« Here Come the Indians postscript | Main | Northern Attitude »

August 11, 2007


Hugh Barker

The mention of Randy Newman just reminded me of a couple of things, marginally relevant...

Firstly just a bizarre anecdote. I used to live in Finsbury Park, a mixed London area with a large black population. I used to pass in disbelief an Irish busker in the tube station whose limited repertoire always included 'Rednecks' - it's a song you really need to hear in context to get the irony, but bellowing about 'keeping the n*****s down' at Finsbury Park passers-by, most of whom probably aren't familiar with Newman's work, always seemed like a really terrible idea to me.

Secondly an honourable mention for 'My Life Is Good', another Newman song where he plays the appalling rich LA musician berating his son's teacher, boasting about his Mexican maid who does all the work in the house ("She wrote this song for me"). Not just about racism, but that's one of the buttons he presses in the song. Very funny and very close to the knuckle.

Yuval Taylor

I'm a huge Randy Newman fan, and one of the few who think he actually got better after 12 Songs. Good Old Boys is one of my favorite records. Songs like "Sail Away," "Rednecks," "Short People," and "My Life Is Good" are far richer evocations of racism than "Yellow Man," which simply makes me sick.



When I was in junior high school, in 1949, 50, 51, I loved chorus, piano, drama. I fancied myself a singer and was always performing. Gradually I started to sing solos in chorus. From there I was invited--and payed!, $5.00--to sing and dance in the PTA Annual Shows. There would be a backdrop to each scene and some performers in front of it.

In my scene there were white people in colorful costumes, with dark brown make-up on; I stood in front of them and sang. One year I sang "Ballin' The Jack" and the next year I sang: "UNDERNEATH A HARLEM MOON". I objected to the lyric, "..darkies.." but it was, "Sing it the way it's written or not at all." I wanted to be in the show. I wish I had been like Ms. Waters. I wasn't. I sang it straight, my parents saw it, and we said nothing after the show. I was so embarassed and humiliated, knowing full well it wasn't a good scene that I just stopped performing altogether and concentrated on academics. I went to a college that had no performance or music program and I missed performing terribly. Eventually I got into directing and acting, but I never took up singing again! Thanks for Ethel's version and for this analytical piece. I appreciate it.



Yu Sareba

I just watched "President," a bonus in the "Green Pastures" dvd. I loved your comments here about "Harlem Moon." I watched "Pastures" because of the lyrics about it in Ellington's "Jump For Joy," which I've heard described as the first black musical written with pro-black sentiments. Ivie Anderson sings,
"Fare thee well, land of cotton -
Cotton lisle is out of style, Honey chile,
Jump for Joy

Don't you grieve, little Eve -
All the hounds I do believe
have been killed
Ain't 'cha thrilled?
Jump for Joy

Have you seen pastures groovy?
Green pastures was just a technicolor movie
When you stomp up to heaven and you meet old Saint Pete
Tell that boy
Jump for joy

Step right in
give Pete some skin and
Jump for Joy"

I'll be curious to hear anyone's reply to this!
Thanks for the blog.

buy viagra

Talking about the moon, covers many topics, and many contexts, and also many points of view, but I always thought it one of the most beautiful expressions of nature

Air Jordan 5

Excellent post. It was very helpful for me. if I would not read this article then I wouldn’t learn new knowledge. I just loved this post.

Cheap Jordans

The new line is absolutely stunning! I have been so entertained by your blog, It's very beneficial for me and it's filled with information. keep smiling and take care!

Jordan 15 sneakers

Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed your most recent post. I think you should post more often, you obviously have natural ability for blogging!

coach purses

Needless to say, nothing but perseverance can lead a man to the way of success. In other words, a persevering man never does his work without succeeding in it. This is indeed unchangeable truth.

Jordan Flipsyde

When the love letter, do you still remember? The plot of the story is me!!!!!

Herbert Browne

Thanks... great post!
Years ago (1967) I learned this song as a member of a jugband in Portland, Oregon. The band's lead singer changed the first verse to:
"Creole babies walk along with rhythm in their style//
rhythm in their feet and in their beat & in their smile//
where do all these honeys find the love that drives them wild?// underneath the Harlem moon."
I had never seen the original until now. Gotta say that I embrace Ethel Waters' fine additions! ^..^

Herbert Browne

PS. Waters' personalization of the moon- "underneath OUR Harlem moon"- is also telling. ^..^

Puma Clyde

I really like your blog style! Great antiquity! Gives a clear feeling! Is a major sensory enjoyment ah

ugg shoes

I just walk around, suprised by your blog,please give more information.

Generic cialis

I am not so much into music but I think that music is a great way to emphasize a feeling or emotion.


Interesting, it's a good song, because casually I was listening a soft song and it fit perfectly, it's amazing, thanks, I feel better now ;D


Type your comment here.I certainly enjoyed the way you explore your experience and knowledge of the subject! Keep up on it. Thanks for sharing the info

red sole

Thanks, I'm going to have nightmares tonight.


a real classic if you allow me to say, well and how not calling this, a song that was released in 1932, and remained until our days.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad

