Thursday, June 22, 2006

American Music

What makes me proud to be an American?

Music. The music we have produced as a country. From Lead Belly to Miles Davis to Ralph Stanley to KRS-ONE to Kurt Cobain, some of the best self-expression in the last hundred years has been done by American musicians.

You can argue that it was the atmosphere that created many of America's premiere indigenous art forms, and you would be partially correct. The other half of it is the people. We come from all walks of life, from all corners of the earth. It might be a slave singing about the dire circumstances they have been unwillingly shoved into, or a middle class kid from a metropolitan area reacting to the confusing feelings of growing up. Americans have helped people from all over the world cope with situations through the universal language of music.

I dare say the labor movement would have never gained near as much support without the Almanac singers, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Picture people struggling for civil rights without Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit." Nina Simone pulled no punches singing "Mississippi Goddamn." Public Enemy gave me chills down my spine when I first heard "Fight the Power."

It doesn't have to be about politics. I remember the first time I heard the laid-back sounds of Pavement or the how far ahead of their time the Pixies were. I swear after I heard the Velvet Underground for the first time, I thought I was the coolest motherf**ker in town, even though their albums had been out for decades. I walked different.

Anyway, when it comes to what I like about America, it has not as much to do with the country as it does with certain people's reactions to their situations. That makes sense though. A country is nothing but lines on a map, it is the people that make it work.

Everytime I think that my country is in control of liars and murders and I have no voice at all, I find great solace in music. Music is the average person's weapon. I picture an FBI agent at a John Lennon concert scribbling down on a page of paper the words to "John Sinclair." I picture him jotting down "gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta........... set him free!!" I laugh thinking of how silly he must feel. Or at least how silly he should feel.

We, the people of America, will always have music. They, the oligarchy, haven't ever had it. Seriously, have you heard John Ashcroft sing?


Blogger Elizabeth Branford said...

I hear you, Graeme, and I agree. I love music and I agree that it provided almost a soundtrack for many people that experienced change.

Great post. Being closer to your generation (but, sadly, a tad older-30's)I can relate to the discovery of music that other people have been listening to for a long time. Especially the punk bands and music I was too young for in the seventies.

I think the expereince with groups like Public Enemy gave me a different sense of what rappers (some, not all) were trying to do. I still listen to Public Enemy even now.

Thanks for the post! By the way, I have to say that for current events, I associate 9-11 with AniDiFranco's poetry/music. I can send you some files of you have not heard it. Powerful. She kicks ass.

June 22, 2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger glenda said...

I'm old enough that I actually saw pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie sing at the rallies for labor and La Raza benefits I attended.

Music is what also makes me walk differently and even better, see the world differently.

Kudos, greame, and to you, also, Rex for this series of great posts.

June 22, 2006 12:07 PM  
Blogger podvizhnik said...

Music is my life; one of my main occupations when I'm not on the 'Net is collecting it, working with it, and giving it away to deserving people; I am a recovering DJ, and owned and ran a record store for some time. Growing up with, and still living without, TV seems to enhance one's musical sense.

I have not personally heard John Ashcroft sing, but I know someone who has, and she says he actually has a pretty fair baritone. Although he wasn't singing along to Public Enemy, I suspect.

June 22, 2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger PTCruiser said...

You rock, Graeme!! Why didn't I think of the music angle? Doh!

June 22, 2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger sumo said...

Something, something eagles soar...hey, I didn't look to see who wrote this post before reading it...and half way through I thought this reads like Graeme...and I was right! Great post...and unfortunately I have heard Ashcroft sing. He's okay if you like a dumb song like he sang...

June 22, 2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger GraemeAnfinson said...

Thanks all. I realize I kind of got off topic and started blabbing about music more than America, but whatever.

Elizabeth, I have heard some Ani DiFranco. I heard the album with 32 flavors on it. that was a while ago though. Anyway, yeah you should send me some if possible. that would be cool

June 23, 2006 12:37 AM  

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