Somethin’ Slick Goin’ On: The Proletarian Funk of Johnny “Guitar” Watson

In 1976, Johnny “Guitar” Watson emerged from a stagnant blues career to release his first gold record, and Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics. The latter of these two events prefigured a permanent change in the American political and economic order, a symbol of the New Deal’s demise and the subsequent institutionalization of American neoliberalism. The former barely registers as a blip on our cultural radar. Yet these two figures converge in surprising, if radically opposed ways, as both dedicated their careers to addressing the great plagues of the late 1970s: inflation, unemployment, and automation. But while the neoliberal economists and their political counterparts sought to consolidate bourgeois power during the growing financial discord of the times, Watson directed his artistic vision steadily towards the tribulations of the working class.

A mostly forgotten figure in music history,1 Watson occupies a unique place in the canon of R&B. He learned the guitar from his grandfather, a minister and church performer who, as a precondition of giving him music lessons, warned him not to play any of the “devil’s music.” Nevertheless, he found inspiration in the work of fellow Texan T-Bone Walker, and began his career as a blues prodigy, frequenting the local Texas circuit with Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland before moving to Los Angeles in 1950. During this period, Watson claims to have invented the musical and performing style later made famous by Jimi Hendrix – teeth-picking, handstands, and an aggressive, vocal guitar tone – responding indignantly to an interviewer who compared him to the ‘60s icon, “I started that shit!” Watson’s career is punctuated by these ostentatious (but probably true) digs about his stymied fame: in the self-penned liner notes of his Funk Anthology compilation he also claims to have “invented” rap music on his 1980 track “Telephone Bill.” But he delivers these digs not so much with resentment, as with the implication that those who really know the roots of funk and rock and roll will recognize his enduring influence.

On some level, his lack of outright resentment is astonishing. After putting out ten records and touring with the likes of Little Richard and Frank Zappa, he only achieved a shadow of a reputation when he released Ain’t That a Bitch in 1976, two decades after his first blues venture. Watson’s career peak came at an unexpected moment: his best-known records (Ain’t That a Bitch and 1977’s A Real Mother For Ya) saw their release between the popular decline of funk and soul music and the rise of the disco era. During this period, the clean-cut image of his blues-crooner years morphed into a gold-toothed funk figure reminiscent of Sly Stone and Bootsy Collins. Yet despite his new sartorial choices, Watson’s music and lyrics never aligned with his newly-minted “gangster of love” persona, nor did he ever reach the level of fame that landed Sly Stone a mansion and a drug-addled interview on the Dick Cavett Show. In fact, one of the primary ways Watson’s music differs from his predecessors and contemporaries is in his engagement with the quotidian experience of work. Rather than hedonism or fantasy, he took as his subject the issues historian Jefferson Cowie explores in Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class.  By the end of the Seventies,

the attempts to revive postwar liberalism became the New Deal that never happened. It all ended far from a liberal revival and something closer to a requiem for a collective economic vision for the American People.2

Watson’s transformation from ‘50s coif to ‘70s gangster, far from diluting his interest in issues of class and joblessness, instead aggravated their presence within his ostentatious performances. The result was a fascinating contradiction: a man dressed like an icon of fame and wealth whose lyrics depict the struggle of working people trying to make ends meet in an era of looming economic destitution. Though he dons a funky getup, Watson’s bleak expression of working life under economic and social oppression derives from the long blues tradition dating back to slavery and the Reconstruction era. His approach recalls that of the blues singers of the days before Roosevelt’s New Deal, in the waning days of the Great Depression. Songs like Gene Campbell’s recording of “Levee Camp Man Blues,” from the early 1930s, railed against tyrant bosses. The understanding of wage exploitation that suffused early blues clearly prefigured Watson’s working-class sentiments:

These contractors, they are getting so slack,

These contractors, they are getting so slack,

They’ll pay you half of your money, and hold the other half back.

Thematically, the “slackness” of the greedy contractors isn’t too far removed from the corporate “slickness” Watson would cite, more than forty years later, as responsible for inflation, stagnation, and the threat of automated labor.

