there, and I genuinely hope you don’t because that is one of the sillier ideas floating about these days, and you seem far too sensible to fall for that.

    • > you seem far too sensible to fall for that.

      Oh, I’m in totally in favor of cultural appropriation. That kind of diversity is (as opposed to multiculturalism) actually strength. You won’t catch me trying to stop anyone from appropriating my culture.

      What I don’t want is for American blacks to lose a source of pride that they actually earned, pride that isn’t poisonous fantasy concocted by a race hustler but real and grounded in having gifted human civilization with something unique and beautiful.

      • I know a very nice technical word that might help describe exactly the line being drawn here between “the blues belong to all Americans now” and “we don’t want to take the blues away from black people”: autoethnography (in this case, a descriptive work produced from the study and systematic recording of one’s own human culture, rather than the particular activity of study itself). I would postulate that the various forms of art suggested in this post & comments—blues, fado, jazz, anime—which seem “not to travel well” have this property because they form, as entire genres, something approximating an autoethnography.

        In this model, when someone who doesn’t have the cultural realities seared into the fabric of their soul which spawned (say) blues music attempts that genre, the result comes off as inauthentic. And yet, while that branding may be strongest within the American black and Dixie South subcultures, it is not necessarily exclusive to them; in fact, I would even dare to argue that the travel to Chicago is what made the blues a powerful art form, because it (ever so slightly) broadened and generalized the cultural foundations. (This also then implies what makes for art which does cross cultures: the cultural traditions which spawned it have become so well known and so “generic” that virtually anyone can accurately perform them.)

        We should laud the American black culture which managed to capture and crystallize in such pure form that essence which is the blues; however, we should also not seek to snuff out a spreading understanding of the cultural elements which spawned this music, even if it forces us in opposition to those who would cry of “cultural appropriation”.

        • >I would even dare to argue that the travel to Chicago is what made the blues a powerful art form, because it (ever so slightly) broadened and generalized the cultural foundations.

          Hadn’t thought of it quite that way before, but I agree with this formulation. It wasn’t the primitive Delta acoustic blues that stormed the world and recruited a generation of former skiffle and trad-jazz players in England in the early 1960s, it was electric Chicago blues.

          >a descriptive work produced from the study and systematic recording of one’s own human culture

          I resemble this remark! :-)

    • Name any two cultures and they have been fertilized with each other’s DNA so quickly after meeting that the sailor and the prostitute blush just thinking about how quickly the two cultures got it on!

      Cultures don’t “appropriate.” They trade ideas at a pace so frantic that most people can’t appreciate what’s happening. Take India for example: We got sitars, Ganesh, yoga, trippy Hindu art (which probably affected a billion science-fiction covers) and a ton more stuff. They got the Hollywood Musical, a justified scale, empiricism, Dr. Who, and also a ton more stuff.

      It all works out in the end, and I got to read “Digger,” by Ursula Vernon, which is about what you’d get if The Ramayana boffed the Lord of the Rings! The real deal is that The Ramayana and the Lord of the Rings got it on anonymously, in the dark, about ten seconds after the first copy of LOTR got carried ashore in India by some hippie or bookseller, and they’ve been boffing – and spitting out kids – ever since. (Does anyone remember Lord of Light? Or the last time my D&D group fought a Naga?)

      • This is one of the problems today. Trading ideas is usually a positive thing, but nowadays it seems like the self-appointed elite in the West are manipulating it for their own purposes. We are allowed ONLY the ideas from other cultures deemed acceptable by the Left.

        So you can get rap that says “Hate Whitey,” (which is a real thing in black culture, if not a particularly good one), but not rap that says “Ban abortion,” which is also a commonly held belief among blacks. Not saying that that’s the right view–or, for that matter, the wrong one–but it is far more common in black America than in white America.

        Similarly, you get the anti-colonialism of countries like India, but not their generations-long problems with their Muslim minority and their enmity with Muslim Pakistan.

      • Agreed.

        After thinking about it a little more, I think you do get the occasional situation which might intelligently be described as “cultural appropriation,” such as the British theft of Greek art, or similar behaviors, but most use of the term represents poor thinking about how cultures trade ideas, or sometimes a misunderstanding of norms.

