The vanishing White vocal tradition

There’s been discussion about “cultural appropriation” on the part of White people, with the implication being that Whites “steal” from the culture of the vibrant enrichers — why? The insinuation, sometimes expressed openly, is that White people have no culture of their own, at least, not any worth mentioning. Whites, then, are compelled to steal from the ‘rich’ cultures and ways of the nonwhite peoples, or else they do so maliciously in order to take credit for it. This is just a variation of the Farrakhan-style Afrocentrism which says that Whites ‘stole’ all the African knowledge and learning, thus leaving them with none.

However, Whites are in fact ‘appropriating’ many aspects of black culture, such as the ongoing adoption of black slang (most of our new slang words and phrases seem to have black origins, going back some decades), via White youth culture, which is especially fond of adopting black fads and fashions.

Besides slang there is the example of the black singing style, which seems to have become near-universal amongst younger White pop singers. Examples are legion; I am sure some of you know of more examples than I do, given that I don’t watch TV or listen to radio except for a few stations. However we don’t have to be au courant with the latest pop music (rap, hip-hop, etc.) to look for illustrations. We could go back some decades, to people like Michael Bolton — yes, I know, it’s (((Michael Bolton))), or Taylor Dayne. Or let’s go back to the 1960s, with the Rolling Stones. I remember sort of cringing when listening to Mick Jagger’s ‘vocals’, on songs like ”You Can Make it If You Try‘, where he spoke some of the lyrics, emulating Gene Allison, the black singer who first had a hit with that song. Back then I was far from racially conscious, but Jagger’s style made me want to give him a news flash: that he was White, not black.

Recently a family member and I were talking about how all of today’s White pop singers seem to emulate the black ‘soul’ vocal style, which seems to center around ‘trilling’, bending the notes beyond all recognition, and veering far from the real melody of the song to ‘improvise.’ The emphasis is on exaggerated shows of emotion, with much groaning and moaning, and straining, as if in pain. Yes, I realize that’s part of the intention; it’s been known as ‘soul’ music at least since the 60s, and the claim was that only black people had this vaguely-defined quality called ‘soul’, because of their unique heritage of ‘slavery, Jim Crow’ and the rest, whereas White people are soulless as well as, well, colorless.

Unfortunately White people think they can acquire “soul” via their adulation for black people, it seems. Salvation, for White liberals, is not via grace (through faith in Jesus Christ), but via blacks. Cambria Will Not Yield uses the term worship in this context and it seems he’s not far off.

As it stands, it’s getting harder and harder to find a White singer, especially young White popular singer who does not mimic the black style. Julian Lee, via Counter Currents, wrote a very thorough piece about this trend, and being more versed in music than I am, he expressed it very well. If you are interested in music and White musical traditions it’s well worth reading.

Incidentally, in the piece by Julian Lee, check out the photo of Beyonce; it will take you back to the days when she was still black. It seems the cultural appropriation goes both ways, what with nonwhites ‘appropriating’ the White phenotype, with blonde hair weaves or dye jobs, and skin-bleaching, plus colored contacts.

One black tradition that’s been attempted by Whites is the strange practice of ‘scat-singing’ or more accurately, just ‘scatting.’ Ever since I was a child I found ‘scatting’ to be rather embarrassing when a White tries it. I recently learned I’m not the only one. On the quirky British comedy series, The Mighty Boosh, one of the characters has a strong reaction to ‘scatting’

Oh, scat! Out of all the aspects of jazz, scat has got to be the worst, the main offender.
– You don’t know what it is, do you?

– Not really, but when it comes on, I go red.

Let me demonstrate to you a little bit of the power of jazz scat singing.
Jooby-do-bop, voo-voo-voo-voo, va Bow-voo-doo-boo-boo, bap-a-doo-ju-ju, jooby-do-boo Do-do-do-do, ba! Ba-ba-bow, ju-ba-ba-bow

Oh, I’ve got to get away from you. You’re a freak.
I can feel myself going red.”

It also makes mego red‘. It’s just unseemly somehow. It’s the vocal equivalent of a White person in blackface. It sounds as silly as blackface looks.

Even country music, for a long time the lone bastion of White musicians and musical styles, is succumbing to the influence of blacks, and this is very much intentional on the part of the music moguls, I’m sure. Going back some years now, country musicians have performed songs promoting multiculturalism and universalism, and Brad Paisley, with such a song, unintentionally drew accusations of racism. Sorry, but I have to laugh. But even White country singers are adopting black styles of singing, including using black back-up singers. Can’t have a White style of music, now, can we? That would be racist.

Meanwhile, even ‘folk music’, which at times has been more artificial than grassroots in style, is succumbing, and no surprise, as many ‘folk’ or traditional musicians from Europe and this country are dedicated multiculturalists. This baffles me. Musicians like the Breton icon, Alan Stivell, apparently love the traditions of their folk — yet they incorporate ‘world music’, that is, Third world music, into their work. I just don’t see how loving something, supposedly preserving tradition, allows for adulterating it and blending it with utterly alien influences. We’ve all heard the cliche that ‘music is the universal language’, and it sounds good, but is it really true? I’ve listened to many styles of music from varied cultures, and they may all be interesting in their way. However many sound discordant and unpleasant to my ear, and the music which is from our Western European traditions resonates the best with me, and really speaks to my spirit. I think this is true of most people, if they were honest.

East or West, home is best. I believe the statement that music expresses the soul of a  people, and each people has a unique musical expression, not reproducible by outsiders. Outsiders may ape and mimic something that is not theirs, but the spirit is not there; others’ music is a foreign language and we can’t speak it without a telling ‘accent’ though we try.

Is there any hope of us recovering our own musical and especially vocal styles? I wonder. Not without some reclamation of our self-respect as a people.