Funk music – an amalgam of Chicago blues and New Orleans jazz, the frenetic uncle of New York and Philadelphia’s disco scenes – has never been granted a “serious” place in American music history. “While ‘soul’ [music] presumes to hoard the reputable,” James Guida writes in the New York Review of Books, funk connotes “all that’s comical and dated in urban black music.” Moreover, like disco, it enjoys a reputation for encouraging its listeners to turn away from social ills and seek pleasure in the shallower pursuits of dancing, sex, and drug use.

Guida defends funk against against its reputation as the silly, freakish residue of the explicitly political R&B styles that developed in the 1960s and ‘70s from the Black Arts and Civil Rights movements, such as the rhythmic spoken-word of Gil Scott-Heron and Marvin Gaye’s “conscious” soul. Even recordings that challenged the era’s respectability politics and established notions of universal progress, such as Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon” or the Marxist spoken word tracks of Amiri Baraka, now enjoy the status of analyzable relics from an era of tense racial and economic relations. In rejecting a reductive view of funk music that has haunted our cultural memory, Guida points us to the very real sociopolitical undercurrent that inheres in even the most “out there” corners of the funk canon. In his review of George Clinton’s autobiography, for example, he describes the famously un-serious Parliament-Funkadelic as the “socially prescient” cartographers of “crumbling of 60s ideals.” Yet the broader history of funk music underscores a politics quite distinct from that of the radical and often explicitly materialist artists of the 1960s, one almost exclusively concerned with abstract concepts of identity, affect, and mythology.

As historian Scot Brown explains, funk emerged in American cities just after the racial tensions of the Long Hot Summer and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as “just before the ravages of deindustrialization.” The early 1970s were a time of temporary economic stasis, during which the continued existence of relatively high-wage factory jobs created in the 1950s granted families enough disposable income to purchase instruments and music lessons for their children. If funk surfaced during a period of modest economic prosperity in industrial hubs such as Dayton, Ohio, it’s no surprise that the lyrical content of bands like the Ohio Players move away from the politically-infused recordings of the late 60s to reflect, as their drummer James “Diamond” Williams puts it, “things that were happening on the road” – the exploits of bands from the centers of industry whose mildly lucrative record deals allowed them the freedom to tour the nation. Williams cites “Streakin’ Cheek to Cheek,” a cut off the Ohio Players’ 1974 album Skin Tight, as representative of this type of observational lyricism, an ode to the trend of college students streaking naked across their campuses during their shows.

At the same time as funk music espoused this kind of joyous sensuality, however, another brand of funk appeared that blended a version of the previous decade’s politics with black diasporic narratives and extraterrestrial origin myths. This cosmological offshoot, deeply – if perhaps ironically – rooted in 1960s counterculture, found its fullest expressions in the dual mythologies of Parliament-Funkadelic and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Maurice White, Earth, Wind, and Fire’s founder, describes in true hippie fashion how his lyrical framework of cult science, astrology, and world religion could “give you insight to your inner self.”3 Heroic self-discovery through art is one of the pillars of high ‘60s idealism, and Earth, Wind, and Fire stands in contrast to The Ohio Players’ hedonist-funk by trading in raw sexuality for a kind of elevated personal mysticism. On the other end of the cosmological spectrum, George Clinton, in his liner notes to Parliament’s Mothership Connection, synthesizes the Players’ hedonism with the philosophical astrology of Earth, Wind and Fire, but inverts the self-discovery narrative into a chronicle of the band’s tumultuous “diaspora”: the notes claim that after the rise of “bumpnoxious empires led by unfunky dictators,” the world, “wooed by power and greed,” became inhospitable to Funk-based lifeforms. The members of the amorphous group, as “descendants of the Thumpasorus People,” “fled to outer speace” [sic] on the Mothership until they could return to “refunkatize” the planet. Clinton’s language, musical and parodic, intentionally “mistranslates” several diasporic tropes, the most important of which is the Ship of State.4 This symbol, first outlined in Plato’s Republic, has been invoked by scholars of the black diaspora such as Paul Gilroy, Brent Edwards, and Michelle Stevens as an archetypal metaphor of the history and image-system of the Pan-African nation-state.5

