MATTERS OF RACE AND MUSIC

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The idea of racial and cultural borrowing in popular music is, of course, a two-way street. While most racial and cultural crossover has been a matter of white artists absorbing the music of blacks, it has frequently moved in the opposite direction to equally important effect. Chuck Berry was deeply influenced by white country music and his brand of rock and roll owes as much to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys as it does to black R&B and T-Bone Walker. In the 1960s, Arthur Lee and Love made music that was far more indebted to white psychedelic rock than Motown or Stax. Charlie Pride sang white country music and became the second of only two black artists inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. And Ray Charles biggest hits were from the 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, a collection of covers of country standards.

The examples of artists performing music that originated (or was predominately nurtured and made relevant) outside of their own ethnic and national backgrounds is practically limitless. Your position statement should focus on an artist (or a small group of artists, if you d like) that have succeeded in performing a musical style not their own. Of course there have been and will continue to be white rappers, black punk bands, white reggae acts and black country artists, but there are also successful Latino polka acts, Korean rap sensations, Middle Eastern psych-rockers, and so on. As always, it s often wise to be creative with your choice. Do a bit of research, and explore how and why your artist was able to become successful in a genre with roots not their own.

Next, it will be your job to argue whether or not your chosen artist was able to culturally borrow in a way that was respectful and sincere, or that was disrespectful and insincere. Of course there have been artists that have performed music belonging to other ethnicities simply because they loved the music and it spoke to them in a very real way, but there have also been artists who have appropriated the music and musical culture of others because it was trendy, to make a quick buck, or to shock and provoke. Some cases are more cut and dry than others, but it will be your responsibility to make an airtight case as to why or why not your artist s borrowing was (or is) morally, ethically, and artistically sound.

It is highly advisable to cite outside sources for support and frame your argument in the form of a formal essay.

 
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