        Is Led Zeppelin’s failure to pay royalties on some of the Blues songs they recorded “cultural appropriation” or simple “theft of royalties?” The norm in the music industry is to pay royalties to another musician if you perform or record their song, and the expectation in the industry is that this will transcend all national, racial and religious boundaries. There are specific organizations which track the payment of royalties, and arguably musical culture is based around this expectation so there are already technical and legal terms to describe violations of the norm. Use of the term “cultural appropriation” is an attempt by academic culture to impose its standards on musical culture.

        But generally I despise the term.

        • It’s not really clear to me that Led Zeppelin’s failure to pay royalties is either. In the original classic era of roots blues, everybody borrowed from everybody and there were no royalties involved. Many classic blues songs, including Robert Johnson’s iconic Sweet Home Chicago, are actually heavily based on older songs. So Led Zeppelin (as well as Cream, who lifted the tune and arrangement of Going Up The Country from a 1928 Henry Thomas song, Bull Doze Blues) were following in THAT tradition.

          More about Sweet Home Chicago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Home_Chicago

          As for cultural appropriation, I find a lot of the dialog about it problematic. In that worldview, borrowing culture from people on the top of the pyramid is acceptable, but borrowing culture for people on the bottom is not. It seems to me that will just lead to the dominant culture being even MORE dominant because it will be the one that everybody is free to live.

        • After thinking about it a little more, I think you do get the occasional situation which might intelligently be described as “cultural appropriation,” … but most use of the term represents poor thinking about how cultures trade ideas…

          But generally I despise the term.

          Ditto. Oxford Reference online defines cultural appropriation as “A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non-Western or non-white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.” So I believe the general implication of malfeasance in this definition is incorrect (not to mention the term is also often inappropriately applied; the wrongful taking of physical treasures and objet d’art from a culture is simple theft, and does not require or include also “taking over of creative or artistic themes” related to them).

          I believe cultural sharing is a benefit to humanity; every culture has taken ideas from others whenever they meet. That is the core idea I see Thomas Jefferson meaning when he said, “He who receives an idea from me, receives learning without lessening mine; as he who lights his candle from mine, receives light without darkening me.” As a result, I believe this sharing is a net benefit, and those cultural elements which can be shared without darkening their source rightfully belong not to their source peoples but humanity as a whole. (A sharing which darkens, for example, might be someone who copies only in parody, with the intent to belittle and shame; however, this can come from the “exploited” culture just as readily as from “dominant” ones.)

          As a result, I view someone who derides cultural sharing and transformation as “appropriation” as acting as wrongly as someone who reproduces with the intent to belittle. Yes, even in a proper sharing of cultures there will be transformation and change—but it is that change as a growth aspect which I personally most value.

          • I’ve been saying for a while that “cultural appropriation” is just intellectual property translated into the key of collectivism.

            Now, to give the Devil his due, I can understand the reason why someone might object. Seeing a rich and detailed concept being reduced to the cultural equivalent of fast food.

            But even that still manages to not understand what a culture is. A culture is not some entity floating around in the Platonic world. It does not “own” people. A culture is a set of behaviors and beliefs that a group of people have, as well as the interactions between the group members or between group members and non-members of the culture. Also to a lesser extent the physical artifacts that are used by the culture, but those are not the culture either.

            If you copy some bit of culture and turn it into McCulture you have not “taken” the original. Arguably the McCulture is a fork that goes it’s own way, not much differently than if a tribe split in half.

            On the flip side you cannot “preserve” a culture outside of recording how it works, because it is just memetic software. You can only force people to continue inhabiting a culture they they otherwise wouldn’t choose.

            Yes. This means that attempts to “preserve” a culture by avoiding contact, or making the adoption of newer technology illegal…….. are cultural imperialism. I thought that was supposed to be like totally the worst. I guess not when they do it.

  12. > there was an older generation of British and Irish musicians who immersed in the form in the early Sixties

    There’s definitely at least a case to be made for (Sir) Van The Man as the greatest of all soul singers.

