Southern Man

Bob’s comment, or the implication I drew from it, set me thinking about how musical genres seem to have become more ridged.

If you look back 50 years rock ‘n’ roll had Little Richard and Chuck Berry as well as Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Not only singing the same style but covering the same songs.

In the ’60s the debt to black music by white British bands was obvious and readily acknowledged. And if I look at almost any of the soul albums I’ve got from that decade there will be a cover (admittedly not usually a good one) of a Beatles or Bob Dylan song.

But it went further than that, for example Eric Clapton played guitar on Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul. A significant number of the musicians that wrote and played on records produced by Stax were white, which may explain why songs like Dark End of the Street sound as good when done by James Carr or The Flying Burrito Brothers. And gospel played as big a part in Johnny Cash’s life as in Curtis Mayfield’s.

Even when you think of punk – at least British punk – the cross fertilization with reggae is critical to the sound, and although it’s less obvious that reggae drew much from punk there was/is an acknowledgment of a level of parallel development/fan base.

The 2 Tone period again saw bands with mixed backgrounds and a fusion of musical cultures.

And into the 1990s Prince did his thing, and I spent a bit of my disposable income listening to Tackhead and other bits of the On-U Sounds roster.

But since then the interchange of musical cultures seems less obvious, baring Damian Albarn’s attempts at getting us to like world music. Unless you’re going to try to convince me that Dizzee Rascal’s use of Happy Talk fits the tradition…

Anyway, the point of this post is to link to this cover of Neil Young’s Southern Man (via Souled On).

About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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1 Response to Southern Man

  1. Mr Hornsby says:

    Well you knew I’d have to comment on this!
    Funnily enough, Bob’s comment had been playing on my mind too, and I had proposed to take another trip beyond my music comfort zone into uncharted territory. I’m not sure what I’m going to come back with yet, but I had been thinking about heading in a more soulful direction. Listening to that track (wonderful cover, I thought) confirmed that for me.
    In exchange, try this for a fusion of musical cultures:
    Not reggae’s finest moment, but worth a listen.

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