What people are saying about our book

  • 9/07
    "[A] perceptive exploration of authenticity and its meaning in 20th-century popular music. . . . Highly recommended." --M. Goldsmith, Choice
  • 7/1/07
    "This revelatory book is a must for anyone who has been an ambivalent pop music fan. . . . An exhaustive and thought-provoking book that deserves serious attention." --Alan Licht, The Wire
  • 5/22
    [Four stars] "Whether nailing how perceptions of the blues were moulded by the racist cultural bias of those who originally recorded it or assessing the multi-dimensional pranksterism of the KLF, this well-researched, informative and thought-provoking book pierces the bubble of what pop authenticity really means." --Thomas H. Green, Q Magazine
  • 4/18
    [five stars] "Enthusiastic . . . superb. . . . Like all great music writing, Faking It is unashamedly subjective and, above all, makes you wish you were listening to the records it describes." --Martin Hemming, Time Out London
  • 4/17
    "Essential reading for anyone who really loves pop." --Paul Connolly, London Lite
  • 4/16
    “Persuasive . . . powerful. . . . A fascinating and nimble investigation of pop’s paradoxes. . . . A great collection of true stories about fake music. It's the essay as Möbius strip; a literary illusion that . . . tells us more about what's true, what's not, and why that doesn't always matter, than a more straightforward confrontation with the secrets and lies of pop music ever could.” --Jeff Sharlet, New Statesman
  • 4/15
    “Valuable . . . instructive . . . Taylor, who has written extensively on slavery, is particularly strong when discussing how the music of the American South was divided along race lines by the fledgling record industry, even when white and black artists had almost identical repertoires. The chapters on Jimmie Rodgers's autobiographical 'TB Blues' and Elvis's 'Heartbreak Hotel' are excellent.” --Campbell Stevenson, The Observer
  • 4/14
    “Diabolically provocative . . . [A] tightly focused examination of why, when and how authenticity became such a powerful force in popular music – and eventually its key marketing tool.” --Greg Quinn, Toronto Star
  • 4/11/07
    “The authors skillfully navigate a complicated musical past. . . . The book avoids the prose pitfalls of dry academic work and is not without humor. . . . Among the most notable essays is a bracing consideration of Donna Summer and her disco hit ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ the hypnotic epic of simulated female orgasm. In this chapter, Barker and Taylor nicely fuse a brief history of early disco with a larger contemplation of the tensions between authenticity and artifice in the disco era. As good as the authors' defense of disco is, it's topped by a riveting analysis of the career of John Lydon. In this finely nuanced chapter, Barker and Taylor penetrate the core contradictions within the punk scene, a genre rife with internal debates over authenticity and fakery.” --Chrissie Dickinson, Washington Post
  • 4/11/07
    “This is a work by two fanatics that, through copious research and profound contemplation, offers fellow fans a stimulating semantic exercise . . . and, more significantly, carte blanche to enjoy guilty pleasures without guilt. . . . Barker’s obvious passion for and deep understanding of manufactured pop make his chapters fascinating. . . . The exquisite research and nuanced insight Barker brings to [Donna Summer’s] moans and groans makes ['Love to Love You Baby'] one of the strongest chapters in the book. . . . [And Taylor’s 'Heartbreak Hotel'] is one of the most passionate, articulate love letters to the King I have ever read.” --Jake Austen, Chicago Journal
  • 4/7/07
    "Merrily throwing in references from R. Kelly to Mississippi John Hurt to the KLF, . . . Faking It is dynamite for the pop subversive. . . . The arguments are very persuasive." --Bob Stanley, The (London) Times
  • 4/1/07
    “What Faking It shows us, through an impressive array of eras and musicians, is that the quest for purity in pop is a fool’s errand. . . . Faking It is a fascinating read based on a truly provocative and enlightening argument. It will be hard to think about pop music in the same way again.” --Nora Young, Toronto Star
  • 3/28/07
    “Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor certainly know their stuff and have fun poking and prodding at our idols.” --Jonathan Gibbs, Metro
  • 3/28/07
    “In 10 chapters--each addressing a particular song or song cover as a starting point before running rabid over all kinds of cultural, racial, and social terrain--[the authors] trace the shifting importance of originality in popular music from the early 20th century to the early 21st with diplomatic élan and overachieving gusto, . . . smashing precious illusions like microbrew bottles along the way. . . . Faking It is certain to inspire some awesome conversations among readers.” --Raymond Cummings, Baltimore City Paper
  • 3/22/07
    "Sure to fuel arguments among music nerds for years to come. . . . Taken as a whole, the book becomes a fascinating, complex study of the increasingly blurred line between actuality and artifice." --Ira Brooker, Time Out Chicago
  • 3/14/07
    "A brutal attack on what professor David Lowethal called 'the dogma of self-delusion,' which basically kills the entire concept of 'authentic' alternative culture, eats it, shits it, buries it, digs it up, burns it, eats it and shits it out again. And then nails it to a canvas and calls it art. I intend to carry this book around with me. And the next time I meet a DJ who looks like he might be about to use the phrase 'keeping it real,' I shall smack him in the head with it. Repeatedly." --Steven Wells, Philadelphia Weekly
  • 3/4/07
    "Combines a strong point of view, intelligent and informed musical analysis, and rigorous historical research." --Ben Yagoda, The New York Times Book Review
  • 2/18/07
    “Essential . . . a model of lucidity and concision. . . . Barker and Taylor might make great house builders. They lay a solid foundation for their argument that popular music is inherently 'impure.' . . . Part of the fun here is the way the writers trust their ears. . . . [A] smart, passionate book.” --Charles Taylor, Newsday
  • 2/15/07
    "With plenty of interesting and contentious assertions to stimulate even casual readers, this is a heck of an argument starter." --Booklist
  • 2/15/07
    "Insightful. . . . Faking It delivers lots of good stories." --Michael Washburn, Time Out New York
  • 2/9/07
    “Provocative . . . incendiary . . . fascinating.” --Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper

The most essential songs discussed in Faking It