On the daily music front

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Wed Nov 12 09:00:30 MST 2003


Read the link first, it was a topic of my music email list
discussions yesterday. I just threw together this reply
based on my first impressions of the article. 

http://www.popmatters.com/music/features/031103-rkelly.shtml


Regarding this Kelly/Gaye Piece: 

Wellllll…………….some of it is right on the money, some of it
is on the money but for the wrong reasons, some of it I’ve
already written about in detail (naturally this is the
stuff that I think is right on the money) and some of it is
just plain wrong. 

He starts from a premise regarding the repressed sexuality
of the black church, rather oddly comparing it to the
celibacy of Catholic priests. I suppose that something can
be said about a different, more critical look at the role
of the black church, something other than the knee-jerk
“all black musical genius comes from the bosum of the black
church” school of thought. 

However, much black musical genius IS often rooted in the
black church and the bottom line is despite all advocacy of
sexual restraint, the black church has not as a rule
embraced abstinence as a theological underpinning of faith.
Generally, marital sexual union, at least, is viewed as a
fundemental of a "good life". Besides, it’s absurd to
compare the theological sexuality of black protestants to
the abstinence of the those of the Catholic cloth.  

This is not to deny the issues of "sin" and the fire and
brimstone of much of the black - or any - church. Or the
struggles between the "sacred and profane" faced by so many
artists who cross the line between secular and spiritual
music. But to regard the jackleg, mishmash, polyglot 
theology of the church of Marvin Gaye’s father as "black
religion" is stretching things a bit, and it is likely that
it was the preacher father's open cross-dressing more than
anything, that caused Marvin the bulk of his spiritual and
sexual conficts - that APPEARED to be rooted in only
“religion”. Not to mention that a hallmark of active
addiction is ceaseless torment over questions of
religion/spirituality. 

The author left out one of Marvin's most explicit sexual
references – “I want some sanctified pussy” which he
whispers as the end of the song Sanctified Lady fades off
the vinyl. I understand that Marvin was so far gone in his
cocaine intensity and addled belligerance by then that he
wanted this to be the name of the single and had to be
talked into settling for “Sanctified Lady”. I note that the
very oxymoronic appeal of the sexual church woman belies
the "repressed sexuality" aspect of the author's position. 

The fact that Gaye's young girl-woman was introduced by his
mother makes him no less perverse; many instances of child
abuse are accompliced by parents who in effect "give" their
children to their perpetrators - by passive neglect,
emotional distance, or by the actual handing over of the
child for money or as a bargaining of sorts for various
horrific reasons. 

***

That the article attributes the incidents of pedophilia to
a religious “restraint of sexuality” is simply wrongheaded;
this logic conveniently ignores the existence of child
molesting in the most “normal” seeming environments and
nuclear families. Pedophilia is a pathology that is
not tied particularly to any form of sexual repression,
though this might be a convenient, stereotypical bugaboo
for the author. 

Where I do agree (and I have written many times) is the
fact that today’s young black artists are not any more or
less prone to difficulties of a sexual or criminal nature
than their forebears. There is a hue and cry (and yeah I’ve
hued and cried too) against the gun-toting violence of
today’s gangster rappers and hip hoppers, yet even a
superficial ear lent to innumerable blues songs will hear
of the life of sex and guns violence and women. 

The author attributes our contemporary inability to see
these similarities to the intense media scrutiny of today.
However, IMO, this is only part of the reason and to
ascribe our ability to witness today's indiscretions - and
even crimes - to media saturation alone is to do a
disservice to the profound communication that has
historically existed among blacks. 

There has always been an “underground railroad” of
information trailing the lives of entertainers which,
though it may not be the ceaseless media spotlight of
today, RELATIVE to the times there was in fact a lot known
by a lot of folks about a lot of people in entertainment.
>From Jack Johnson's women flaunting which became a thing of
legend, to the violence of Ike Turner which was known by
many people before Tina told the world of it; to the young
girl loving piccadillos of Chuck Berry (or even Jerry Lee
Lewis) these things were known in the chitlin circuit of
information and legend. I swear, it seemed that many of us
knew just about about every time Ted White put his hands on
Sista Re' and shook our heads in dismay.

Jet magazine might be disparaged by the author (who uses
the curiously anachronistic perjorative of Ghetto Fabulous
to describe it's past), but it certainly represented one
form of informational drumbeat – and the only publication
that I know of that posted the pics of Otis Redding’s
frozen dead body sitting straight up and seat-belted still
in the seat of the plane in which he crashed –  talk about
invasive media coverage.

Yes, there is something to be said about the differences in
media, but people did know things relative to the times and
that simply cannot be the essential aspect of the
differences in knowing about celebrity indiscretions. IMO
the real issue is the something I keep trying to articulate
– I'll try the term “threat matrix” if I might borrow from
TV. The musicians of the blues generation, Muddy Waters and
Howling Wolf etc. sang songs about all kinds of violence
and mayhem; however, having reached mass white audiences in
their later years, their words represented just enough
danger to engender a scalp (or crotch) tingling thrill, but
not any real threat to one’s sense of well being. 

It is convenient to forget their intensely sexual,
Southern, do-headed, razor strop presence of their early,
pre-crossover days, in favor of their later years of
benign, elderly posturings and songs of long-ago spent
youths. Talk of shootin' your women if she messes around
is less threatening from an aged man, than from the boys
who one sees at the gas station. In fact there is a white
supremacy built into to this process - black men are
"dangerous" when young and virile; "profound" when long in
the tooth - but essentially singing of the same violent or
sexual things.    

At any rate, those are just some thoughts on the article. I
had the impression that this guy ALMOST wants to really
think about these things, but settled for just sounding
good - and yeah he does. But I think he actually has
several issues worth real contemplation - and he has the
responsiblity to do it right.

peacebeautymarsha


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