In Black Empire, for instance, Michelle Stephens connects the diasporic trope of the slave ship to the desire for a liberated state of “multinational blackness,” adding that this desire “occurs precisely in those colonial contexts in which the state seems furthest out of reach.”6 The Mothership, though, doesn’t sail across international seas — instead, it orbits the Earth, bestowing grooves upon its inhabitants.  And so it may be helpful to look at the “Mothership” less in terms of representing a desire for multinational statehood and more closely as a diasporic vessel through which Clinton can “speak” and comment upon that desire. By “mistranslating” the Ship of State into the Mothership, international diaspora into the interplanetary exile of the Thumpasorus People, Clinton suggests that the possibility of liberation has become “out of reach”; the only way to express those desires is to “funkatize” them into parodic narratives, sent to Earth from some unidentified point in outer space.

Beyond their jagged rhythms and their unconventional song structures, the hedonistic and mythological expressions of funk converge in their imperative to escape from the material conditions that fed the lyrical content of the Black Arts Movement, the late-Sixties synthesis of Black vernacular culture with literary at forms led by figures like Amiri Baraka. They traffic in creation myths and reinterpretations of  transnational diaspora. While there are certainly narratives of struggle that interrogate both individual and collective identity, what continues to be absent from most of the funk canon, even into the late ‘70s, is a consciousness of the genre’s working-class origins. The music of the ‘70s, Cowie explains in Stayin’ Alive, “attempted to fill the emerging cultural void […] with the glitter of a multicultural individualism, the shimmer of aristocracy, the promise of physical ecstasy, and the possibility of forgetting.”7

As if addressing the idealism of his musical predecessors, Watson’s 1976 track, “Ain’t That a Bitch,” opens with an ominous, descending chromatic horn line and the lyrical preamble: “Everything is outta pocket! / Somebody do something! / The present situation is abstract!” Over a chugging backbeat, Watson describes a broke and overworked laborer: “I’m working forty hours / six long days / and I’m highly embarrassed/every time I get my pay.” But, far from lamenting some ahistorical condition of poverty, in the second verse Watson’s lyrics take a striking turn to fashion a figure specific to the late 1970s economy: “Let me tell you about my qualifications,” he prefaces, before explaining: “I program computers / I know accounting and psychology / I took a course in business / And I can speak a little Japanese.” The speaking subject, then, is not merely the exploited worker, but the educated and hyperskilled laborer who’s stuck performing menial work for minimum wage. With characteristic humor, he applies the term “poor folks” liberally, both to those who must shop “in the baloney section” as well as to polyglots with several diplomas. His lyrics here allude to the dissolution of the American working class and the myth of the “qualified” worker by manufacturing an absurdly skilled member of the workforce who, despite his ability to code and speak multiple languages, finds the promise of wealth and steady income to be as mythological as Parliament’s “Thumpasorus peoples.”

The burst of prosperity in the early 1970s turned out to be a fluke of the highest order, the last gasp of  the New Deal economic policies whose collapse was prefigured in the 1950s and ‘60s. The growth rates that provided those upwardly mobile working class jobs in Dayton and Detroit began to disappear in what David Harvey describes as a “financial coup… a revolutionary transformation” to neoliberal financial strategies.8 The influence of the Mont Pelerin Society, the think tank formed in 1947 by Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, was the intellectual wellspring that resulted in the eventual disenfranchisement of the working class. The Mont Pelerin economists aspired to renew 19th-century arguments about the sanctity of the free market and the danger of state intervention and economic planning, promoting massive government corporatization and vicious skepticism toward labor rights and laborers. At a time when the Cerberus of inflation, stagnation, and unemployment had already descended upon the nation, the last thing American workers could have wanted was for the two major political parties to become beholden to business interests and averse to their own demands.

