Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Music Factoid

Back in the 80s, I remember one of my professors claimed to have invented the word “factoid”. I didn’t doubt him at the time, because he had written and published a number of books. The proper definition of a factoid is an unverifiable or false statement that gets repeated so often that it becomes accepted as a fact. It turns out that his claim itself is a factoid. Doing a little bit of research, I discovered the word was coined by Norman Mailer in the 70s.

This word was brought to mind when thinking about all the white musical artists who ripped off black artists. I’m sure you’ve thought or heard people state how unfair it is for white musicians to make their fame and fortune by exploiting black music. No one thinks about the reverse. Think about all the black musicians who popularized and made money off white musicians. One good example was posted recently on this blog: Joe Simon had his biggest R&B hit with the “Chokin’ Kind”, which was originally recorded by Waylon Jennings.

If you can't think of any other examples, you can refer to this rather lengthy list of examples. Some of the examples are silly and trite, but the main point is made.

Often we think that white musicians are always ripping off black musicians. It fits neatly into a liberal worldview of whites exploiting blacks. Hardly do we see it as a two-way street of musical exchange, which is probably closer to the truth. An even better way of looking at it is to realize that musicians are constantly borrowing songs and musical ideas from each other regardless of race.

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