In an age where hip hop and pop music is in the forefront of African American culture and entertainers are getting deals not for their excellence at their craft but for their ability to create a hot song, one should take a minute to reflect back on the music of yesterday, and I mean that figuratively not literally, and realize that this music that we the younger generations call old folks music is where the music that we hold so near and dear got it’s start from this alleged old folks music.
More often than not people forget about the Lou Rawls’ or the Wilson Pickett’s that are responsible for creating a genre of music that will forever be a part of African American culture. It is my firm belief that without these pioneers of the music industry at least the African American contribution to it we would not have this incredible music that we love so much.
If you stop and think about it you will realize that the music that we listen to now is still based off of the music of the old days. Artists from Reggae to hip hop use samples from artists of the sixties and seventies to create new songs from old ones. I recently heard a song by Atlanta rapper Ludacris entitled Georgia that uses a sample of Ray Charles’ voice for the chorus of the song.
People today also tend to forget that comedy did not start with Dave Chappelle and Martin Lawrence. Comedians like Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, and Charlie Chaplin are among the elite group of comedians that can be called the pioneers of stand-up comedy. The death of comedian Richard Pryor dealt a great blow to the stand-up community and will continue to be felt as time passes on.
Having such powerful African American figures that have paved the way for so many more African American entertainers has created endless opportunities for African American entertainers the world over. Many of us go through life everyday not realizing that the people that entertain us, whether it be through music, literature, movies, or even stand-up comedy, are able to do so because of the struggle that those before them went through to make the breakthrough into, during their time, a predominantly white profession.
If we all take a minute to stop and thank all of the people that have gone through the struggle to ensure that we don’t have to and not just during black history month but all throughout the year.
The next time you pick up a cd or dvd or go to the movies or a comedy show ask yourself “Do I fully understand why it is that I have this wonderful form of artistic expression to entertain myself?” and if you can’t come up with an answer to this question maybe you should stop whatever it is that you are doing, go to the nearest place to pick up a Gramblinite and read this again.
Maybe after a second reading you will fully comprehend what it is that I have been trying to say to you in this column. Know your history. Don’t rely on someone else to tell you about something that you should be eager to learn about for yourself.