Yet, Cowie describes, that is exactly what happened: In 1974, for instance, “there were 201 pro-labor PACs (Political Action Committees), compared to only 81 corporate PACs.” By 1978, a series of post-Watergate campaign policy reforms allowed that number to skyrocket to 784 corporate and 500 trade association PACs, with labor interests represented by only 217. Labor’s last gasp, the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, sought unsuccessfully to steer the country away from encroaching business interests and towards full employment, what Cowie calls “nothing short of a social democratic America.”9 What this required was a faith in the working class, in the notion that universal employment would in fact reduce inflation and kickstart the United States as a European-style social democracy. However, those “priestly figures of postwar policy,” neoliberal economists like Friedman and Chairman of Carter’s Council of Economic Advisors Charles Schultze, were committed to crushing that faith in the interest of capital.10 They seized the moment, Cowie explains, “to recast the mid-century working-class hero from the protagonist of postwar theology into the biblical scapegoat of the seventies.” And, once again in 1976, the Business Roundtable Lobby, empowered by neoliberal and corporate tactics, dealt its final blow to organized labor and set the U.S. on a path to becoming, in AFL-CIO president George Meany’s words, a “low-wage country.”11

The fluke that defined the late 1970s is a phenomenon known as “stagflation,” a portmanteau of economic stagnation and price inflation. Milton Friedman, who thought that ridding the former would take care of the latter, argued vehemently against the tenets of Humphrey-Hawkins and warned that the United States would have to steel itself for a steep rise in unemployment and a decline in wages in order to resurrect its stale economy. Watson himself comments on inflation directly on “Telephone Bill,” and alludes to commodities’ bloated prices on “Ain’t That a Bitch,” quipping that “Abdul Jabar couldn’t have made these prices / with a sky hook.” However, far from resigning his worker-figure to impoverishment and fealty to the laws of the free market, Watson impugns the bootstrap logic of Friedman and his ilk, blaming a vague specter pulling the economy’s strings at the expense of the working class: as he intones throughout the song’s chorus: “Ain’t that a bitch / Somebody doin’ somethin’ slick, downtown.”

Watson’s materialism doesn’t end at documenting the rise of unemployment due to wage suppression and price inflation. He employs the rhetoric of organized labor practices to tackle the growing problem of automation on his 1984 album, Strike on Computers. Strike’s cover depicts Watson in his signature hat and sunglasses, but his outfit, though unbuttoned to reveal his chest and gold chain, is that of a factory worker. While a generation of retro blues revivalists of the day, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, were hearkening back to an idealized pre-automated era, Watson is surrounded by a drum machine, a printer, and several picket signs bearing the album’s name. He is joined by three women dressed in more modern fashion, befitting the mid-80s context.  Their presence alongside Watson’s distinctly blue collar figure alludes to the broader cultural shift away from the romanticized image of the male manual laborer to an often gendered tendency toward clerical work. The blinking drum machine looming massively over these workers suggests that the technology that gives way to new forms of labor also poses a danger to that labor’s very existence.

The title track, recorded in his own garage, is Watson’s most overt engagement with the Reagan era’s technocratic neoliberalism, exploring the threat of automation in terms of joblessness and creative decay after the end of the Seventies. As Jefferson Cowie notes, “despite a complex revival of labor issues that resonated from Detroit to Hollywood to Washington, by the end of the decade, workers — qua workers — had eerily been shaken out of the national scene.” He continues:

The seventies whimpered to a close as the labor movement had failed in its major initiatives; de-industrialization decimated the power of the old industrial heartland; market orthodoxy eclipsed all alternatives; and promising organizing drives proved limited.12

At the time of the track’s release, the 1982 recession that defined Reagan’s first term had taken full effect, inflation had risen from three to five percent, and the former stronghold of the working class, the automotive industry, had suffered the consequences of heavy labor automation.13

Rife with vocoders and computerized drum machines, “Strike on Computers” adopts as a tool the technology it subjects to critique, suggesting that, much like the actual labor efforts of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, this strike, too, was predestined to fail. The track begins with a spoken preamble clarifying Watson’s thematic purpose:

As my research will show

The music business and all the businesses are slow

and one thing I didn’t realize––

All them regular jobs

That you and I do

Have all become computerized!

He then moves to the track’s chorus, calling for a strike on computers “before there ain’t no jobs to find.” Again, as in his earlier single “Ain’t That a Bitch,” Watson refuses to ascribe blame for this new specter of unemployment to the workers themselves, opting instead to implicate corporations and their questionable labor practices:

Unemployment is at an all time high

And you’re wondering why

You lost your job

You might think it’s funny

But the computer gonna save the company money

And it’s gonna be doin’ your job before you start!

