Rastafarians Joseph Hill, Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes recorded one of the seminal reggae albums of all time, 1977’s deeply soulful and rootsy Two Sevens Clash. With their raw and elemental sound, Culture were a significant influence on Britain’s exploding punk and ska scene.
Propelled by the relentless grooves of Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, Two Sevens Clash is pure reggae with a heavy dose of Rastafari gospel—one of the truly indispensable records to come out of Jamaica.
I had the pleasure of seeing Culture play in New York City in the late-80s and it was one of the most splendid live shows I’ve ever seen—passionate, powerful and uplifting.
This is a terrific performance by Culture from July 19, 1987. They’re playing in Woodbury, Connecticut. The visual quality of the video isn’t great but the audio is more than solid.
I’ve always loved Sammy Davis Jr. As a kid, I read his 1965 autobiography “Yes I Can” and as an adult I still have a deep fondness for his upbeat, groovy, vibe.
Sammy Davis, Jr. went to Vietnam in 1972 as a representative of President Nixon’s Special Action Office For Drug Abuse Prevention. Davis was there to observe the military drug abuse rehabilitation program, and talk to and entertain the troops.
Sammy was a peacenik. “I was so opposed to the war in Vietnam that I initially refused President Nixon’s urgings for me to go there.” But, he ended up going to entertain the troops.
Davis walked a fine line between being perceived as a House Negro for The White House and, in my opinion, a saavy infiltrator who instigated change from within.
For Davis, his role as a high-profile Black entertainer with a desire to change the tone of American society found him engaged in a delicate balancing act between winning hearts and minds while still sticking to his core beliefs of racial equality, peace, love and understanding at a time when the USA was deeply divided along race lines as well as pro-war and anti-war factions.
“Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.”
He got shit from all sides, called an “Uncle Tom” by some Blacks, hated by whites for marrying a white woman, and ostracized by trendoids for being a faux hipster, he defied them all by letting his talent do the talking.
In the following footage, you see Davis, working with a bare bones production, a trio of back-up dancers and a small band, creating some dynamite energy. It’s like a chitlin circuit roadhouse review compared to Bob Hope’s lavish USO tours. In one scene, Davis sings for a small group of soldiers working with nothing but a microphone and a drummer - no band, no backing tracks.
Davis chooses his words very carefully while discussing Vietnam and the drug issue.
Forty years after his death, George Jackson continues to reflect different things to different people depending on their ideologies and experiences.
To some, Jackson was a renowned author, Marxist, and activist truth-teller who brought the injustices of the American experience in and out of prison into harsh light as the once-vibrant ‘60s faded to a disillusioned and bloody end.
To others, he was a career criminal and prisoner turned violent radical whose acts and incitements brought misery to many and resulted in the kind of revolutionary martyrdom now worshiped by Islamicists and Tea Party extremists.
In a society that both thrives on a fundamental class-based inequality and manages to keep its prison population of 2 million over 40% black, Jackson remains a figure of some relevance, however legendary. Perhaps the best way to get a picture of the man is to read his words in Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
On the ideological side of things, here’s George Jackson - 40 year commemoration, a video produced by Jonathan Jackson Jr:
After the jump: George Jackson in context, and Bob Dylan’s salute to the man…
I was only made aware of this speech by Eric Clapton at a 1976 gig in Birmingham, UK, the other day, but It’s truly disgusting. Here’s a relatively short sample (quoted from Rebel Rock by J. Street (1986) and sourced from New Musical Express, Melody Maker, The Guardian and The Times):
Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back.
It goes on for a lot longer than that - the entire speech can be heard in the animated YouTube clip below. The “Enoch” Clapton is referring to is the notorious English politician Enoch Powell who in 1968 made the infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, also in Brimingham. How Clapton didn’t get crucified at the time in the popular press is beyond me, as is the fact that the rest of the concert continued as normal, with no rioting or no bottling. The activist group Rock Against Racism was set up as a direct response to these remarks. Clapton has never properly apologised - how does he still get away with receiving so much praise and acclaim? Fuck Eric Clapton.
If you’re looking for some news-video manipulation that’s funkier than the the Gregory Brothers’ oft-annoying high-register hip-pop treatments, you’re in luck. Out of Kingston, Jamaica’s University of Technology comes marketing student Kevin-Sean Hamilton, who as DJ Powa created the tune and video for “Nobody Canna Cross It (Di Bus Can Swim)”, the most viral video to come out of that country.
Cut from a TVJ report on flooding from the Yallahs River in eastern Jamaica’s St. Thomas parish, “Nobody Canna Cross It” spotlights the declarations of river worker Clifton Brown, who Powa’s made into a folk hero with a sick backing track and some deft video editing. It’s a perfect example of the unique way that Jamaicans find humor in bad news—or as they say in patois, “tek serious mek laugh.”
