Ebony & Ivory

One of the big debates in music is, where did what we call modern Western music come from? Most people seem to claim it is of African origin, but this is far too simplistic.

When I saw the Carolina Chocolate Drops, they talked of the music of poor blacks and poor whites to have been very similar, and that when the whites went to square dances, the blacks went to frolics, but the music wsa similar. Given the chaotic migration of so many different peoples over the centuries, with so many different sounds, it seems there was a kind of melting pot for music, with sailors stirring it all up and adding to it.

I think the separation came when comercial recordings started to be made – the famous Carter family and others went into the towns and recorded their family songs. But they also had to tweak them to fit the 3 minute format, so the process of selling records changed the traditions, as well as fixing the songs. Whilst the former slaves lost out by not making early recordings, hence money, the upside was that they were free to keep evolving, hence music in the United states took diferent routes, into jazz, blues and folk, with lots of interweaving and evolving before becoming rediscovered from the 1960s, especially as part of the largely white folk revival.

This explains why black country singers are so rare, but it also explains why they exist at all.

Here’s The Carter Family with ‘Wildwood Flower’ showing a woman playing both lead and rhythm guitar. Incredible Stuff.

And here is their version of Elvis’s laterand much altered hit ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’

2 thoughts on “Ebony & Ivory

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