Watson’s warning about the menace of automation echoes those found in Detroit autoworker and intellectual James Boggs’s 1963 book The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook. In his chapter titled “The Challenge of Automation,” Boggs chronicles the hamstringing of the U.S. proletariat’s power against a ruling class that increasingly automates its labor force, spawning a “new generation of workless people.”14

Like previous revolutions in the capitalist mode of production, automation is unrelenting and barbarous, stripping workers of the only commodities they have to sell – their bodies and their labor-power. But Boggs points out that automation differs from previous economic transformations, in that it offers no higher level of advancement for newly dispossessed laborers. Boggs writes,

whereas the old workers used to hope that they could pit their bodies against iron and outlast the iron, this new generation of workless people knows that even their brains are being outwitted by the iron brains of automation and cybernation.15

“To tell these people that they must work to earn their living,” he adds, “is like telling a man in the big city that he should hunt big game for the meat on his table.”

Watson’s assessment of the consequences of automation also includes the mechanized destruction of human life. Decades before the arms contractor Halliburton made millions off the Bush-Cheney administration’s war in Iraq, Watson had been leveling mostly-ignored accusations towards the corporations that digitized the military. “There is a computer,” he describes, as if he’s yelling at you from inside a bunker, “that is connected to the nose of a missile / That’ll seek out a target / And blow it up anywhere.” Then, to add absurdity to what is essentially the precursor to drone warfare, he notes, “And there’s a brand new missile / that’s got a computer that will seek that missile out / And blow that sucker up in midair!” Watson’s humor, though, reveals a sobering truth about this technological advancement to which Boggs alludes in The American Revolution:

Up to now it had been possible to speculate about what attitude the workers… might or ought to adopt toward a war once it had been declared or started, e.g. organize a general strike or rise in protest and bring it to an end.16

Boggs goes on to suggest that the advent of the nuclear technology, whose devastation makes no distinctions among race, class, or gender, presented an ominous threat to organized antiwar resistance. The decades after Boggs’s writing saw a wider proliferation of automated labor and warfare. By the time Watson narrates these trends throughout the early 1980s, their gutting of working class power makes a strike on computers, however necessary, seem far out of reach.

Both Boggs and Watson understand automation to be more than a technological revolution; it has, in effect, inaugurated a decades-long existential crisis that challenges the very ability of American laborers to derive value from their lives. Without a “mode of production into which they can fit,” Boggs concludes, these workless workers are forced to find “a new concept of how to live and let live among human beings.”17 The crisis automation poses is at its core a social one, imploring us to fundamentally reconsider the human relations that have undergirded the capitalist mode of production since the early days of industrialization.

Finally, Watson brings his analysis to bear on his own mode of production. He concludes his list of obsolescences by identifying the effects of this social crisis on the creative worker who faces the threat of music’s digitization, a development tantamount to unemployment and unmanned warfare. The song’s last verse recounts a guitar shop owner who shows Watson “just the guitar you need to see.” To his horror, “the damned thing played by itself!” The instrument that had made Watson’s career becomes a kind of hideously mechanized player piano, the product of a force as powerful as the market or the military, hellbent on keeping him and the rest of the working class in the throes of poverty.

The punch line to “Strike on Computers” turned out to be prophetic: Watson has all but disappeared from recorded music history, left unmentioned in important works of blues and funk scholarship like Francis Davis’s History of the Blues: The Roots, The Music, The People (1995) or the essay collection The Funk Era and Beyond (2008, ed. Tony Bolden). Today, most people who experience the music of the man who “invented rap” have done so through the various hip hop artists who have sampled him. In this sense, technological advancement has preserved Watson’s legacy as much as it has erased it.