Of course, both Brown and the song have their own Facebook pages, and thankfully, Kingston-based videographer Simon “Sno” Thompson (a.k.a. Yosef Imagination) is looking to set up a fundraiser to help build that bridge for the people of St. Thomas.
Beloved cartoonist Charles Schulz received this unsigned letter dated November 12, 1969 concerning the new addition of “Franklin,” the first black character appearing in “Peanuts.” How strange this seems now, but just imagine the uproar on FOX News if a gay kid was added to the gang today.
Before Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City hit the markets in the late ‘80s, New York culture maven Michael Holman first made the move to put hip-hop culture on TV with the show Graffiti Rock.
In 1984, Holman—who played music with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent Gallo in the legendarily obscure band Grey—got a bunch of banker friends to put together $150,000 to shoot the pilot for the series at Madison Ave. and 106th St. It screened on WPIX channel 11 in June 1984.
Holman turned the show into a seminar on the culture. Alongside future superstars Run D.M.C., Kool Moe Dee and Shannon—and cameos by “Prince Vince” Gallo and Debi Mazar—he featured his own crew the New York City Breakers, pieces by graf artist Brim, and hilarious slang translations. For the time, the show is pretty slick and ready for prime-time. Holman picks up the tragic story from there…
So the show airs and actually does much better than people thought! We got great ratings and aired in 88 syndicated markets, nationwide. But when we went to Las Vegas to sell the show at NAPTE (National Association of Producers of Television Entertainment) we hit a wall. First, the station managers (the people responsible for purchasing new shows in their markets) didn’t understand why “Graffiti Rock,” and hip hop was different to what Soul Train was offering. Secondly, certain stations wouldn’t take the chance to buy “Graffiti Rock,” unless other, larger markets did first. Chicago was waiting on L.A. to bite, and L.A. was waiting on New York. But the major New York syndicated stations at the time, were controlled by unsavory characters, and they wanted money under the table to put the show on the air! My main investors refused to deal with these forces (I of course would have done whatever I had to to get it on the air, and am still pissed they didn’t play along!)...
Graffiti Rock proved a legendary snapshot into what hip-hop TV was about to be. What a shot in the arm it would have been for the culture. Gnarls Barkley would later lovingly spoof Holman and the show for the video for their 2008 hit “Run” and before that, the Beastie Boys sampled Holman’s excellent little seminar on scratching in pt. 2 on their tune “Alright Hear This.”
I’ll leave part 3 of the YouTube of Graffiti Rock off this post in an appeal for you to reward a culture hero like Holman by buying the DVD.
Sharing the 1994 documentary Malcolm X: Make It Plain is a fine way to celebrate Malcolm’s birthday.
For a truly in-depth look at Malcolm X, I recommend he newly published “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable. The result of over two decades of tireless research, it clarifies many of the facts and fictions surrounding both Malcolm’s life and death. The fact that the book was an immediate bestseller indicates that Malcolm’s message is as timely today as it was when he was alive. Marable’s book not only helps set the record straight regarding many of the fictional and inaccurate elements in Alex Haley’s book “The Autobiography Of Malcolm X,” it brings Malcolm’s character and humanity into tighter focus. It is an engrossing and illuminating look at a life that has only grown in stature over the years. Malcolm, now more than ever.
Flawed prophet though he may have been, Malcolm X set the standard for young Black men like our President and helped kick down the door that Barack Obama walked through many years ago on his way to where he is now. While no one will mistake President Obama for Malcolm X, there is no doubt that Malcolm instilled in Obama a sense of Black pride and self-respect that, in his better moments, propels the President into doing the right thing despite negative political ramifications. I feel that in those all-too-rare moments when Obama stands up for the disenfranchised and marginalized people in our society, it is because of the long righteous shadows of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Obama can run but he can’t hide from his own people’s history.
Black Hollywood: Blaxploitation and Advancing an Independent Black Cinema is an inexplicably obscure documentary that deserves a wide audience. Directed by Howard Johnson (Deep Roots) in 1984, the film offers an in-depth perspective on race and racism in America’s dream factory: Hollywood.
This 1984 documentary traces the history of black filmmakers, actors, and audiences in America. From Oscar Micheaux to Eddie Murphy, Black Hollywood amasses interviews and clips to explore the role of black entertainers and entrepreneurs. Although progress has been undeniable, the exposure ushered in by blaxploitation movies did little to advance a black cinema independent from Hollywood. After all, the majority of blaxploitation films were financed by white producers who reaped great rewards. Featuring Diahnne Abbot, Rosalind Cash, Alfre Woodard, Jim Brown, Vonetta McGee, D’Urville Martin, Lorenzo Tucker, Joel Fluellen, Vincent Tubbs, and Sidney Poitier.
Enjoy Black Hollywood: Blaxploitation and Advancing an Independent Black Cinema courtesy of our friends at See Of Sound.