The Whitewashing of Rock Music
Written by LIZ on August 7, 2020
A short look into the alienation of Black people from the very genre they created:
“The night Jimi died I dreamed this was the latest step in a plot being designed to eliminate Blacks from rock music so that it may be recorded in history as a creation of whites. Future generations, my dream ran, will be taught that while rock may have had its beginnings among Blacks, it had its true flowering among whites. The best Black artists will thus be studied as remarkable primitives who unconsciously foreshadowed future developments.”
— Margo Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize Winner
What we know now as rock music stemmed from rhythm-and-blues, a genre created and dominated by Black people. Despite this, when rock entered the mainstream, many Black musicians earned hardly anything for their hard work, while some white musicians profited heavily off of the same songs. Black musicians were behind hits by Elvis Presley, Janet Joplin, the Beatles, and more, yet their names were (and still are) largely unknown by white audiences.
So let’s give credit where credit is due:
Big Mama Thornton
Rhythm-and-blues artist who originally recorded “Hound Dog” and “Ball and Chain,” which are better known through Elvis Presley and Janet Joplin’s recordings respectively.
Songwriter who composed “Great Balls of Fire” and “Breathless” for Jerry Lee Lewis; “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up,” and “Return to Sender” for Elvis Presley; and “Handy Man” for Jimmy Jones.
Songwriter and record producer who wrote songs for Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Jackson 5, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
But Black people didn’t just pave the way for rock music — they’re still making it. Here are some artists to check out:
- Proper (emo pop)
- Meet Me @ the Altar (pop punk)
- Teamonade (jazzy emo)
- Nova Twins (punk)
- Skatune Network (Ska)
- Jhariah (theatrical rock)
- Angelboy + the Halos (Indie Rock)
- Pulses. (post-hardcore)
- Cat Company (prog post-hardcore)
— Amber (Rock Director)