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Standing at the crossroads: politics and the hero in black popular music


Black popular music, since it was first recorded cemmercially in 1920, has, through all its evolving styles, been primarily a vocal music, where lyrical meaning is crucial to its appeal. The music comes but of a racially-defined, lewer-class community, for which the popular sincer stands as spokesman and as hero. The unification and commun­ication of singer and audience is aided by the adoption of certain archetypal personae by the singer, representing specific forms of behavieur suitable te black life. The more complex the world of the American black, the more song archetypes were evolved to match that situation.
These song figures comment upon the immediate situation ef both singer and audience, helping the development of an understanding and a world view. There was a strong tradition of political pretest and comment in nineteenth century, pre-recorded song, but this seems to disappear in the twentieth century. Though a strand of topical songs remains, it is in this use of archetypal figures that the political tradition resides. The figures comment on these limitations that can be seen as political, in that they are immediate and local checks on the freed0m of the individual American black.
These archetypes develop over the ceurse of twentieth century recorded song, from defensive, white-controlled stereotypical figures to independent, positive, integrative archetypes. Thia change runs con­currently with changes in the record industry, and in society as a whole. The evolving self-image presented in song mirrors the growing self-confidence of the modern American black, and his contemporary reaction to changing historical circumstance.


(1980). Standing at the crossroads: politics and the hero in black popular music

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