photo & text by nacrowe
back in the 1980s there was a distinct cultural moment were everyone got excited over bloated charity singles that often featured a chorus of god-knows-how-many notable artists singing in unison. two that come immediately to mind was the MICHAEL JACKSON/LIONEL RITCHIE-penned "WE ARE THE WORLD" (COLUMBIA, 1985) for USA FOR AFRICA (over 45 POP musicians) and the RONNIE JAMES DIO-penned "STARS" (POLYGRAM, 1986) for HEAR 'N AID (made up of over 40 prominent METAL musicians), both of which raised funds for famine relief in ETHIOPIA. buying these singles was less about musical enjoyment, since the songs were objectively horrendous, and more a form of altruism. although it begs one to wonder why the artists just didnt advocate for direct funds as there is no doubt corporate record companies made a pillaging off these recordings.
enter STEVEN VAN ZANDT.
during this period he had recently departed BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's infamous E-STREET BAND right at the cusp of the release of what would become their commercial breakthrough BORN IN THE U.S.A. (COLUMBIA, 1984) record. at the time a journalist friend that had reported on the horrors of APARTHEID in SOUTH AFRICA suggested he write a protest song as a charity-style single. at the time it was still deemed acceptable for prominent musicians to perform at the SUN CITY resort/casino in SOUTH AFRICA. in fact prominent acts at the time such as QUEEN, FRANK SINATRA, ELTON JOHN, LIZA MINELLI, ROD STEWART and LINDA RONSTADT had done just that to their own shame in retrospect. the "SUN CITY" (EMI, 1985) single took aim at the resort specifically and the regime and its racist power structure politically at a time that the UNITED STATES still supported it. even in retrospect its a pretty bold and impressive statement, even if the song is a little bland. participating artists in the ARTISTS UNITED AGAINST APARTHEID activist protest group (who similarly took a vow not play in SOUTH AFRICA until the abolishment of APARTHEID) included the likes of BOB DYLAN, GEORGE CLINTON (PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC), BOBBY WOMACK, LOU REED (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND), RAY BARETTO, RUN-DMC, KEITH RICHARDS (THE ROLLING STONES), JIMMY CLIFF, BONO (U2), HERBIE HANCOCK, GIL SCOTT-HERON, PETER GABRIEL, HALL & OATES, KURTIS BLOW, STIV BATORS (THE DEAD BOYS), AFRIKA BAMBAATAA, RINGO STARR (THE BEATLES), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and JOEY RAMONE (THE RAMONES) among many other JAZZ, R&B, ROCK N ROLL and early HIP HOP luminaries. PAUL SIMON was offered and declined participation due to his friendship with LINDA RONSTADT and the fact that he was then working on his GRACELAND (WARNER BROS, 1986) album at the time with SOUTH AFRICAN musicians, of which he has received (well-founded) criticism ever since for cultural appropriation. that recording was also in violation of UNITED NATIONS cultural boycott against APARTHEID. so there is that.
in this digital era we are all too comfortable with the idea of charity telethons and hashtag activism getting the word out on efforts to encourage fundraising for disaster relief efforts or the victims of the latest international tragedy. its part of the fabric of how our capitalist society functions at this point. but an activist single that take aim at altering AMERICAN foreign policy stances with regards to one of its allies. that i cannot find another example to compare. its a complete anomaly. and a singular achievement for all those involved, especially VAN ZANDT.
fuck PAUL SIMON.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
GEORGE CLINTON is the man. just want to get that out of the way right at the beginning.
the DON LETTS-directed BRITISH television documentary GEORGE CLINTON: TALES OF DR FUNKENSTEIN (BBC, 2006) recounts his enduring cultural legacy for permanently expanding the sonic and thematic parameters of the R&B/SOUL idiom with his revolutionary, conscious-expanding, psychedelic FUNK bands PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC. CLINTON himself is interviewed throughout the film as well as current and former band members, writers and notable acolytes including MACY GRAY, ANDRE 3000 (OUTKAST) and SHOCK G (DIGITAL UNDERGROUND).
one of the big takeaways from the film is how much of a pied piper CLINTON really was and still is, by not only attracting all the eccentric musicians (famously BOOTSIE COLLINS, BERNIE WORRELL, WALTER "JUNIE" MORRISON and EDDIE HAZEL) and experimental artists (PEDRO BELL), but also letting them flourish. PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC was his band, but functioned more as a collaborative party. case in point, he would record with players that were unfamiliar with each other and even have people play instruments they were inexperienced with or make non-vocally trained individuals sing. it all feels very CAPTAIN BEEFHEART-esque in its pursuit of putting to wax something new. this was all, of course, the antithesis of MOTOWN RECORDS and traditional R&B/SOUL music of the period which attempted to project an image of BLACK AMERICA that was contained and dignified. PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC was pure id. unrestrained, unadulterated creativity and artistry. being in the moment and letting your freak flag fly.
it makes total sense to me that the later HIP HOP generation caught up with CLINTON and incorporate his music and, for the most part, the social/political mindset he established with PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC. i speak of essential groups from the NYC HIP HOP, NATIVE TONGUES and WEST COAST HIP HOP movements like PUBLIC ENEMY, DR. DRE, ERIC B. & RAKIM, DE LA SOUL, DIGITAL UNDERGROUND and so on. since the filming of this film i feel his role has yet to wane in modern AMERICAN culture. we are still very much attuned with the mothership connection.
promos by nacrowe
in my opinion, one of the clear high water marks of the DEER GOD RADIO program on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC insofar has been the episode dedicated to classic 70s and 80s FUNK back in JANUARY 2019. seriously, if these songs don't move you, you have issues. like serious issues. you may be dead.
easily one of my favorite shows i've done with arguably some of the better promotional materials i've created to date. i still listen to this playlist regularly and it hasnt failed to put me in a good mood.
just free your mind and your ass will follow.