Back Room Boys, Salute: A Short Autobiography of My Childhood in Music, In Which I Ask More…
Michelle Beaulieu-Morgan

Once again, this is excellent. The perfect blend of thought provoking ideas and personal memories. I do not want to say too much here because you thoughts on your parents and, your father especially, are very emotional and I do not want to trivialize them but I did want to make a quick point about musical history if I could.

Without a doubt the music industry was never immune to our larger social ills race, greed etc. But the key word there is “industry.” I think we all learn to love music with a pure and innocent heart. It pleases the soul.

That is why young children tend to like silly songs I think. As we get older we try and resist them as being “childish” but then when nobody is around we sing them to ourselves. Or at least I do and as I grow more senile I just sing them alone or not.

So as with so many things in our lives we have to pretend or play an expected role. That, sadly, corrupts us and our love of music. For example, Back Door Man and Spoonful are male sexual fantasies. But again, the key word is “fantasy”. Howlin Wolf who sang the original versions of both songs was by some accounts I read an extremely nice and polite guy. In other words, he knew it was all an act or all in good fun.

What corrupted and continues to corrupt that benign attitude is the “industry”. The mass marketing of popular music gave white artists (but eventually all popular artists as money is color blind) the means to turn fantasy into reality. And the industry indulged those artists. Thus, the musician is turned into a “Star”

The best example of what I am trying to say is Elvis Presley. Again, don’t fall prey to junk biographies, seek out books like Last Train From Memphis. Elvis grew up in shockingly poor conditions, little different then his black neighbors.

His love of black music was genuine and innocent. He didn’t steal or rip off anything. He sang from the heart and what he knew best. The night of his first Sun session nobody cynically asked him to sing Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s That’s Alright. In fact, they were on a break and Elvis was fooling around when he started singing it.

But once big money entered the picture, we all know where Elvis’ story ends: a tragic death at 42. He never really equaled the energy and innocence of those early Sun sides because he allowed himself to be turned from a musician to a star by a cold and cynical industry that put profits before people.

As always, keep up the good work!

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