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Thread: Racism in popular music

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Default Racism in popular music

    I just heard "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce, and realized that there is more than one instance of subtle racism in it.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    I can't say I've ever thought of it in that light - lyrically it struck me as a kind of variant of the Stagger Lee story but without anyone being shot dead. If Croce's song is to be brought into question then there probably won't be much hope for the lyrics to the Stones' Brown Sugar or Viv Stanshall's cod-West Indian accent on the Bonzos' Look Out, There's a Monster Coming.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    [Deleted in the interests of good taste.]
    Last edited by KenOC; Jan-19-2020 at 03:15.


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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Can’t be as bad as Oh Suzannah

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Makes me think of the "work song" scene from Blazing Saddles...



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    Senior Member The Deacon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    Viv Stanshall's cod-West Indian accent on the Bonzos' Look Out, There's a Monster Coming.
    Viv did blackface before Prime Minister Trudeau did.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Deacon View Post
    Viv did blackface before Prime Minister Trudeau did.
    I had to check - maybe he was spoofing the then-popular The Black and White Minstrel Show but that made me wince.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Perhaps we can assert that Brown Sugar, and Elton's Island Girl express historical/sociological truths such that at least some listeners will pause to reflect upon the implications of the lyrics. Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit also makes a powerful point, to put it mildly......
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Jan-19-2020 at 14:24.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    I can't say I've ever thought of it in that light - lyrically it struck me as a kind of variant of the Stagger Lee story but without anyone being shot dead. If Croce's song is to be brought into question then there probably won't be much hope for the lyrics to the Stones' Brown Sugar or Viv Stanshall's cod-West Indian accent on the Bonzos' Look Out, There's a Monster Coming.
    Brown Sugar? Maybe, although it's about the slave trade, opening with "Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields, sold in the market down in New Orleans," but Jagger's obvious excitement about this "brown sugar" tasting so good is perhaps its undoing. Vivian? A drunk, so probably guilty, and the British are notorious in this regard. John Lennon in "The New Mary Jane" is another example, pi##ing on George Harrison's friendship with Ravi Shankar.
    As far as Croce's lyrics, we hear "Badder than old King Kong", with the scene set on the "south side of Chicago." Other less specific references: "Leroy was a gambler," the name "Leroy" itself, and "junkyard."
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jan-19-2020 at 16:27.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Stephen Foster

    Most of his racist lyrics have been cleaned up for decades, but the original lyrics will occasionally make your eyeballs pop out.

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    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Brown Sugar? Maybe, although it's about the slave trade, opening with "Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields, sold in the market down in New Orleans," but Jagger's obvious excitement about this "brown sugar" tasting so good is perhaps its undoing. Vivian? A drunk, so probably guilty, and the British are notorious in this regard. John Lennon in "The New Mary Jane" is another example, pi##ing on George Harrison's friendship with Ravi Shankar.
    As far as Croce's lyrics, we hear "Badder than old King Kong", with the scene set on the "south side of Chicago." Other less specific references: "Leroy was a gambler," the name "Leroy" itself, and "junkyard."
    Croce's Leroy Brown was written in 1973. That was then, this is now - you obviously have not been paying attention to the British tabloids lately.
    "One man's symphony is another man's earworm." ~ riffing on a R.A.H quote.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Room2201974 View Post
    Croce's Leroy Brown was written in 1973. That was then, this is now - you obviously have not been paying attention to the British tabloids lately.
    Who in their right mind would?MMMMMMMMMMMMMM
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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    Senior Member JeffD's Avatar
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    I think we have to separate music expressing itself in the manner of its time, versus music actively being used to denigrate a particular race.

    If we can say that society has become less and less racist over time, then by definition music selected from the past may well contain elements not as acceptable today.
    How did I become a senior member? I only recently figured out where the restrooms are.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I don't believe society has become less racist in the past 45 years. And we have more serious real world issues to deal with than parsing the lyrics of a Jim Croce song. I read stories in the news all the time about racist politicians disenfranchising black voters, cops shooting dead unarmed black citizens, realtors who have been found guilty of steering black families away from buying homes in "nice white" neighborhoods. We have a military machine that kills and maims brown people all over the planet. And on and on.
    Last edited by starthrower; Jan-20-2020 at 17:30.
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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    How about Black against Asian racism?

    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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