  13. Cajun?

    I stumbled upon Steve LaFleur’s band Mamou in a Saturday night bar on Bourbon St on my one and only ever visit to New Orleans, and it was a strong contender for my Best Live Music Experience Ever

    So I went out and bought a few CD’s – as one did back then – including some by the same band, and found them basically unlistenable.

    OK: here’s one I bet you ain’t heard of: Alpenrock. You can start with Brennen tuts gut or Koa Hiatamadli by Hubert von Goisern.

    Tiny sub-genre of contemporary Austrian folk music. Most of which is utterly dire; Von Goisern is one of the few people who’ve ever tried to do anything interesting with it. Dialect certainly has to do with things not being translatable outside their native hills. Most of what people think of as “typical” German folk music comes from Bavaria & Austria, and needs subtitles even for hochdeutsch speaking audiences.

    (The direness of Austrian folk music is such that it causes me to be confused about how & why some of the greatest music ever came out of Vienna. Haydn did bring in a lot of folk influence from further east at the beginning of the Golden Age)

    • >You can start with Brennen tuts gut

      Stoner-rock guitar fused with accordions and…yodeling? Took nerve, and I have certainly not heard the like before. That was bizarre.

      • Glad you enjoyed? it. Add in the fact that it’s a protest song about EU agricultural subsidies. Played well with the rural CDU/CSU demographic; was the best number one chart hit in Germany in years.

        • >as the best number one chart hit in Germany in years.

          Ah, so he was singing in hochdeutsch? I rather thought so, but my recognition competence for German dialects is almost nil. I don’t speak the language, and what little I know about dialect variations is all ear stuff from Trixi the Rabbit videos and the like.

          • > he was singing in hochdeutsch?

            Definitely not, although not heavy enough dialect to be incomprehensible.

            The correct title is Brenna tuats guat (was wrong on youtube, which I suspected but was too lazy to check, sorry) Here’s a page with the actual lyrics translated into hochdeutsch

            > my recognition competence for German dialects is almost nil

            Not easy. I’ve lived in Bavaria for 20 years & can distinguish basically Bavaro-Austrian, Swiss, Saxon, Rest. Within the Bavaro-Austrian family I can hear differences – unsurprisingly, 400 miles from northern Bavaria to South Tyrol and 20 million people – but I wouldn’t claim to be able to localise anybody.

            • Can’t listen to it at work but the written lyrics “sound” 100% Vienna.

              My entire tongue-in-cheek guide:

              If it sounds like Viennese, but even rougher, it is Styrian. A fair description is “talking from the cellar”, deep and guttural. Reminds me of Birmingham English.

              If it sounds a bit like Scottish, high-pitched, it is Tyrol. Maybe both evolved for hollering from one mountain to the other.

              If it is doesn’t sound like anything at all, just guttural grumbling, it is Vorarlberg.

              If it is Slovenian, that is Carinthia.

              If it sounds like an Austrian who actually listened at school, it is Bavarian, except when they decide to take the piss out of tourists and refer to München as Minga.

              Of course they also evolve and change, there was a joke that made sense 100 years ago and today not. Italian guy goes to Vienna. Complains to the hotel manager that the staff just addresses him as “Vinci” , not Herr or Signor Vinci, so something more polite. Well, what are they saying? “Einen schönen guten Morgen wintsch i’ !” (“I wish you a nice good morning!”). This wünsch – wintsch transformation disappeared in the meantime.

              • Cool, thanks for that

                > If it is doesn’t sound like anything at all, just guttural grumbling, it is Vorarlberg.

                Vorarlberg is easy, because it’s allemanisch (like Swiss) not bajuwarisch. Purely a historical accident that the Swiss didn’t want a new canton in 1919.

                And in general there’s definitely an inverse correlation between altitude and comprehensiblity-to-outsiders.

                • Largely because the Second Germanic Sound Shift, which screws with half the consonants in the language, correlates with altitude/distance from the sea. This is where the terms “high” and “low” German come from.

                  Standard German is often called “Hochdeutsch”, but is actually from about mid way up. The local dialects in the north are arguably closer to Dutch and English than to Standard German, and the local dialects in the south have their consonants even more thoroughly mixed up than standard German does.

