tina wolf

Tracing the Rock and Roll Race Problem

The premise of Jack Hamilton’s deep new study Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imaginary seems like something that’s been on rock history’s tongue for a long time without ever quite leaving it.

Chuck Berry, a black man with a guitar, had been a rock and roll archetype in 1960, but by the end of the decade Jimi Hendrix would be seen as rock’s odd man out for being… a black man with a guitar. How did that occur?

The book, out September 26, began life as Hamilton’s graduate thesis (he’s a professor at the University of Virginia). But while it’s intellectually rigorous, Just Around Midnight is also clearly and entertainingly written—not a surprise to anyone who reads Hamilton on Slate, where he’s one of their music critics.

Hamilton locates the ways “rock and roll” (which tended to denote everything from soul to surf music) became just plain “rock” (which tended to mean only guitar music by white people)—namely, in San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, full of ex-folkies.

There, a pattern repeated from the folk revival that preceded Beatlemania, in which largely white musicians tended to idolize black forebears while ignoring contemporary R&B.

As Hamilton point out, this mindset often put black rock and rollers into the “predecessors” category even when the musicians in question were peers and contemporaries, like when a Beatles biographer claims Smokey Robinson as a precursor when, in fact, Robinson was born the same year as John Lennon.

Even that précis doesn’t do justice to the richness of Hamilton’s ideas, or his wide-ranging research, both archival and musicological—the latter particularly during a chapter on the musical interrelationship of Motown and the Beatles. Are there two more oversaturated musical topics on the planet?

Along with the rest of the ’60s rock and soul canon, Hamilton thinks, convincingly, that we’ve only begun to understand them, especially side-by-side. [Read More]

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So my post here got a lot of interest and I thought I’d write a drabble. I know some other people were talking about doing so as well. Please do and tag me! I want to see your interpretations! :)

Tagging digiplease, @raexmell (or tried to), and nalua93, who I know asked for a fic, as well as fanfoolishness for helping me come up with the idea.

Her eyes flickered from the chessboard to her Commander, sitting confidently behind it, arms crossed with a smirk as he waited for her move. Whatever she did, she would lose. Damn.

“I forfeit,” she said at last, tilting her king.

Cullen’s smile was warm. “You’re getting better.”

His tone was encouraging and she laughed as she stood. “Not good enough to present any sort of challenge to you, Commander. Though…” She paused with a smirk of her own. “You should consider playing Solas sometime.”

“Solas? I didn’t know he plays.”

Her smile grew. “He played a game with Bull while we were in the Emerald Graves. Mentally. And won. I imagine he could give you a run for your money, Commander.”

The interest on his face was clear as he, too, got up. “I shall have to invite him for a game sometime, then.”

“When do you, please let me know.” She grinned at him. “I want to see you actually get beaten for a change.”

“We shall see, Inquisitor. We shall see.”

The summons from Cullen which arrived a few days later came as no surprise and she nearly ran to the garden, where the game was already underway.

While Cullen studied the board, Solas smiled at her, his eyes warm, and nodded towards an empty seat.

She took it gratefully before studying the board as Cullen moved a pawn. “So, who’s winning?”

“At the present, nobody.” Solas turned his attention to the board with a frown. “The Commander has some very interesting strategies that make him a formidable opponent. Though I do believe he’s trapped himself.” He sat back with a smirk.

Cullen’s eyebrow rose. “Solas, you do know that maneuver is illegal, yes?”

For a moment, shock and something else flashed across his face, his eyes widening almost comically. “I learned it in the Fade. I was not aware- My apologies, Commander.”

“Did you play with a Spirit of Wisdom or something? Or a Spirit of Cheating?”

Solas’ answering smile was warm and tinged with relief. “Something like that, yes.”