Race Music

Much ado is being made about critical race theory by those who practiced it for decades in a culture that had enforced it by law for centuries.

This occurred to me in the starkest fashion as I sipped my coffee to an “informercial” for the music cd’s of the late Ricky Nelson.

You remember Ricky; he was the second son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson who had one of the first family situation comedies in the Fifties.

But what I saw this morning was good old Ricky singing “I’m Walking” a hit from the early days of rock n roll.

But you see, Ricky didn’t write “I’m Walking” nor was he the first to record it. It was the work of Antoine Dominique Domino, Jr. , known on the stage as “Fats” Domino.

But in the Fifties Black musicians and pioneers like Mr. Domino were essentially banned from the national airwaves in large regions of the Nation. Not because they weren’t pioneering rock and rhythm and blues, but simply because they were Black.

Their records were deemed “race music,” and unfit for the airwaves except in big markets like New York or LA or Detroit.

Therefore, Black writers and musicians watched helplessly as their songs, songs like “I’m Walking” and “Unchained Melody” were “covered” by white musicians and groups.

They witnessed the record albums which were produced and shipped to market in bland album covers which did not feature their own photos — some like Otis Redding — had a photograph of an attractive woman model. Or the Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey” had a cartoonish drawing of a monkey.

The music industry and the broadcast world had made their own judgment that Blacks were to be heard little and seen less in this era. And if their artistry should make it to the airwaves, it would be on the lips of white artists who might be promoted by white disc jockeys imitating Black voices like Wolfman Jack’s.

Critical race theory was simple in the Fifties and early Sixties, at least in broadcasting and music. It merely required a critical judgment that we love your music, but you stay off the album covers. We love your songwriting but you aren’t allowed to sing your own songs.

That way the critics will love it.

-Albert Turner Goins, Sr.

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