                  • >The local dialects in the north are arguably closer to Dutch and English than to Standard German,

                    It’s true. There are some dialects of Low German that in written form are not very difficult to read for an educated English speaker with little knowledge of High German. And the older the sample is, in general, the easier (less High German influence). I once read a book of folktales in Old Low German without much strain.

  14. One reason I’m posting this is that I hope my commenters might be able to identify other musical genres that travel very poorly – I want to look for patterns. Are there foreign genres that Americans try to imitate and don’t know they’re botching?

    Country western music doesn’t even travel well WITHIN the US. Whether you like like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, et al, or not, you can’t deny the musical legitimacy of what they were doing. Compare them with “bro country” today.

    • >Compare them with “bro country” today.

      Heh. Now read this

      Because he got a mention upthread I will mention again that Johnny Cash was one of the few country singers who didn’t instantly send me running for the nearest exit. And now I know why – his accent was never fake.

        • Not borderline, he went over that line many times, in both directions.

          One of the wonderful things about Cash’s work is he never restricted himself to one genre, which is how he’s in the Country, Rock & Gospel Hall of Fame’s.

          It’s also how he’s probably the only US country singer I’ve ever heard who can do justice to traditional Canadian Country Music (he does an excellent cover of Four Strong Winds for example, and he had the voice to do Stompin’ Tom)

  15. >American rock music

    That’s one interesting typo for British rock music :D Trolling aside, while Lennon flat out said there would be no Beatles without Elvis Presley and Little Richard advised and taught them personally in Hamburg, it was largely they and then the Rolling Stones who transformed rock and roll to rock. I agree with your former analysis, just want to clarify the terminology. It was not a transformation of rock by adding blues, but the transformation of rock and roll to rock by adding blues. Rock and roll is a happy-go-lucky music. Rock, like blues, is something more… negative. Say, gritty, unhappy, sad or angry. How to put it. There was, had to be something about Keith Richards or Mick Jagger to have a generally less happy outlook than Little Richard or Chuck Berry. See the lyrics of Paint It Black. I don’t know what – they formed the band in the period of an economic boom and improving living conditions in middle-class Kent, generally a nice background. Perhaps imperial decline – two years after Harold MacMillan’s Winds of Change speech – but I don’t really think they cared then and there. So no idea really. But there was somehow more unhappiness in Britain than in the US, which made them more receptive to unhappy blues and wanting to transform happy rock-and-roll to something like that, giving birth to rock.

    • > but the transformation of rock and roll to rock by adding blues.

      (If I may be so bold as to quote OGH:)

      “Heh. Now read this.”

      (I’ll let him comment on why the transformation occured.)

    • It may have been the gradual decline in hope you see in Great Britain. This becomes more evident when you see some of the better rock bands from the UK in the 1980’s, such as Dire Straits and the Clash. While British rock by then was fast approaching its sell-by date, I still personally think “Industrial Disease” by DS to be far better as a commentary on working-class conditions than anything by Bruce Springstein, whom I personally consider to be overrated.

      • Also, you can’t ignore the influence of LSD on rock at the time. While the Rolling Stones weren’t strictly speaking an acid rock band, they certainly used the stuff and it influenced songs such as “Paint it Black” and “Street Fighting Man.” LSD does affect the personality, and that had to have had an effect on music.

  16. “Of course this is not a white > black thing; it’s an early vs. late thing. Recent blues players (more likely to be white) have the history of the genre itself to draw on.”

    That begs the question of why we don’t find a larger number of late, modern black blues players. There’s no lack of black musicians out there.

    • There’s no lack of black musicians out there.

      That’s easy: Hip-hop is the modern black musical language of existential suffering. Younger black musicians are much more likely to be pulled into hip-hop’s orbit than that of the blues. Even R&B has morphed into something so heavily influenced by hip-hop that Chris Rock dismissed it callously as “singing over rap beats”.

      • There’s the additional wrinkle of whether the experiences of a young black man today are strictly the same as the delta sharecropper of the ’20s and ’30s.

        With ethnic/national traits, one uses some weighting of the genetic model and the cultural model. I favor the cultural model, and cultures do change.