Musicologist Richard J. Ripani notes in The New Blue Music that the art of sampling has been fraught with controversy ever since the 1980 release of the E-Mu Emulator sampling keyboard made it readily available and affordable. “Some critics,” Ripani explains, “believe that using sampling…is not only ethically wrong but also a contributing factor in an overall lack of creativity in R&B.”18 But Ripani sees a line of continuity running from the oral culture of the blues to contemporary forms of black music. Sampling is an “extension” of the blues model of repeating figures and phrases, repackaged in “a modern context.” Few walked this historical path more directly than Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

Redman, Mary J. Blige, Biggie, Kanye West, and Wiz Khalifa, to name just a handful, have all lifted, flipped, and chopped Watson’s songs in myriad inventive ways. Most of these appropriations, for instance Redman’s “Day of Sooperman Lover,” or West’s “No More Parties in L.A.,” from 2016’s Life of Pablo, use either Watson’s libidinally-charged funk or his love ballads, leaving the source material’s original connotations intact. Others, such as E-40’s 1996 “Ring It,” take on Watson’s more class-conscious efforts. E spits blistering, dexterous verses over a barely recognizable loop of “Telephone Bill” – the track Watson himself cited as the harbinger of hip hop.

Though “Ring It” is undoubtedly a tribute to a funk forefather, E-40 reframes “Telephone Bill” within the late 90’s hip hop tropes of wealth, status, and sexual braggadocio. He picks up on an aspect of Watson’s lyrics, which, even while telling a story of economic hardship, take the time to call out his contemporaries for engaging in comparatively inadequate forms of expression. Watson’s early rapping on “Telephone Bill” might well serve as a mantra for the unique, blues-rooted class perspective he brought to funk and, indirectly, hip hop. While E-40 begins his track “higher than a bird,” Watson was reporting his hardship from “down on the ground.” The differences between Watson’s lyrics and E-40’s involve a more general dialectical tension between the devices of hip hop and those of the blues, the way the two genres can coexist in musical harmony but semantic discord.

Watson himself embraced such unresolved tensions – in fact, his art depended upon them. Even on its own terms, “Telephone Bill” richly exemplifies the possibilities contained within generic cross-pollination: a proto-rap narrative imbued with working-class blues that ends with a jazz-tinged guitar solo in which Watson quotes Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop standard “Salt Peanuts.”

There is, of course, an immense archive of rap music that recounts economic and social struggle similar to Watson’s. It is not just musical form and method that links hip-hop to the blues, but also the insistence on documenting the day-to-day existence of ordinary people. In the last chapter of Stayin’ Alive, Jefferson Cowie cites a lamentation from literary critic William Deresiewicz: “First we stopped noticing members of the working class, and now we’re convinced they don’t exist.” Watson’s proletarian funk reminds us that the working class did more than just survive this attempted political homicide. His music contains what Walter Benjamin calls in “The Author As Producer” a “revolutionary use value.”19  By naming the structural antagonisms that threaten us with starvation and extinction, Watson demands that we acknowledge our own role in the class struggle and, in Benjamin’s terms, “discover our solidarity with the proletariat.” This struggle is and has always been a difficult one. But it will continue, as Watson did, for as long as somebody is doing something slick downtown.


  1. David Evans, review of A Guide to the Blues: History, Who’s Who, Research Sources by Austin Sonnier, Jr., The International Journal of African Historical Studies 28, no. 3 (1995): 705-06. 

  2. Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York/London: The New Press, 2012), 262. 

  3. How Ancient Egypt Influenced Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire,” Public Radio International. Accessed September 24, 2017. 

  4. Brent Hayes Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003), 42. 

  5. Tsitsi Ella Jaji, Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music, and Pan-African Solidarity (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 216 -229. 

  6. Michelle Ann Stephens, Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914-1962 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 10. 

  7. Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, 319. 

  8. Sasha Lilley, ed., Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult (Oakland/London: PM Press, 2011), 46. 

  9. Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, 271. 

  10. Ibid., 221. 

  11. Ibid., 232. 

  12. Ibid., 365. 

  13. See “FDIC: Historical Timeline,” accessed September 24, 2017. David Rotman, “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs,MIT Technology Review. Accessed September 24, 2017. 

  14. James Boggs, The American Revolution, Second edition (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009), 51. 

  15. Ibid., 51. 

  16. Ibid., 63. 

  17. Ibid., 51. 

  18. Richard J. Ripani, The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 139. 

  19. Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. Peter Demetz, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken, 1986), 230.  

Author of the article

is a doctoral student in the Department of English at Brandeis University. His Twitter handle is @pastelcathedral.