Racism In Popular Music

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You can trace a variety of different themes through music’s long history, but the one I have chosen to trace and the one I learned the most from is racism. Racism has been an issue in American culture from the very beginning, as shown through history and the horrible issue of slavery. Racism also shows its presence in music as well. Before taking this class, I had never thought about the implications that race had in the musical world besides the obvious use of slang and references to race in various genres of today’s popular music. After taking this class, I learned that race has a considerable impact in how music sounds, what music is popular, and how it influence other music. The first thing that I learned and what really struck …show more content…
Many African Americans were exceptional jazz musicians and they became so popular that they played all over the country but, their exceptionality did not let racism stop from coming into play. An example of this is the Cotton Club in Harlem. The Cotton Club was a private club that only accepted white folk in through the doors and the main entertainment was listening to live jazz artists. Duke Ellington, an African American New Orleans jazzer, was one of the main musicians that delighted the frequenters of the Cotton Club. The inside of the Cotton Club was decorated like a jungle because jazz music was commonly referred to as jungle music. The jungle music term came from whites believing that jazz was this exotic, jungle-like sound, a direct reference to Africa. All of this information was new to me. As a trumpet player, I had heard the famous names such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington but, I never had heard the backstory behind their fame. I knew that jazz was once a popular genre of music, but I was never aware of the racism and discrimination of the jazz clubs or jazz music being referred to as jungle …show more content…
Before taking this class, I had made my own racist assumption that blues music was mostly sung by African Americans and, therefore, was mainly targeted to a black audience but, I had never heard blues music called race records. The name itself is racist because it is simply called race records. Although blues may have been marketed to and mostly sung by a certain race, that did not stop it from becoming the most influential genres of music. The next genre I learned from was R&B. R&B music was very segregated and again considered black music, just like blues. Although, unlike the blues race records, a few white singers began singing R&B as well. An example of discrimination in R&B is Ruth Brown. Ruth Brown said that when she sang at clubs she always had to be careful to not wear the same dress as a white woman in the audience. While this might be a social embarrassment today, in the 50’s this was considered as serious as a crime. This example just shows the intensity of racism in music’s

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