February 2, 2012

"That the man who wrote the song 'Say It Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud' and who recorded the soundtrack to the Black Power movement..."

"... could scarcely comprehend that a black man like Cornelius both owned and helmed this kind of enterprise without white patronage is a testament to the magnitude and the improbability of Cornelius' achievements."

From a column at NPR.org titled "Why Don Cornelius Matters."

(Unfortunately, Don Cornelius committed suicide.)

35 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Low expectations.

Dead Julius said...

Cornelius was a really impressive guy.

I remember watching Soul Train as a child. The performances, of which the music was only a part, were fascinatingly different from anything I had seen before.

But what is Althouse trying to say with this post?

I don't get why she titles it with racist conservative tripwire phrases: "I'm Black and I'm Proud" and "Black Power". And then she links to NPR, which most conservatives consider to be a bastion of liberal pansyism and blatant Communism.

Is there some subtext I'm missing? What's the point of throwing out the political red meat, especially after the recent death of the person whom the post is about?

Lem said...

I remember watching his show Saturday mornings.. the idea that I could tell who was dancing good and who was not.

Steve Koch said...

Soul Train was awesome, especially the dancing. Also, Don Cornelius had a truly great speaking voice and was a cool, mellow guy who projected a great vibe.

Lem said...

But what is Althouse trying to say with this post?

Reading the article usually works for me.

CatherineM said...

I remember his deep deep voice...Mr. Cool.

The SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUL Train!

TMink said...

Don Cornelius, and James Brown, both embodied Booker T. Washington's ideals of self made, independent black business men. We need many, many more like them.

Trey

Steve Koch said...

The amazingly great James Brown wrote "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud". Great song. What a great, great performer Brown was.

No need to inject any weird politics into the discussion, Althouse is just paying her respects to one of the giants who just passed.

John said...

So is James Brown saying that the only reason he was successful was white patronage?

Yes, there were a lot of white kids who bought his records (like me) and went to his shows (never had the pleasure)

I don't think that is what he is saying, though.

John Henry

robinintn said...

"improbability". I was about to agree with NPR until I got to that little bit of racism.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't get why she titles it with racist conservative tripwire phrases: "I'm Black and I'm Proud" and "Black Power"..."

You're calling a James Brown song title a "racist conservative tripwire phrase"? I think it's an impressive song from an interesting and important stage in American racial politics. And the encounter between Brown and Cornelius is fascinating and the center of an NPR column.

I would have thought its being on NPR would keep liberals from hissing "racist" in the typical fashion.

But maybe NPR is kind of racist. What do you think?

bgates said...

Cornelius' reported suicide, alas, tells us something about the nature of American success.

It doesn't tell us anything about the nature of African-American success, of course, because generalizing from this one tragedy to the experiences of thirty million people would be hopelessly bigoted.

RIP, Don Cornelius.

robinintn said...

I think NPR implying that a successful black man is improbable is racist. And I don't have gather my opinion from some "code words" that I have re-defined as racist.

Dead Julius said...

But maybe NPR is kind of racist. What do you think?

I agree with robinintn that the word "improbability" makes the piece racist.

The question of whether a large organization like NPR is racist is not meaningful IMHO. It is easy to make Althouse or NPR (or even Dead Julius!) appear racist... so easy, in fact, that there is no more meaning in the label when applied so generally. You can always selectively quote to bring up the racial bugaboo, just like I did in my comment above. It works especially well when the reader is of the same political persuasion as the provocateur.

teej said...

Wasn't the Motown record label of the time a wholly black owned and managed concern? I wasn't aware that it was "tainted" by white patronage.

Peter said...

Yeah, OK, most of us who are old enough remember the show. And I've never known anyone who didn't enjoy it.

BUT, suicide is a really ugly way to check out. If you have to, couldn't you at least make it look like an accident?

"In 2009, he was sentenced to probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of spousal battery. In his divorce case — settled in 2010 — he said he had “significant health issues” and that he wanted to “finalize this divorce before I die.”


So, now he has another "signature sign-off." And everything is truly and completely finalized.

Maguro said...

It's dog whistles, Julius, not tripwires. Dog whistles. Get it right.

EDH said...

That "Soul Train" appeared in syndication on Saturday mornings immediately after professional wrestling always compromised the credibility of the endeavor, however unfairly.

But we did stick around to hear his voice and the "Sooooul Traaain" introduction before going out to play.

Dave said...

Sad to read about the suicide. I used to watch Soul train as a kid, too.


