Johnny “Guitar” Watson 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.
After years of scorn — and a few years of prurient interest following positive coverage in Vice — the fate of juggalos has become an important political issue. The Juggalo March seems exceedingly well-timed for an era of increasing radicalization and renewed interest in protest.
Ayeb’s focus is the struggles of direct producers who work in agriculture in a natural world beset by the dislocations and mounting disorders of agro-industrial capitalist farming. Through interviews, he assembles an anecdotal yet accurate account of Tunisia’s rural productive system, a collage of testimony and analysis.
What made bop strong is that no matter its pretensions, it was hooked up solidly and directly to the Afro-American blues tradition, and therefore was largely based in the experience and struggle of the black sector of the working class.
The point is to place the human operator back in the frame, to ask after those who tended the machine before it was available as a spectacle, and to listen to how they understood what they were tangled in the midst of.
In 1941 in Cindy Walker’s native Texas, the sexual encounter described by her song “Cherokee Maiden” was not only frowned on, it was illegal. Texas had been the first state in the union to pass a law officially barring miscegenation.
While Adorno claimed that to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric, hip-hop claims that it is necessary to write poetry after the barbarism of slavery. Its history, and its historical consequences, must be recorded.
Stereolab is an intellectual’s dream, equal parts vintage synth manual, obscure bossa nova record, and communist tract. Their fetish for odd keyboard and odd jazz is well discussed, but their lyrics, often deeply Marxist, far less so.
A country song names something that has gone missing. Your first love, your only home, your last dollar. The singer is left to reckon with empty space, in words that inevitably fall short. If the lack produces desire, it also produces speech.