Down South

 

Chapter 14 of Love and War includes: Room Service, We're Seeing Things"Accidental Racist"--Days of Future Passed.

Room Service

 

Imagine yourself in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis in 1974. The place drips with history and, rumor has it, there’s more being made upstairs at an unprecedented meeting between southern musical titans Elvis Presley, James Brown, and Lynyrd Skynyrd leader Ronnie Van Zant.

 

Elvis and James tell Ronnie the true story of how they used to secretly get together in hotel rooms in Los Angeles and Las Vegas to sing traditional gospel songs. Ronnie’s response is to launch into “Old Blind Barnabas,” a favorite tune of James and Elvis...

We're Seeing Things

In 1965, Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman was a civil rights worker with SNCC in Mississippi. Two years later, he found himself at an ashram in India with John, Paul, George, and Ringo, which eventually resulted in the 2006 photo book Beatles in India. In 2008, Saltzman returned to Mississippi to direct Prom Night in Mississippi, a documentary film that tells the story of how the separate black and white proms in Charleston, Mississippi became one integrated event.

 

Charleston is a town of 2,100 people on the edge of the Delta, a bit east of Clarksdale. It’s also the hometown of actor Morgan Freeman, who described the segregated proms as “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of… It hurts me deeply.” It was a group of parents, not the students, who kept things separate. Freeman forced the issue and then paid for the integrated prom...

"Accidental Racist"--Days of Future Passed

LL Cool J was seventeen years old when I met him in 1985 at a screening of the rap film Krush Groove. He was straight out of middle class Queens, home to many who were taking hip-hop from ground zero in the South Bronx to the rest of the world. LL was near the cutting edge with diamond hard anthems like “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Rock the Bells” with its war cry of “LL Cool J is hard as hell!” Today he’s soft,  just another family-friendly TV star who occasionally puts out hip-hop albums that are, without exception, so bland as to be unlistenable.

 

Yet there he is on country star Brad Paisley’s new album, Wheelhouse, standing in for all black Americans on the song “Accidental Racist.” The track is turgid and clumsy, surprising coming from an artist as talented as Paisley...