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NY Daily News: “Rock is the New Black”

Posted in A Day in the Life, DIY Diva | 1 Comment »

This morning I opened up my NY Daily Newspaper to read an article that almost brings tears to my eyes. Jim Farber, the News music writer, writes an awesome piece about how Rock is the New Black. I’m one of the rare black girls from Miami who grew up listening to rock music. And of course, it ended up being my choice of music to sing and play. To be fair, rock music wasn’t the only style I listened to, but it was the style that influenced me the most.

When I hit puberty and junior high, I went to a predominately white school, and found the local Classic Rock station. Although in those days, the music was actually current. Or perhaps the music found me. I listened to Styx, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and had crushes on boys with blond hair and blue eyes. My music and romantic choices felt perfectly normal to me, regardless of what my grandmother thought.

In high school, I sang in a Rush cover band (in addition to the school’s pops chorus), and was usually considered a little “different”. It never bothered me. I figured that black people created rock music – why shouldn’t we still enjoy it?

After high school, I sang with an original Progressive/New Wave band called “Some People’s Children”. We played Friday nights in Fort Lauderdale at a venue called The Reunion Room. This is the same place where Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids first made their appearance, and they were as great a live show then as they are now.

To date myself, this took place during the 80’s, at the advent of a new cable channel called MTV. At home, I played this channel 24/7. During band rehearsals at the bassist’s house, the music video station also played constantly.

One day I’ll never forget is when a new video came on while we were taking a break. The music video was “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour. It was the first time I had ever seen a black rock band.

They. Kicked. Ass.

People often talk about where they where when president JFK was assassinated. I talk about where I was the first time that I saw the Living Colour video. It blew my mind to see and know that there were other black folks that played the music that I also liked to play. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it changed my life. I bought that Living Colour CD as soon as possible, and learned every song. I read their liner notes and learned about an organization, The Black Rock Coalition, that supported their efforts.

When I moved to NYC in 1995, I wanted to meet people, so I indeed joined The Black Rock Coalition myself. I later became the Executive Secretary, and organized live shows featuring bands like Screaming Headless Torsos, and saw great shows like Skunk Anansie, Fishbone, and 24-7 Spyz.

And I knew that I wasn’t alone.

Reading Jim Farber’s article today felt like home, especially since he interviewed Earl Douglass, the current Executive Director of the Black Rock Coalition. Earl is the one who once gave me a bootleg copy of a live Jeff Buckley show. Jeff Buckley ain’t black, but Earl and the BRC are open to great music, regardless of the color of the performer, which is how it should be.

Thanks to digital downloads, Earl is quoted as saying, “People now hear music before they see it. They’re not necessarily putting a face to it. All that matters is a good song. ”

Amen to that.

I had planned to include the “Cult of Personality” video here, but the suckers as Sony have disabled the Living Colour video codes from YouTube. But that’s okay. Instead, I’ll feature Skunk Anansie’s “Secretly”. Enjoy!

Brought to you by the Music Marketing Machine Course: July 16 – August 6, 2008 in NYC