        If the culture and experiences are sufficiently different, then one would not expect the same characteristic genre to serve both cohorts equally well.

        I think in my case, my own cultural and experience differences with my grandfathers are probably that degree of sufficient. And those differences perhaps are almost enough to approximate the century or so we are discussing.

  17. Another example of a genre that doesn’t travel well (at least in terms of production, not listening) may be so obvious that you missed it. Namely, American Country music.

    How many world-class non-American Country musicians are out there? Heck, how many are Americans from somewhere other than the South?

    I just looked up the “Country Artists that played the most in New England in 2017”, took the list of names shown, and looked up their birthplaces. I get North Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Georgia, Texas, Texas, Tennessee and Florida. Clearly appreciation of country has spread outside the South, but the artists are overwhelmingly Southern. Yes, you can find exceptions if you look hard enough.

    Production is harder than appreciation, no question.

    • There’s a nontrivial country scene in Canada, represented by k.d. lang, Alannah Myles, Shania Twain, just to name three popular ones off the top of my head. Depending on how global your perspective is, that may not count since Canada is America’s (ten gallon, apparently) hat.

      • Canada is a boil upon the side of the United States. Those cohorts responsible for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, in hindsight, screwed up by not finishing the job. An understandable screw up, given the circumstances. But an annoying one, for those of us now looking at the likelihood of having to go back and do it again correctly.

      • Of those 3, only one would really qualify as Canadian Country. k.d. lang certainly is, Twain’s always been over-processed New Country. And Alannah Myles has always been Rock/Pop.

        It’s actually pretty hard to separate folk & country in Canada, so many of the classic acts cross over a lot (from Stompin’ Tom Connors to Ian & Sylvia Tyson, to The Rankin Family from the other side).

        But while it shares influences with US Country, Canadian Country Music is a unique form in and of itself. One thing about it is it’s got distinct native and Quebecois influences that are not present in the US version, it’s often a lot closer to celtic folk and much less blues/gospel influenced than US Country & Western (while there’s definite christian influences, they come more from traditional/folk sources than Gospel).

  18. American rock music and European classical music

    Have you seen Adriano Celentano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol? Italian musician who fell in love w/ American rock music & wrote this, while he couldn’t speak any English – the lyrics are just nonsense that he thought sounded like English in American rock. I came across this when a podcast (Hello Internet) talked about “What does English sound like to non-English speakers?”

    On the European classical side, and related to the anime discussion up-thread, I tried to get my sister into anime, which I enjoy & thought she’d like a lot of the story aspects, but it turns out she really doesn’t like the animation/art style of anime, something about it rubs her wrong & the story has to be really good for her to like it. One of the few that did have a good enough story (for her tastes) to overcome her dislike of the anime art style was Nodame Cantabile, a romance between a pair of students at an European classical music conservatory in Japan. Nodame was popular enough to have multiple adaptations, including live-action versions from multiple countries, which my sister did prefer – and which then led her to Korean dramas, to which she has now become addicted.

  19. When I look at musical history, one thing that jumps out at me is just what a huge SURPRISE it was that rock ‘n’ roll, and later rock, came to thoroughly dominate the musical world.

    Strictly speaking, it wasn’t quite a black swan event: the stage was set for it with (a) blues coming to dominate black music; (b) the emergence of nationwide companies selling vinyl records; and, most importantly (c) the advance of amplification technology, which enabled guitars to play to a large audience–and which, later in the late 1960’s, enabled guitar players to do even more strange things with feedback, etc.

    Nevertheless, rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t where the future of music was “supposed to go”; the science was settled, and we would be getting more and more progressive jazz from now till eternity. And rock’s coming to dominance in the musical world had impact far beyond the musical world, both good and bad.

    (Aside: no one, and especially not me, would ever call Frank Sinatra a rocker in any way, shape, or form. However, Sinatra was shaped by the same amplification technology that enabled blues to perform to a larger audience. In his case, he was able to use a more personal style of singing into a microphone, instead of projecting his voice. Am I the only one who sees this in certain rock singers, notably Bon Scott of ACDC? Probably I am).

