Culture

David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite

Hey, remember the early days of rock & roll?

Even if you don’t remember them, surely you’ve heard the story:

How white people stole rock & roll from black musicians, paying them a pittance (if that) for their music, then getting rich and famous?

How decades later, a bunch of almost forgotten, destitute black artists sued and won millions in royalties?

Not everybody knows the other side of the story, though, because naturally that would ruin the liberal narrative.

The “other side” being that sometimes, black artists were ripped off by… other black artists.

That’s right: Rock & roll was a black-on-black crime.

For instance, Little Richard is revered today, and quite rightly, as a musical pioneer.

But whenever I see him referred to as “an original,” I smirk.

Many insist that Little Richard lifted his whole “thing” from a guy named Esquerita and — contrary to that prevailing narrative — made quite a bit of money in the process.

(Esquerita, on the other hand, died of AIDS, broke, at age 48.)

And by the way, Little Richard wasn’t even that busted up about Wonder-Bread-white Pat Boone doing insipid covers of his incendiary tunes:

After all, he said, the kids bought both records, so he got paid twice.

And I’ll ask again:

If America is so evil, how the hell did TWO out-there black guys — one of whom was obviously bisexual — who wore makeup and hairspray, banged on pianos and screamed about loving either teenaged girls or Jesus not get either locked up or lynched?

Sure, Elvis Presley stole from Smiley Lewis, but so did Fats Domino.

(There’s a reason Smiley was called “the unluckiest man in New Orleans…”)

Then there’s the literal stealing, like the local hoods who stuck up and shook down the Memphis-based Stax label after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

And someone with more free time and patience than I have could probably make the case that blacks stole (what would later be called) rock & roll from white-trash hillbillies, and they now disparage the genre — think Public Enemy dissing Elvis — as a diversion.

Anyhow, you might be forgiven for believing that, in our “post-racial,” Obama-era 21st century, white music moguls wouldn’t even think to suggest that black artists sign all their musical and creative rights over to them.

Guys like the predictably left-leaning former front man of the Talking Heads, seen here slamming “racists” who won’t vote for Obama.

Meet David Byrne, foiled plantation owner.

Do yourself a favor:

Grab a fresh coffee and read this new Guardian essay about Mingering Mike, “the soul legend who never existed.”

“Mike” is an utterly sui generis, recently discovered American folk artist who, back in the the late 1960s, began handcrafting fake record albums, featuring the mostly non-existent music of his imaginary soul group: 150 “records” in all, now on display at the Smithsonian.

At first Mike concentrated on the cover artwork, but his cousins told him they were too flimsy without a record inside, so he added cardboard discs, drawing the groove lines with a pencil and a compass. He’d always double-check that the number of bands tallied with the number of song titles on the cover. Vinyl discs tended to hold “38 to 43 minutes of music”, Mike says, so he’d estimate how long his imaginary songs would last, and made sure they stayed within that limit.

“I just wanted to be as real as possible,” he says.

It’s a breathtaking story of one artist’s wish-fulfilling fantasies and thwarted ambitions — and one obsessed collector’s determination to track down this mysterious “Mingering Mike.”

I’m not the only one who smells a documentary in the works, if not a feature film.

I just hope the celluloid saga leaves this part in:

But by then word of the mysterious Mingering Mike had spread. The New York Times ran a story. Suddenly David Byrne was on the telephone to Hadar. “He said, ‘I see a Mingering Mike tribute album with bands like the Beastie Boys and Amy Winehouse playing his songs.’” I said, ‘Whoa! That’s crazy!’ Then I asked, ‘How will this work? Will Mike be involved in the process?’ The answer I got from David Byrne’s people was, ‘We don’t discuss anything until a contract is signed’. And the contract gave his company the rights to all the artwork, the music. It was, ‘Sign or don’t.’ And that was it.”

So David Byrne went away.

What. A. Creep.

So I was distressed to read the news that David Byrne is “curating Britain’s 2015 Meltdown Festival,” whatever that means.

Hey, my music’s all imaginary too, but there’s no way I’d let Byrne anywhere near mine if it was real.

Run run run run run run run away.

*****

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion: