inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #101 of 149: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Mon 17 Oct 05 08:36
I have no idea what the percentage was, but it was a significant
number, and there's certainly plenty of music that reflects the white
southern experience with rural poverty.  One of my faves is the song "I
Never Picked Cotton," which I know by Roy Clark.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #102 of 149: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 17 Oct 05 09:45
You load sixteen tons, what do ya get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store 
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #103 of 149: Berliner (captward) Mon 17 Oct 05 09:57
Carl Perkins' family were sharecroppers, and they were so poor they
lived among the black people. Poor Carl had to put up with the black
sharecroppers listening to the Grand Ole Opry with his family, and then
he had to go learn how to play guitar from them! (I'd say he did them
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #104 of 149: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Mon 17 Oct 05 10:15
I read an interview with Carl Perkins from the late 50s, after the
first trip he took to Britain.  He was astounded by how poor people
were in Britain, which is really saying something (food rationing after
the war didn't stop until the mid 50s).
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #105 of 149: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Tue 18 Oct 05 02:58

Whites are often quick to dismiss their impoverished ancestors
in the Americas in order to relate better to a newer class they
have worked themselves into the margin of (unless they are in the 
country or hip-hop music business). If you are white you don't need to
wear your origins on your shirt sleve, and often its best not to.

All you need to do is go anglo.  Change your name to an english name
helps quite a bit, then work on the accent a bit, learn golf, upgrade
your wardrobe go downtown and knock on doors.  In the states living
somewhere for 3 months sometimes qualifies people to say "I'm
from _________".  

There can be plenty of hard work in between, but the fact is that it
is harder for blacks is well documented, although there seem sporatic
attempts to bridge the gap, and one would hope there has been progress.

Bush is a good example of someone who can play his 'cracker' and
'landed gentry royalty' cards for gain although he holds title
more to the later.

This convenient faking of creditials for political/fashion gain I
think is what gets people tweaked, and also though is a dangerous
psychic game that leaves a quite a few people insane (ie. Gene Clark

Although Hendrix and Motown signaled for a lot of people a sincere
thread in U.S. society to desegregate at a slightly more quickened
pace. Micheal Jackson did not seem to really signal the same thing
somehow. Hendrix was trying (despite his suicidal tour demands) to deal
with both his blackness and americanness in a positive and artistic
way, and  makes Jackson and Prince look more like calculating clowns. A
sort of return to minstrelsy turned inside out especially in the case
of Jackson.  

On the otherhand Cash, Perkins, the young Presely and others don't
really seem to be part of the problem either, it seems though it begins
getting scarey with Jackson and Presely both especially in their later
careers.  It sort of leaves one wondering how the collective spending
habits of the western world enables these 2 parodys of themselves to be
so visible, but maybe that is really where we are at. 
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #106 of 149: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 18 Oct 05 04:03
I think you make some good points, but the Bush/cracker thing --
c'mon, that's totally faux.  The family's not from cracker turf and
they've been wealthy and politically connected for generations.

There are whites who are conflicted about leaving their ethnic
identity/class behind, but I think you point out exactly the right
thing -- that if your skin is white, you can just do it and with the
exception of people who know your personal history, no one will be the
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #107 of 149: Berliner (captward) Tue 18 Oct 05 05:37
Although there are always signs. After all, who ever knew anyone named
Elvis before Elvis came along? Who named their kids Elvis? (Which, of
course, makes Elvis MItchell an even stranger phenomenon). 
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #108 of 149: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Tue 18 Oct 05 08:18
This is completely unrelated, but when I first moved to austin 15 years ago
and was working temp at a large state agency, i was taking a message about
an upcoming office holiday party. The person I was talking to was reading
from her list said, "and Elvis will bring a ham".  Elvis?!  bringing a ham?!
Of course I took that has my cue to make some Elvis jokes, thinking that she
was pulling my leg.  But no, a guy whose name really was Elvis was really
bringing a ham.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #109 of 149: Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 08:42
My whole point about sharecropping, which was taken in some
interesting directions by the group, did not have to do with color at
all -- simply that before one starts flinging around such loaded terms
as "sharecropper," one really ought to have some context for how
backbreaking sharecropping is. 
That was my point about Prince and using the word "slave" as well. If
I had been, or had known a former slave, I'd take great umbrage at some
pipsqueak popinjay pop star using terminology like that to describe a
series of business quibbles. 
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #110 of 149: from ROBERT WORRILL (tnf) Tue 18 Oct 05 08:45

Robert Worrill writes:

Kevin, enjoying the conversation very much, here is more information on the
origin of "Wimoweh":

If this is already referenced just ignore it.

Regards Robert.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #111 of 149: Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 09:37
Insofar as your point, Lisa... I confess to a bit of mystification.
Your academician attempts to characterize what Northern listeners felt
in hearing "Dixie" when she writes that the song, "tapped Northern
nostalgia for the agrarian life in an era when the North was changing
rapidly and the South was not." 

Is this a suggestion that Southerners, who after all, adopted the tune
as theirs, were ambivalent or oblivious to its lyric content? Had
Northerners identified so strongly with it, perhaps they would have
adopted "Dixie" as their signature in song, rather than "Battle Hymn of
the Republic."
I'm simply writing about what the lyrics suggest, and I believe that
is a more logical place to interpret from than trying to get into the
heads of those Northerners who were hearing the tune more than a
hundred and fifty years ago -- unless there's some theater exit poll of
which I'm unaware. 
Much of what's written elsewhere in her reply includes points I make
as well. I am perhaps guilty of assuming in that section that readers
understand the South was an overwhelmingly agrarian economy while the
North was about the business of industrialization. But I certainly
never assert the opposite. 
I also report that there was much fear in the North that if the slaves
were emancipated, competition for even the lowest jobs on the economic
ladder would be evermore fierce. It follows then that abolitionists
were held in low esteem in many Northern quarters. 
In terms of "isolationism," (and I don't have the book handy as I'm
typing this) I was referring to Southern isolationism and the states'
rights struggles that preceded the war. This very notion was what led
to secession in the first place -- "leave us alone and let us have our
slaves and live our lives as we see fit." How one extrapolates that to
the world stage and a global conflict three generations later is
something of a head-scratcher for me. How does the U.S. isolationism
that led to Pearl Harbor apply? Help me. 
As to my "regional bias..."  I'm sorry, what regional bias? Where do I
say that one way of life (industrial vs. agrarian) is "better?" I
never intended to imply such a thing. I didn't feel it while writing,
so if you found it the text, I'm most perplexed.

I was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to El Paso, TX when I was eight.
I know both regions of the country well enough to know that both have
advantages and drawbacks. Certainly it's clear that I found slavery
cruel and unjustifiable, but I'm hardly the first writer to do so.

To conclude, I don't think I insinuated the system wasn't working well
for the American South at the onset of the war. I simply state the
obvious: civilization was moving toward industrialization, and the
South was deeply invested in maintaining its status quo.

Obviously Southerners thought their system was working for them, or
they wouldn't have shed blood to preserve it. "Dixie" tries to
immortalize the Southern way of life in song. Since the song was
written from the slave's perspective, and he's a happy fellow who
states, "I wish I was in de land ob cotton," the idea was to portray
slaves as contented in their servitude.  
But progress (not your humble scribe) ensured that such an agrarian
economy (with slavery as a vital component) could not survive. Would
you call me anti-horse and buggy to declare that the automobile would
one day replace them?

As the one responsible for what's on the printed page, I'll have to
take a long and hard look at what I've written, to make certain that if
I'm able to clear up any misunderstandings in another edition, I do
so. I hope this helps to clarify in the interim.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #112 of 149: Andrew Alden (alden) Tue 18 Oct 05 11:00
I never knew, until this last post, that "Dixie" was originally written in
slave dialect. That explains a great deal of the controversy about the song.
I was raised in the north and west, and Dixie's lyrics were always in
standard English.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #113 of 149: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 18 Oct 05 14:01
I hate following controversies like this, but I believe that VA
finally nuked "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" as its state song because
it was in a very similar vein.