  20. Trolling aside, while Lennon flat out said there would be no Beatles without Elvis Presley and Little Richard advised and taught them personally in Hamburg, it was largely they and then the Rolling Stones who transformed rock and roll to rock.

    In one of Eric’s articles that has been linked on this page, he asks why no one sounds like the Beatles anymore. If I may be so bold as to disagree with Eric–at least until he provides evidence that I am wrong–I would suggest that many bands at least in the era of rock dominance (c. 1968-c. 2000) sounded quite a bit like the Beatles. They didn’t sound like the Beatles that got played on Musak in stores, namely their early stuff; they also didn’t sound like the Beatles that get the most love from counterculturalists, such as REVOLVER. They did, however, sound quite a bit like the White Album or the underrated Let It Be, which is where the Beatles were when they broke up.

    Also, even though it will probably get me lynched, I think of the Wings at their best as being truer to the spirit of the Beatles (at least when they weren’t producing silly love songs) than John Lennon’s later efforts–even though I tend to prefer Lennon as a Beatles songwriter. And “Jet,” for instance, is not that far from where most rock was at the time it was produced. Not cutting edge rock, granted, but the mainstream of it.

    • >I would suggest that many bands at least in the era of rock dominance (c. 1968-c. 2000) sounded quite a bit like the Beatles.

      Which Beatles, though? The burden of my original question was that nobody after the Beatles made it really big singing the signature Beatles-centric sound of bright vocals-centered ensemble pop. The closest to “big” was probably Cheap Trick, and for every Cheap Trick-like exception there were a bunch of Beatles-esque bands like Badfinger and the Smithereens that never made it to the A-list.

      You’re not the first person to point out that at the very end of the band’s career they were moving in the same direction as American rock as a whole, towards a heavier sound with a lot more owed to electric Chicago blues and pyschedelia. But that supports my thesis rather than refuting it. The Seventies and Eighties ended up sounding a whole lot more like Led Zeppelin than early or middle-period Beatles.

      • I’ve never found the Beatles music to age well. It was very much in and of its era.

        You can see that quite simply by listening to any Rock station. you still hear the Stones as well as the other more blues influenced & prog acts from that era but it’s quite rare to hear Beatles, and quite jarring the rare time it happens.

        The Blues rock acts of the late 60’s & early 70’s in particular are almost timeless (and in fact a very similar sound has become popular lately in the alt-rock world, via bands like The Rival Sons:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MA0m1K2jW4

        or The Sheepdogs

        • Early Beatles music sounds dated in the same way that other music from the first wave of the British Invasion does, and also like the doo-wop, original 50s rock and roll, and 60s girl group music does. All of them have pretty much disappeared from the airwaves, and only continue to be heard on some internet stations, on Sirius XM, and on rare radio stations and shows.

          But the scarcity of later Beatles music is more puzzling to me. To me it sounds timeless rather than dated. I think the problem is that it is sui generis; it doesn’t sound exactly like anything else so it doesn’t fit comfortably into a classic rock format, whereas the later output of artists like the Kinks and the Rolling Stones does.

          If you really need a Beatles fix, Sirius XM has a dedicated station that plays their music 24/8. No, I didn’t mistype that :)

          • Personally, I found the early stuff ages better than the late stuff. The early stuff sounds dated, but in a timeless fashion, it brings back the feel of the early/mid 60’s every well. It’s suited to era/genre-specific radio.

            The later stuff doesn’t really sound sui generis, it in fact simply sounds bad. If you look at their last 4 studio albums, there really are only 3 decent songs that across the lot, and one of those is unplayable on radio due to the Manson association (Helter Skelter). Let It Be and Come Together still see some airplay, but the rest is forgettable at best (Revolution 9 might make the cut as well, maybe).

  21. Reason for RedHat purchase 30 pct over market cap

    Redhat has achieved “governance” over the Linux(TM), via systemd and the Code of Conduct.

    You, contributors, are now treated as employees.

    They are confident that you will not assert your property rights, since you attack those who do (See: Netfiter saga), and take it as an honour to sign documents pledging that you will not assert your property rights (prepared for you by your now-masters).

    They know that you are psychologically bound to behave as hirelings – servants, and not as property owners.

