Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Part of a larger whole

Peter Guralnik, writing about what soul music meant to him:
That was how it was with me...the sense of being clued in to something significant, of being on the edge of a Movement that was so much more than just another pop phenomenon. It was there for the audience; it was there for the protagonists. Over and over again in my talks with the people who made the music there was reference to this same kind of spiritual association, a sense of being part of a larger whole. No one has characterised it more eloquently, though, than Curtis Mayfield... Speaking...about the achievements of the larger world of soul he declared, "You know, to talk about the '60s almost brings tears to my eyes. What we did. What we all did. We changed the world - me, us, Smokey Robinson, Jerry Butler, the Temptations, Aretha, Otis, Gladys Knight, James Brown. We really did. Barriers broke down for us. And for all black musicians after us. I mean, to have lived through that, and to have been part of that, is more than anyone can ask".

This is surely where the positive radicalism of the Western world in the '60s really lies, rather than with the revolting students of '68 or the hippies at Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock. And I guess that despite all the violence and the vanity of the Mods, someone like Jimmy from Quadrophenia certainly felt something of that 'spiritual association'.

I also reckon that this sort of thing can only happen once in a society. Personally, I think the quite horrible Footloose, marks the point at which the idea of social liberation through music became a lazy, conformist trope (go, backwards townspeople!).

However, there are plenty of other parts of the world where music is presumably still doing this sort of thing in authentic fashion (meaning from the bottom up.) There's the raï that Gadjo posted a bit of yesterday, for instance.

I do wonder whether at some point we will come across a Chinese equivalent of soul (I haven't yet, but that doesn't mean it's not already out there). If it happens - and my bet would be that it does - then will it be a derivative of Western forms? Or is there a popular Chinese musical form that will begin to be used to mobilise young people, giving expression to their hopes and ambitions? We await the Chinese Sam Cooke: 'A Change is Gonna Come' perhaps?

Try to make some time to watch and listen to this:


dearieme said...

Mick Jagger once said (apparently) that the radical decade wasn't the 60s but the 20s.

Gaw said...

A book's recently been published which presents that thesis. Something about a post-WWI free-for-all. But I can't remember what it was called.

worm said...

anybody who references Footloose in a discussion automatically gets my vote

Gadjo Dilo said...


Woah! Wordver is "shoute".... cue the Isley Brothers