And sure, the Southern system was working, but just like our current
post-Reagan system, the key question is "working for whom?"   Mostly
for the guys in the really big houses, just like now.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #114 of 149: Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 15:24
Unfortunately, there are no records in print (and a paucity of those
out-of-print) that represent blackface music as it originally was
presented to audiences. 

Most recordings either present it in a kind of Mitch Miller/Disneyland
interpretation devoid of dynamics, with a galloping optimism and
elocuted to a fare-thee-well, or with some sensitive New Ager fingering
away at a dulcimer or autoharp. Neither is anything close to what
entertained Americans more than 150 years ago.

Along the same lines, a few of my friends worried about my use of the
word "nigger" in the book, and both of these points cut to the heart of
"Souled  American." I believe that in order to have a truly candid
conversation about where we are and where we're headed as a society,
it's important to have an unvarnished discussion of where we've been. 

It was Jackie Kennedy who put it very well when her aides repeatedly
begged her to change her clothes on the plane ride back from Dallas in
1963. "No," she told them. "Let them see what they have done."

I hope one day to set the record straight, but so far, my attempts to
get a CD companion for the book have failed. I've been turned down by
the majors (who hold most of the licensing) repeatedly over the last
five years, sometimes twice or three times. Rhino agreed to manufacture
a single disc to be bundled with the book. But my editor balked.

There are extra production costs involved in pairing a disc with a
book, including shrink wrapping. What usually happens, he said, is that
people open the package, take the disc and leave the book, which then
has to be returned as defective.

I am working on getting a documentary made -- not of the book per se,
but with the same title and addressing the same issues. Once that's in
progress, I'll bet getting a box set won't be nearly so difficult.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #115 of 149: Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Tue 18 Oct 05 15:26
Cool article on "Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight," as well. Thanks.
And the fellow who wrote "Carry Me Back to Ol' Virginny" is included in
the book. I believe (and this is from memory, so forgive me if I'm
wrong) he wrote "Dem Golden Slippers" as well.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #116 of 149: Melodious Thunk (sjs) Tue 18 Oct 05 16:21
like <mcdee>, I live in Virginia, so I was intrigued by his post.

This site -- <> -- with all
the state's official songs, has this footnote about Virginia's:

     'On Jan 28, 1997 the Virginia Senate voted 24 -15 to designate
Carry Me Back as state song "emeritus" and directed a study committee
to come up with a new state song.
     'The ACIR intends to make a final selection in the contest and a
recommendation to the General Assembly and the Governor for the 2001
General Assembly session.
     'Carry Me back to Old Virginny was written by an African American
minstrel, James Bland, in the last century and has been Virginia's
state song since 1940.'

I never knew this song.  I don't get how this became the state's song.
 The legislature saying our Darkeys (the song's word, not mine) like
it here?
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #117 of 149: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 18 Oct 05 16:28
I think it's mentioned in Kevin's book, which is what reminded me of
it, but I'm too lazy to go look.

A couple of generations ago, white people didn't really think twice
about the kind of language in the song.  My midwestern grandfather, who
never expressed any prejudice about anyone that I can remember,
nonetheless called blacks "darkies."
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #118 of 149: Melodious Thunk (sjs) Tue 18 Oct 05 16:40
(the song is mentioned pp. 59-60)
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #119 of 149: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Wed 19 Oct 05 01:18

>but the Bush/cracker thing --
>c'mon, that's totally faux.  The family's not from cracker turf and
>they've been wealthy and politically connected for generations.

Perhaps Bush then is a case of reality mimicing entertainment
mimicing art, when he puts on a hard hat, wields a chainsaw,
or puts on a cowboy hat. 

Kevin and Lisa - Here is the architecture of a thread that bundles
WWII with the civil war------Some take the view that unfortunately the
rightousness of war has been thrown around too much, people are too
quick to sing "we won".  Look at the Canadians, are they worse off
because they did not have a bloody seccession from the UK (who BTW
banned slavery around 1810)?  And then the civil war, what sound bites
sold that one to the American people?  Then you have the Spanish
American war, started by a backfiring boiler on a boat and hyperactive
headlines.  And yes then Americans won World War I and World War II,
but where were the overwhelming fatalities? Now you have the winning of
the cold-war which has created massive flea markets of weapons being
sold to terrorists and gangsters with tanks. Let historians and
forensic archeologists 200 years from now define 'who won' and for what
'cause', not politications trying to leverage power, is one point of
view worth considering. 

Anyone from the south that had family that caught the raw end of the
civil war may know something about southern culture, folklore and
history that attests to the fact that it wasn't an especially the most
rightious Republican military crusade ever sold. There is much to
gained by considering the critical and nuanced way by how these people
talk about the civil war, even though on the surface at first
it may sound a little confusing.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #120 of 149: Slavery in Europe, Middle ages to 20th century / Carpetbaggers (jonsson) Wed 19 Oct 05 01:21
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #121 of 149: Berliner (captward) Wed 19 Oct 05 01:29
I think we'd better narrow this to "chattel slavery," the type
practiced in America with Africans imported as, essentially, sentinent
livestock, The slave labor under the nazis was a completely different
thing. Chattel slavery, and the perception of the people who were
enslaved under it, very definitly led to segregation.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #122 of 149: Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Wed 19 Oct 05 12:14
I'm in agreement with Ed on this one.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #123 of 149: Stayin' Alive (jonsson) Thu 20 Oct 05 01:03

(Prods and an electric fence were keeping these poor women in line    
 until just a couple of days ago),11026,1582608,00.html

Doesn't the consideration of shanghaing, press gangs, indentured
servitude, child labor, forced prostitution, share croping, global
variants of slavery documented since the begining of history, forced
transport/exile, mormon polygamy, conscription, the poor house,
debtor's prison, general misogynist cruelties and other known and
popular historic social situations explain *in part* why
non-afro-americans (like the Bee Gees) would want to be temporarily
black for at least a few minutes?
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #124 of 149: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 20 Oct 05 04:59
I must need more coffee.
inkwell.vue.256 : Kevin Phinney, "Souled American"
permalink #125 of 149: Kevin Phinney (kevinphinney) Thu 20 Oct 05 06:45
Darrell, assuming that you're being sarcastic, I'd have to say that
you're bumping up against one of the central riddles of the book. I
posit that we're still in the Minstrel Age.

Black people (men in particular) are still looked upon in many circles
as mentally slow, lazy, dangerous and untrustworthy. Conversely,
they're also envied for their sense of style, the ease with which they
move in their bodies, and an assumed talent for lovemaking based in
part on an assumption they've been blessed with bigger penises.

On the one hand, no rational person would have liked to go through the
Middle Passage experience. But black people are also thought of as
something akin to magical in their abilities to make music, and this
has been the case for ... well, I found evidence of it dating back to

These days, there's no more blackened cork on the faces, banjo
strumming or hambone, for sure. But whenever you see a white person
adopt the clothes, the dances, and other affectations of style for the
sole apparent purpose being the moving of product, I see it as the same
as any blackface routine.

But, I wonder, what is that thing that separates a Michael Bolton from
a Bonnie Raitt or Van Morrison. We think "we can tell" that Vanilla
Ice was a joke and Eminem is the real deal. Most of the blacks I've
spoken with say the same. But how? And where does someone like Janis
Joplin fit in, since her blend of blues and rock never caught on with
black audiences to any degree.

Just food for thought. Although Mark may have preferred doughnuts to
go with his coffee.


Members: Enter the conference to participate. All posts made in this conference are world-readable.

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

   Join Us
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook