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Lamentations: Stunning stained glass windows of black lives by Kehinde Wiley
10:54 am


Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley has been collecting laurels for over a decade, for his amazingly vivid, large scale, ultra-realistic portraits of contemporary African-Americans in an epic style that nods to Barkley L. Hendricks, but with much heavier doses of old-master grandeur, appropriating for everyday people the majesty of Renaissance nobles. Though on paper it seems like a simple conceit, his gifts as a painter render it spectacular, and his body of work taken as a whole raises powerful points about race, social class, and the true meaning of “nobility.”

Given his obeisance to Renaissance tropes, stained glass windows would seem an obvious medium for Wiley to explore, and this has in fact happened. An exhibit currently showing at Le Petit Palais in Paris features six Wiley stained glass works and four paintings. It’s the artist’s first French solo exhibition, and is loaded with religious imagery, including a couple of pietàs that MUST be intended to recall America’s hideous and apparently unswerving habit of murdering young black boys. Interestingly, the paintings are being shown among Le Petit Palais’ 19th Century collection. The exhibit is titled “Lamentations,” and is scheduled to run through January 15, 2017.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Ass-kicking ‘Faster Pussycat’ heroine Tura Satana during her younger days as a burlesque dancer

Bad girl rule-breaker Tura Satana’s name is pretty much synonymous with the film that propelled her to fame as the ass-kicking, man eating “Varla,” Russ Meyer’s 1965 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. And if you know anything about Satana’s background you already know that she lived up to one of her famous lines (which I’m riffing on here) in the flick by never trying anything. She just did it.

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan in 1938 (or 1935 according to some sources) both of Satana’s parents were performers. Her father (who was part Japanese and part Filipino) was an actor who appeared in silent films. Satana’s mother performed in circuses as a contortionist and was of a mix of Native American and Scottish descent which further contributed to Satana’s exotic and unique look.

After moving to the U.S. in 1942 when Tura was only four, she and her father were sent to an internment camp in California for Japanese-Americans where they lived for two years until they reunited with her mother in Chicago. As the feelings of resentment toward the Japanese were still high following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 Tura (as well as other U.S. residents of Japanese descent) was the object of harassment and routinely subjected to bullying at school. At the age of ten Tura was brutally gang-raped by a group of teenagers. Despite her age and the horrific magnitude of the crime the five assailants were never prosecuted for the despicable assault. As a response to help protect his child, Tura’s father apparently tutored her in various martial arts such as Aikido and Karate so that she would always be able to protect herself. According to Satana herself for her portrayal of Varla she drew from the internalized rage from her rape which would further immortalize her face-smashing character in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.

Tura Satana as ‘Varla’ in Russ Meyer’s ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’
At thirteen, her parents entered her into an “arranged” marriage with a family friend John Satana that would end only nine months later while Tura was starting her career as an exotic dancer. Not long after her marriage ended Satana found her way to the city of broken dreams, Los Angeles and was quickly discovered while performing her special blend of burlesque dancing mixed with martial arts moves. She got her first acting role in the 1959 ABC television series Hawaiian Eye. This led to many other acting roles one of which was with one of Satana’s rumored love interests, director Billy Wilder in 1963’s Irma La Douce and a role that same year opposite Dean Martin (where she played a stripper) in Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed. And if super-groupie Pamela Des Barres is to be believed (detailed in her 2008 book Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies), it was Tura herself who taught The King, Elvis Presley (another of Satana’s boy toys) his signature dance moves. 

Satana ditched her dance routines when California changed the laws governing exotic dancing which allowed clubs to require dancers appear topless and instead turned to straight jobs such as nursing, and in her later years even working as security detail for a Hilton casino in Reno, Nevada under the name “Tura Jurman” after marrying former police officer Endel Jurman in 1981. I’ve posted a variety of incredible photos of Satana from when she was known as “Miss Japan Beautiful” (a nickname that would follow her throughout her career) that were taken during her days as a burlesque dancer for you to oogle below. I’ve also included footage from Tura showing off her dance moves in the 1973 film The Doll Squad. Naturally since this is Tura Satana we are talking about, please assume that many of the images that follow are NSFW. Much like the woman herself.

Tura Satana in ‘Burlesque Magazine’ when she was only nineteen, 1957.


More Tura! Tura! Tura! after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Get Out’: Jordan Peele’s new horror-comedy is REALLY going to piss off racist Republicans
01:24 pm


Jordan Pelle

That grand guy, satirist, novelist and screenwriter Terry Southern (who wrote, among other things Dr. Strangelove, Barbarella, The Magic Christian, Candy and Easy Rider) reflected on a two-month assignment working as a fiction editor at Esquire magazine:

“...before my tenure was done I had so refined my critical faculties that I could reject a story after reading the first paragraph. Then it got to be the first sentence. Finally, I felt I could safely reject on the basis of title, and at last on the basis of the author’s name—if it had a middle initial or a junior in it. Under this system I lost a few things by Vonnegut and Selby… but I never claimed it was perfect.”

I feel the same way about movie trailers: If they don’t grab me by the first 30 seconds, I mean, why should I bother to watch 90 minutes if this is all they got?

Something tells me that even Terry Southern—perhaps especially Terry Southern—would wholeheartedly approve of this outrageous new trailer for Jordan Peele’s upcoming horror comedy Get Out. The film will drop—like an atom bomb if this hilariously tweaked trailer is any indication—in February of 2017.

Just watch it.

Watch it now.



Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Answering the Call’: Filmmaker returns to Selma, AL to see what’s changed—and it’s not enough

Despite legitimately heartening developments like the legalization of same-sex marriage, it gets easier every day to arrive at the cynical conclusion that social progress in the United States just might be impossible because the troglodytes have at last reached critical mass. Look at something as fundamental to democracy as the vote: since the Supreme Court’s shocking 2013 evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, new onerous and racially-applied voter suppression laws are being trail-ballooned to take the place of long-outlawed tactics like poll taxes and literacy tests, all to ensure that African Americans can’t vote in significant enough numbers to topple white hegemony. And if people of color are excluded from the voter rolls, they can’t serve as jurors, ensuring not just the continuation but the strengthening of our nation’s enduring tradition of judicial outcomes that are skewed dramatically against non-whites.

(Before some “Party of Lincoln” troll points it out: yes, the Republicans used to be the somewhat less racist major party. That changed in 1964 and it’s been the party of white bigotry ever since. You’ve had 52 years to figure that out, and if you haven’t yet, you need to permanently shut your wronghole.)

The long and the short of all this is that if things continue going south (seewhatididthere) America might experience another Selma.

There’s a good reason that Selma, AL became a significant locus in the Civil Rights Movement, especially as regards voting rights. Selma in the early ‘60s was half black, but only 1% of black citizens were registered to vote. It’s not that they were disinterested. Besides the literacy test, Klan violence and other extra-legal disincentives to registration were widespread, and the registration office was only open two days a month, at difficult hours. By 1964, when serious voter drives were happening in black communities, a judge actually enjoined against organizing. The official nationwide desegregation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did little for voting rights, so activists organized a march from Selma to Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery. That march took place on Sunday, March 7th, 1965, and due to the unhinged brutality of the attacks on demonstrators by state troopers and county deputies, all basically acting under the aegis of the notorious segregationist Governor George Wallace, that day is forever known as Bloody Sunday.

Two weeks later, on Sunday the 21st, the march was attempted again. This time, the National Guard protected the marchers from violence by county and state authorities (and enthusiastic amateurs). About 3,000 people started the march in Selma—many of whom had traveled from around the country, shocked by the images of Bloody Sunday they’d seen in the news. By the time the marchers arrived safely in Montgomery, the demonstration’s population approached 25,000. The Voting Rights Act passed and was signed by President Lyndon Johnson later that year. And every hero who shed blood in the name of equality on Bloody Sunday was spat on by the SCOTUS in 2013 when they rendered that law utterly toothless.

To tie that history to contemporary perspectives on voting rights in America, documentary filmmaker Brian Jenkins, previously known for the vinyl-freak ode Records Collecting Dust (which you’ve perhaps read about on this very blog), has made Answering the Call. Jenkins’ uncle John Witeck was among those who heeded Dr. King’s plea for support in March of 1965; he marched on the so-called “Turnaround Tuesday” march on the 9th, and remained in Selma for other protests leading up to the final march to Montgomery, an experience which wound up catalyzing a lifetime’s work for social progress. For Answering the Call, he returned to Alabama with his nephew and a camera crew.

The doc doesn’t just trace the history of black disenfranchisement, it’s engaged in the now. With a racially-charged (to say the LEAST) presidential election fast approaching, the issue has reached new heights of urgency, and it’s amazing to hear the Secretary of State of Alabama letting NASTY racist dog-whistles fly so freely while discussing the franchise. I’m perpetually, existentially disheartened that we still have to be struggling over the exact same shit after half a century—Alabama’s Constitution remains loaded with segregationist provisions. They’re currently unenforceable thanks to federal laws that supersede them, but given the right SCOTUS, that could change shockingly quickly.

Asked for a statement on the film, director Jenkins responded to Dangerous Minds in an email exchange:

Only 60% of eligible voters in the United States will turn out on election day for a presidential election (even less for midterm and primary elections). I’m sympathetic to the 40% who choose not to participate but I’d like to pose the question, “If voting doesn’t matter, then why is the Republican Party working so hard to keep us from the polls?” Whether it’s gerrymandering, voter ID laws, eliminating early voting and same day registration, or switching up polling locations at the last minute, the GOP has made access to the polls a primary target and priority since the election of Barack Obama.

I had the chance to sit down with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and discuss the controversy surrounding the state’s voter ID law and it’s recent decision to close 31 DMV locations across the state—which made it even more difficult to register and vote in Alabama. Voting is a right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. So to hear a Secretary of State refer to this right as a “privilege” is deeply troubling and wrong.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Of Skittles and Skypes: Shocking codewords ‘Racist Trump Twitter’ uses to avoid account suspension

This fucking election. I’ve heard that exact phrase so much more this year than I ever have before. The rise of Trump’s racist, sexist, illiberal id within the Republican Party has been depressing to watch. We’re all holding our breath to see where all of that unruly anger goes after (please God) Trump loses the election on November 8. 

In the meantime, the mainstreaming of Trump (our own American Mussolini®) and his politics of racial resentment, the KKK’s David Duke (whose name I’ve heard more in the last week than in the previous 20 years combined), and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon has also meant an inevitable education in the loathsome habits of the overtly and proudly racist part of America that is normally kept under wraps. I don’t want to know this stuff, but have learned about it via a sort of toxic, brain-damaged cultural osmosis.

So here’s something I learned this year. In white supremacist quarters the number “88” has special significance, because “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet and so it can be taken to mean “HH” = “Heil Hitler” (also “8” kind of looks like an “H” if you think about it). It took the political rise of Trump to bring that to my attention. Fun stuff!

If you see the number 88 being thrown around by people who probably hate blacks and Latinos, it’s not an accident, it’s a dog whistle to the people who (wink) think of themselves as understanding the “true America” in which immigrants and blacks always win and white people and Christians never get an even break.

You may have seen the triple parentheses, also called “echoes,” around people’s names, which look like this: (((Martin Schneider))). That’s white supremacist code for “Jewish.” (Fortunately, Twitter users are now adopting the practice voluntarily in order to defuse it of its meaning.)

And the innocuous word Skittles is a racist dog whistle because that’s what Trayvon Martin had on his person when George Zimmerman shot and killed him for no good reason.

Some of you might recall that Trump’s son Donald Jr. recently unveiled an ugly metaphor having to do with the number of poisonous Skittles could be in a bowl before you’d make a decision to stop eating them, the idea being to communicate the advisability of a zero-tolerance policy on Muslim immigration.

That metaphor has roots in Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher—in more recent years the concept has been used against Muslims and black people using M&Ms as the candy, but the switch to Skittles was surely done as a conscious shout-out to Zimmerman. It’s astonishing how few news reports noticed this aspect of the metaphor, but the governing logic of an effective dog whistle is that most people—non racist people—can’t hear it.

On Saturday Buzzfeed ran an item by Alex Kantrowitz alerting “normals” to some new codewords the white supremacists on Twitter are using to evade detection. I heard about it via this tweet from Alex Goldman, who describes the groups using the terms as “Racist Trump twitter.”

Here’s the ugly list of words and their “true” meanings among white supremacists. Notice the presence of that loaded word skittles to mean Muslims or Arabs:

nigger = google
Jew/Kike = skype
Spic/Mexican = yahoo
Gook/Chink = bing
Muslim/Arab = skittle
gay (men) = butterfly
lesbian = fishbucket
tranny = durdens
liberals/dems = carsalesman
conservatives = reagans
libertiarian = a leppo

Here’s Kantrowitz on the reasons for the subterfuge:

The code appears to have originated in response to Google’s Jigsaw program, a new AI-powered approach to combating harassment and abuse online. The program seems to have inspired members of the online message board 4chan to start “Operation Google,” using Google as a derogatory term for blacks in an attempt to get Google to filter out its own name. The code developed from there.

This is obviously an elaborate game of whack-a-mole, but just because it’s kind of futile in no way diminishes the importance of letting some daylight in on these creeps. If they have to go through a hundred iterations of inventing some whole new elaborate code to enjoy their twisted, simple-minded hate among themselves, then maybe eventually they’ll get the message that society is not going to put up with it.

Here’s an example of the code in use. It don’t get a whole lot clearer than this, does it?

Here are a couple of other examples:


Ugh! This fucking election? How about This fucking country???

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America is still an uncompromising gut punch
11:37 am


Ralph Bakshi

A subversive and satirical re-imagining of Disney’s Song Of The South transplanted to Harlem, Ralph Bakshi’s incendiary masterpiece Coonskin exploits and eviscerates grotesque American racial stereotypes with a politically incorrect, profane and vicious sense of humor. The film’s hyper energy is emphasized by Chico Hamilton’s percussive score and the mix of animation and live action set the tone for films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite its innovative visuals, there’s nothing slick about Coonskin. The movie has the perfect low-budget skeeziness of a Dolemite flick. And casting Barry White as Brother Bear/Samson and Scatman Crothers as Papa Bone adds layers of pop cultural resonance that continue to reverberate even today. (Did Rick Ross cop his fashion sense from Samson?)

Released in 1975 to a firestorm of controversy, it took Coonskin several years before the film found an audience that could appreciate it as an edgy aesthetic experiment and a powerful social statement. Wu Tang Clan had plans to re-make it and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, released 25 years after Coonskin, echoes Bakshi’s brutal take on the pervasive, ages-old racism that permeates American popular culture. Al Sharpton and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) went apeshit and picketed Coonskin before anyone in the organization had even seen the film. (Sharpton quipped “I don’t need to see shit to smell shit.”) Bakshi had hired a number of black animators to work on the film and the NAACP felt it was an important work but still Sharpton couldn’t resist the opportunity for some press. New York City theaters were smoke-bombed during screenings of Coonskin. Nationwide theaters panicked and cancelled bookings.The film’s distributor Paramount Pictures eventually freaked and pulled it from circulation. The positive reception from critics didn’t make up for the fact that most audiences, both black and white, just didn’t get it.

Quentin Tarantino has championed Coonskin over the years and provided some critical insight into Bakshi’s methods. Tarantino describes the film as…

... hands down the most incendiary piece of work in the entire (blaxploitation) genre. Using negro folklore and slave tales of nonviolent resistance, along with the White American/European media’s racist caricatures of the past (i.e., Disney’s Black Crows, Warner Brothers’ Coal Black, every James River pickaninny that smilingly stared back from grocery shelves, the spaghetti benders of Lady and the Tramp, and the Jews of the Nazi Party-produced The Eternal Jew), Bakshi, with zero timidity, challenged his audiences’ sensibilities in ways that made all the other blaxploitation titles seem like the wish-fulfillment fantasies they were.

In fact, the only voice of the time that had a symbiotic relationship to Bakshi’s work could be found in Richard Pryor’s monologues. To discover that the two gentlemen were friends, and Pryor was a huge fan of Coonskin, comes as no surprise. An America that considers Blazing Saddles and All In The Family stinging racial satire is an America not ready for Coonskin.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Kill the f*ckers: ‘White Man,’ Suicide’s BRUTAL sonic attack on white supremacy
10:17 am


Alan Vega
Martin Rev

Alan Vega, 70s, photo by Paul Zone

I plan to stand behind my front door clutching a baseball bat for the duration of this year’s Republican National Convention, but if I were headed to one of the “First Amendment zones” in Cleveland next month, I would carry a ghetto blaster that played nothing but Suicide’s “White Man.”

Born Boruch Alan Bermowitz in 1938 and married to a Holocaust survivor during the sixties, Alan Vega knows whereof he sings on “White Man,” an obscure late-period Suicide track that deserves a wider hearing. While Vega denounces the legacy of white supremacy in the barest language there is, Martin Rev’s music—drums, a single guitar chord through a tremolo effect and a three-note bassline, punctuated by keyboard noises—corresponds to an inner state between trance and fury.

So far, “White Man” has only been officially released on the DVD One Day + Live at La Loco / Paris, a pro-shot live show from January 2005 supplemented with interviews. (A used copy from Amazon will set you back about $5.) Though Suicide has been playing the song since ‘98 (according to this fan’s timeline), they left it off their last album to date, 2002’s merciless post-9/11 nightmare American Supreme.

It just so happens there’s video of Suicide playing “White Man” in Manhattan right after the 2004 RNC. The performance falls flat, but Vega’s ad-libbed tirade is much clearer than on the Paris tape:

White man
Goin’ ‘round the world
Killin’ everybody with a different color skin
Yeah, it’s the American race
Yeah, kill the fuckers

White man
You’re a fucking diseased fucker
You’re a fucking cancer
White man

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
This may be the most racist, sexist, violent video game EVER (and it’s almost 35 years old)
11:51 am


Video games
Custer's Revenge

Despite exaggerations to the contrary, very few video games actually portray sexual assault. Sure, there’s a ton of murder, and definitely lots of gendered violence, but games that write in actual sexual violence are quite rare, which is actually sort of surprising when you learn about Custer’s Revenge.

The game, which came in in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and cost a whopping $49.95 (making it the priciest of Atari games then on the market), had a very simple premise: you are a naked, erection-wielding General Custer and you must avoid a volley of arrows in order to to rape a Native American who is—as indicated by the cover art—tied to a pole. Yeah, that’s it.

Custer’s Revenge was an early attempt to create and market “adult” video games, but promotion was difficult, especially since Mystique, the publishers and developers of the game, made it very clear that the game was “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS.” In order to drum up publicity, Mystique actually showed the game to women’s and Native American groups, who were quick to give them free press with outraged protests. Feminist Andrea Dworkin even argued that Custer’s Revenge “generated many gang rapes of Native American women,” a claim that is difficult to prove, to say the least. Compared to say Pac-Man, the best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, which sold 7 million, Custer’s Revenge was small potatoes, only selling 80,000 total. Regardless, the backlash most certainly helped move copies that might have otherwise simply collected dust on the shelf.