    Thus they can rest easy knowing the ground is, though made of sand, not in seeming danger of a tempest.

    Because of you.
    Because of your history of supplication.
    Your enuich-like nature.

    A nice example is Bradly Kuhn’s recent blog posts 1) Excoriating RMS and 2) showing how he himself is submissive to a woman he hired.

    He’s even angry that others still treat him with respect rather than transferring all the good will to the female figurehead everyone is supposed to now respect (for what reason? No, being an actual programmer is not required: sufficent is being a member of the “better” species that rules over the males under the anglo-american system that Bradly Kuhn and his kind uphold )

    If I were them I would never donate another cent to the SFConservancy, and I would seek a claw-back of the funds that I did donate for improper use (yes this is possible under both California and New York law). Especially since they seem to have no in-house lawyers what-so-ever (so what is their purpose?).

    We are supposed to be proud that his mind is as innocent as his visage (perhaps why he had to hire outside counsel to give him an incorrect and abundantly couched opinion)

  22. 2 months and no response from Eben Moglen – Yes you can rescind your grant.

    It has been 2 months. Eben Moglen has published no research.

    Because there is nothing more to say: The GPLv2, as used by linux, is a bare license. It can be rescinded at the will of the grantor.

    The regime that the FSF used, vis-a-vis the GPLv2, is essential: copyright transfers to a central repository entity that is sure not to rescind.

    Linus chose not to adopt this regime.
    He benefited by greatly increased developer contribution.
    The price for that windfall was and is the retention of their traditional property rights by the property holders.

    They can rescind at will.
    They made no promise nor utterance to the contrary that can be relied upon.
    They were paid no consideration.
    There was no meeting of the minds.

    Additionally the CoC regime itself is a license terms violation, being an additional restrictive term, as explained in the other analysis. (Similar to the GRSecurity license violation)

    On 2018-10-26 18:31, Eben Moglen wrote:
    > On Friday, 26 October 2018, visionsofalice@redchan.it wrote:
    >
    > You are conflating case law dealing with commercial software and
    > non-gratuitous licenses with the present situation, which would likely
    > be a case of first-impression in nearly any jurisdiction.
    >
    > I think the best procedure would be for me to publish my analysis and
    > for you then to tell me what is wrong with it. What you say here
    > sounds like what a lawyer might say, but isn’t. I have been teaching
    > this stuff for about thirty years, so if I am conflating or confusing
    > anything I will be grateful for help in seeing my mistake.
    >
    > The rule for gratuitous licenses is that they are revocable at the will
    > of the grantor.
    >
    > That’s not actually “the rule.” It sounds like it might be the rule,
    > but it so happens that it’s not. When I have given the explanation as
    > I have learned, taught and depended on it, you will be able to show me
    > what I am wrong about.
    >
    > Raymond Nimmer (God rest his soul) was in agreement on this point,
    > vis-a-vis the GPL and similar licenses.
    >
    > You have your Nimmers confused. The primary author of the treatise
    > Nimmer on Copyright (a book about the law, not in itself an authority)
    > was Melville Nimmer. The treatise is continued by his son, David, a
    > fine lawyer with whom I do from time to time politely disagree about
    > something. Ray Nimmer is quite another person.
    >
    > Eben

  23. I think what you’re trying to get at in this post and in the one you linked to involving fake country accents is that there’s a certain quality to things that fall under the category of art that isn’t merely an expression of technical prowess. It’s an expression of who you are, and it’s rather difficult for someone to replicate to a similar degree without having the same associations.

    As others have mentioned above, the term “cultural appropriation” comes to mind, and reading this as well as wading through the comments has resolved my conflicting feelings with the term. The transfer of ideas, technical knowledge, and implementations is always a positive. Where things are shaky is when the reasons why something is good aren’t just technical, but involve the expression of who it’s coming from. Something of value has been lost, of lesser value to those who’ve “appropriated” it, or at least copied the parts they found valuable. But it may also gain wider appeal due to the focus on a larger audience — the mixing with a different culture.

    Cultural possessiveness makes sense from the understanding that the more different someone is from you, the less capable or motivated they are in making something that also appeals to you or whose replication conveys the same spirit.

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