[Editor's Note: When I first read an article in The New Yorker about Cornel West I was literally blown away. I'd been dabbling in writing my opinion on various issues and it seemed this West dude had already been there and done that! I hadn't read any of his stuff before, and when I followed up by reading Race Matters, well, he did it again. A lot of what I had thought and expressed was similar to what West had already written about in a clear and more complete fashion than my attempts could muster.
Not that he'd necessarily agree with me putting him in the same category as West, but when I read an essay by William Benzon it happened again. Many of the sentiments I had about classical music and jazz, as well as "white" and "black" cultures, were just that, sentiments. Not based on any careful study or anything. Just impressions I gathered from living and thinking.
When I read U.S. Blues it just seemed clear that Benzon had done his homework and laid out an analytical framework that is thoroughly documented and complete. It confirmed some of my beliefs, questioned some others and gave me an awful lot to think about. I particularly appreciated the way he tied musical and historical concepts together with cultural and political ones to make a complete analytical point. Anyway, the entire essay is about 143K so I'm not going to mail it out to the list generally (unless I get an awful lot of requests), but it is available via the Meanderings Web site and anonymous ftp at ftp://ftp.webcom.com/pub/sppg/meanderftp/us_blues.txt. I've also promised Bill that I will pass along any comments you have regarding the essay which, by the way, he's hard at work expanding into a book. The essay's abstract is reprinted here with his permission, as well as the permission of the Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems which published it previously. Enjoy! I sure did!!]
Bright moments is like bein' with your favorite love 'n you all share 'n the same ice cream dish. And you get mad when she gets the last drop. And you have to take her in your arms and get it the other way.
---- Rahsaan Roland Kirk
When I am elected President of the United States, my first executive order will be to change the name of the White House! To the Blues House.
---- Dizzy Gillespie, 1964 presidential campaign
[The blues tradition] is the product of the most complicated culture, and therefore the most complicated sensibility in the modern world.
---- Albert Murray (1970, p. 166)