So how does Custer’s Revenge hold up nowadays? Despite the stomach-turning “plot,” the game actually manages to be so very comically low-rent that it falls very short of anything that is actually visually lurid. I mean you really have to use your imagination to connect those abrupt little pixels to the historic atrocities of the sexual violence and genocide exacted against Native Americans. They just didn’t quite have the technology to really depict any detail at the time, a fact which allowed game designer Joel Miller to maintain plausible deniability, claiming that the woman was a “willing participant” (this despite the game’s title and cover art). Nonetheless, Mystique later released a companion game, General Retreat, featuring the Native American woman attempting to rape Custer under cannonball fire, which, I guess, was an attempt at equality?

Ah, such innocent times! When the libidinal horrors of entertainment were technologically limited to blocky little boners and booties!
It’s possible that protests eventually staved off sales of the game, but what’s more likely is that no one really wanted to play it. PC World magazine named it the third worst game of all time, adding to the obvious objections that it was extremely difficult to play and it just looked terrible. The underground infamy of of Custer’s Revenge outlasted the game itself, inspiring a much more graphic remake in 2008, which was notably protested by a indigenous activists, including a female game designer and a video game journalist. Eventually pressure from activists got the game removed from the internet in 2014 (though I doubt too many people felt its loss).

More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Movin’ On Up’: How the Black Panthers invented ‘The Jeffersons’

Somewhat like top basketballers before Michael Jordan (thinking of you, Dr. J….) the reputation of Norman Lear’s sitcom The Jeffersons suffered somewhat by poor timing and the shows that came after it. Cheers and Seinfeld are regularly lauded as among the greatest sitcoms of all time, but The Jeffersons, whose impressive 253 episodes were spread across a whopping 11 seasons (1975-1985), never seems to get mentioned with the same respect.

If you eliminate animated series and long-running staples from the dawn of TV history, the longevity of The Jeffersons puts it in a special category with Two and a Half Men (262 episodes), Cheers (275), M*A*S*H (256), Frasier (264), Married ... with Children (258), and Happy Days (255).

At a minimum, The Jeffersons is arguably the greatest put-down show of all time!

And it never would have happened but for an intervention by the Black Panthers.

Norman Lear, creator of a fair portion of the most successful sitcoms of the 1970s, including All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and Maude, is the subject of an upcoming PBS American Masters telecast under the title “Just Another Version of You,” which is expected to get a theatrical run in the summer before appearing on PBS affiliates in the autumn. Since the 1970s Lear has become more or less synonymous with the introduction of ethnic diversity in American TV as well as the foregrounding of what might be termed a liberal consciousness in televised comedy.

Remarkably, the creation of The Jeffersons was a direct outgrowth of an intervention staged by three members of the Black Panthers political organization at some point during 1974. A trio of pissed-off revolutionaries went to Lear’s office to complain about the “garbage” they were seeing on TV, specifically Lear’s show Good Times, which ran from 1974 to 1979 and focused on a black family in the projects of Chicago. You wouldn’t think that the Black Panthers would object to a popular sitcom calling attention to poverty in urban America, but they wanted to see a broader palette of Black America on TV.

Last weekend Lear visited Dan Harmon’s weekly podcast Harmontown, which is taped live every Sunday at the Nerdmelt Showroom in Hollywood, to promote the American Masters documentary and shoot the shit with a well-known showrunner (Community) from a more splintered era of TV programming, namely, ours. Harmontown tapings are usually attended by GenXers and Millennials, so the appearance of the 93-year-old (!) legend of TV was an unusual event.

