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?
(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.
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:
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes