Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From Motown to Nashville

As we gear ourselves up to next Tuesday and an opportunity to pound a stake into the feeble heart of Reaganism's cultural legacy, it's worth looking back to think about what we're killing. Back in the 60s and 70s the gulf between black and white culture wasn't nearly what it is today. In 1979-1980, as many white people will remember, rap songs featured lyrics like: "He was roly was poly and I said holy moly, you got a lot of whispers on your chinny chin chin" or "and since kindergarten I acquired the knowledge, that after twelfth grade I went straight to college."

But the two cuts below speak volumes. First here's James Carr performing "The Dark End of the Street", a song he wrote in 1967.

Flash forward to 1968, and here's Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton covering the song.

A couple of things are noteworthy here:

  1. Look how close the cover is to the original, it's not drastically changed. The difference between country and soul wasn't huge, just like Motown and Nashville are only 500 miles apart, even if Brown vs. Board of Education and the Voting Rights Act were really just taking hold.
  2. As an addendum, listen to what Porter and Dolly are singing about. Stealing away to the dark end of the street? That's acknowledging physical desire out of wedlock (just like Palin's daughter). The Christian right would not be down with this, and I don't know where either of them would stand on it today.
My point is, if I haven't hammered it home forcefully enough, that black and white America used to have a whole lot more in common. The divisive "let them eat jellybeans" attitude of Reaganism drove a wedge through popular culture and popular consciousness, and now with a little focus and effort, we may hope to return to a time where more black and white Americans see each other as something like humans.


Anonymous said...

Dude, you're such a child of your times. Porter and Dolly were singing about "Stealing away to the dark end of the street" to hug and kiss and maybe hold hands. The jump to testing a tongue ring on an enhanced product on the dark end of the street belies your cultural and temporal bias.

Steed said...

Just take a stroll down to Memphis, the home of Sun Records and of my hero Charlie Rich. Was he a soul or a country singer? I just want to know who will the next fool be?