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Black People Don’t Listen to Guns N' Roses. (Maybe 10 Do.)

Music is still highly segregated and the MCPS podcast 'What's the Big Idea?' only feeds into this reality. Shouldn't leaders living in a diverse county expand their music horizons?


Pretty much everything in American life was segregated back in the day. For me, “back in the day” refers to the 1950s and 1960s (my youth).

Even music was segregated. Black people listened to black people’s music on black radio stations and white people listened to white people’s music on white radio stations. Rarely did you hear any crossover.

Well, things changed a lot since my youth, and I like the changes.  But still when it comes to music, a lot remains segregated in some pretty odd way.

In early February, those who watch the Grammys on television will see some of these oddities on display. We probably will not see any black performers or nominees singing country, rock or metal. Nor will we see any white performers or nominees rapping or singing gospel (well, actually it appears as though the music industry managed to segregate gospel music into black and white gospel categories). We sort of just accept these music realities as personal tastes.

If you’re a live music fan—I am—you also will see how segregated the music world can still be from the fan base. I try hard to see a live music performance monthly. In December, when I saw Babyface at the Howard Theatre and Howard Hewett at the Birchmere—both black artists—you could count the white fans on one hand. And when I venture out to see white artists, I’m frequently one of those rare black fans in the audience. That was true when seeing Norah Jones and Sting—on different occasions—live at the Warner Theatre (years ago). My wife looked around at the Jones concert and said, “Are we Norah’s only black fans in the D.C. area?”

Recently, this music segregation thing hit me when listening to What’s the BIG Idea? According to this website, “What’s the BIG Idea features in-depth conversations about education from a variety of perspectives. The show is hosted by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) superintendent Dr. Josh Starr and Chris Lloyd, teacher and vice-president of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA).”

So, I’m listening to Episode 3, and at the end of the podcast, Starr, Lloyd and the guest discussed rock bands. Is that a “white” thing?

Apparently, guests are asked at the end of the Podcast to name their 10 favorite rock bands.  The guest from Episode 3 named the E Street Band, Tom Petty and Heartbreakers, Metallica, Van Halen, the Eagles, REM, Gun N’ Roses, Huey Lewis and the News, Nirvana, Pearl Jam as his 10 favorite bands. That’s a “white” list, right?

Here’s a suggestion for Starr and Lloyd. Please expand the music genres. Let your guests select their favorite genre—stop forcing the rock band thing—a genre that unfortunately is still highly segregated and leads to a conversation that is really about white stuff and white people. Be more inclusive—how about reggae,
Afro-funk, blues, jazz, rap. Please stop the white thing!

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Shanae Khan March 14, 2013 at 04:33 AM
I'm black and I listening to rock exclusively and I want to become a singer in my own band . To me music should be color blind.
Joseph Hawkins March 14, 2013 at 11:06 AM
Mr. Khan--good luck with the band thing. RIght now listening to: http://www.freshlyground.com/
destiny March 28, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Its funny you mentioned the Babyface concert. I think its easier for a black artist to crossover to white people than it is for a white artist to really hit home with blacks. For example, I, too went to a Babyface, Boyz II men, and En Vogue concert at the Los Angeles County Fair, and there were actually more NON blacks than there were blacks and the place seated around 10,000! Also, whenever I go see black performers at San Manuel Casino in Highland, Ca. The crowd is EXTREMELY mixed. You have to take into account geography, population, and other ethnic groups like Latinos and Asians where many of them LOVE "black" music.
destiny March 28, 2013 at 11:46 PM
However, with that being said, I listen to everything from pop to jazz to R&B to country to Gospel. I do not discriminate on color. However, I WILL NOT listen to Guns n' Roses especially after they made that ignorant song referring to blacks as niggers and talking about how he doesn't want to buy any "gold chains" from us. Even Slash (its mixed race gutarists) said he didn't feel right about that crap.
Joseph Hawkins March 28, 2013 at 11:54 PM
Destiny, That's an excellent point--geography.

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