‘Good Times’ aired on CBS from 1974 to 1979
At about 42 minutes in, Harmon and his sidekick Jeff Davis engaged Lear on the subject of the beginnings of The Jeffersons:

Harmon: There’s this anecdote, about ... three Black Panthers show up, and come to your office and say, “We want to talk to the garbageman! I wanna talk to Norman Lear, the garbageman!” And they storm into your office, and say, “Good Times is bullshit” ... They read you the riot act ... You credit that moment as starting us down the road towards The Jeffersons. ...

You’re still listening! You’ve already proven that you’re the king of television at that point, and people are barging into your office to call you a garbageman, and you listen to them! And took their feedback and made another great television show, that was great from another perspective.

Davis: What was the Black Panthers’ [complaint]? ... Because they were living in the projects, because they were downtrodden?

Lear: Their big bellyache was, why does the guy have to hold down three jobs and occasionally—in an episode, it almost seems like he’s looking for a fourth—he’s so hungry to make some money to support his family and why can’t there be an affluent black family on television? ... They were pissed off that the only family that existed, the guy had to hold down three jobs.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Does Your Mama Know About Me: Diana Ross sings Tommy Chong’s Motown hit about interracial love, 1968
10:19 am


Cheech & Chong
Diana Ross

Can you find Tommy Chong in this group shot of Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers?
During the musical section of their set at LA’s Novo on Wednesday, Cheech and Chong played a song called “Does Your Mama Know About Me.” Chong wrote the lyrics for the number, which was a hit Motown single in 1968, and which Cheech says he adored before he ever met Chong. YouTube has fuzzy smartphone video of the duo performing it at a 2011 show.

As Cheech tells the story, he moved to Canada in ‘68—not to evade the draft, of course, but to protect Canada from a Vietnamese invasion—and when he was introduced to his future partner in Vancouver the following year, he immediately recognized him as the “T. Chong” credited on the label of that Motown record about an interracial couple he’d spun so many times.

Chong was one of the guitarists in Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, itself an interracial group which got some press by changing its name to “Four N*ggers and a Chink” during an engagement at Dante’s Inferno; lead singer Taylor is often credited with discovering the Jackson 5. Berry Gordy signed Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers to the Motown subsidiary Gordy Records in 1967. Their recording of “Does Your Mama Know About Me” peaked at number 29 on the Billboard chart in May, 1968, and the Supremes’ version appeared on their Love Child LP, released later that year. This post from Night Flight goes into Chong’s musical career in some detail, but the best source is Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography:

...just before we were discovered by the Supremes and Berry Gordy, I wrote a poem that started our songwriting career. Tom Baird, who was a talented keyboardist and composer, read my poem and put music to it. It was a poem about a black guy asking his girlfriend if her mama knew about him. The song was also about my own experiences with white women. Being half Chinese, there had been times—actually, many of them—when I had to drop a girl off at the end of the block so her parents wouldn’t see who she was dating. That experience saddened me. It hurt to know that my race was a deciding factor for white people.


Soon the Harlettes discovered the song. They were the all-girl group that sang backup for Bette Midler, Diana Ross, and Jermaine Jackson, and they actually recorded it. The lyrics also changed the way Motown songwriters wrote. Until “Does Your Mama Know About Me?” came along, R & B music had always consisted of love songs. Now songwriters started exploring the color barrier with their songs. “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Love Child” come to mind as examples of this shift.

Berry Gordy loved our song, and after it hit the charts, he put us on the road with Diana Ross and the Supremes. We opened the show and performed part of our club routine, which eventually pissed off Diana Ross so much that she had the tour manager tell us to stop doing it. The part Diana took offense to was a Parliament song whose lyrics we changed to say “Oh, white girls, you sure been delicious to me.” Our song pissed off the promoters, who were unprepared for an outrageous performance from the “opening act.” They had hired Diana Ross and the Supremes, who had become a “white act.” The promoters did not appreciate this unknown band from Canada singing about white girls’ being “delicious,” especially with so many white girls in the audience.

Listen to “Does Your Mama Know About Me” after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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