I think there's a clear but hard to quantify correlation between race relations and the emotion of music. When things were optimistic, sweet and innocent in the early 60s we had Motown. The murder of MLK gave rise to Black Power anthems which, eventually, softened into funk. I'm sure there's a rap/hip hop story as well but I've lost touch with popular music.

Christopher said...

Incidentally they use Silly String to find tripwires in Iraq.

For some reason that came to mind while reading DJ's statement.

Ann Althouse said...

"You can always selectively quote to bring up the racial bugaboo, just like I did in my comment above."

Oh, bullshit. "I'm Black and I'm Proud" isn't racist. To highlight the great old lyric is not racist. I chose that sentence from the article because it was the most interesting sentence in the article. It had some intriguing elements that I liked. If you cringe and think there's something bad about that lyric, that's about you, not me.

David said...

The guy who wrote that article is one preachy son of a bitch. He shows no compassion for the sad way that Cornelius died. For him Cornelius is just a symbol for some points he wants to make.

I am skeptical that James Brown really had the attitude described. Figuring out what James Brown was trying to say when he wasn't singing is rather difficult.

I won't even get into the racist assumptions in the article.

I look at Soul Train as early reality TV.

edutcher said...

Bandstand for black people.

When I was young, I thought something like that helped their self-esteem; now I think it was just an exercise in chauvinism.

David said...

"When I was young, I thought something like that helped their self-esteem; now I think it was just an exercise in chauvinism."

It was neither. Just kids dancing.

TMink said...

Actually, James Brown had an accesible message about civil rights that is in many of his songs. For instance, from "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothin.

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

Don't give me degeneration
Give me true communication
Don't give me sorrow
I want equal opportunity
To live tomorrow

Give me schools
And give me better books
So I can read about myself
And gain my truly looks

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me now, now?

Some of us try
As hard as we can
We don't want no sympathy
We just wanna be a man

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me?

We got talents we can use
On our side of town
Let's get our heads together
And get it up from the ground

When some of us make money
People hear about our people
Gotta grab out a honey
Forget about honey
Do you now, let me hear, hey

Got to get myself together
So many things I got to do
So many things I got to do
I don't need no help from you

Tell everybody, everybody else
All of these things, baby
I got to do it myself
Come on, hey

With you I'll sweat and blood
To put out any fire and block off every plug

With this and other songs, James placed himself squarely in the Booker T Washington camp of wanting the chance to work and have equal opportunity. This is in stark contrast to the WEB DuBois "talented tenth" socialist elitism that is currently in vogue.

Trey

ricpic said...

Low expectations.

That was my thought. What's remarkable about Cornelius achievement is that he was able, first, to sell the idea and second, make it work. What that has to do with race is beyond me.

TMink said...

ricpic, what it has to do with race is that it was very, very difficult for black people to be entrepeneurs back in the day. And it was unusual for blacks to be on tv, much less own and produce a show.

So he was a pioneer, and he would not have been if he had been white cause white folks had been pushing that kind of gig for awhile.

Trey

paul a'barge said...

Does NPR really posit that there were no black entrepreneurs or engineers who created and/or built substantial contributions before Cornelius?

In other words, some mutt wrote some pathetic, loser black power song with no knowledge of blacks who preceded him in black history?

What idiots.

DADvocate said...

Loved Soul Train, but that James Brown's lack of comprehension could just as well be a testament to his misperception of the world as it is.

Blue@9 said...

I don't get what the big deal is. At the time, it was probably not very common to have a black run TV show, much less one that was conceived, financed, and produced by blacks.

Was James Brown a racist for having low expectations? No, he was probably just surprised because it was beyond his experience. I'd probably have said the same thing if I were around then.

Can't we get through a day without finding something to get offended by/outraged by/victimized by?

rcocean said...

Can't say I ever watched "Soul Train" I always thought it was just a black rip-off of "American Bandstand" - which I didn't like.

Anyhoo, I just think it funny when whitey whitebreads argue over who likes black folks more & RACISM!!!

Must be a boomer thing. Where were you in 1964? Did *You* march with MLK?

Amartel said...

A post remembering a black business pioneer who created an iconic show that people still remember with affection triggers ... a racial anxiety pants-wetting competition. Because uh blacks. 'n' stuff.

"Say it loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" is not racist. You idiots. It's about economic self-reliance.
James Brown, you see, was a republican.

ken in sc said...

I was at a party in the late seventies. A black guy made fun of the white people dancing by saying, “Somebody's been watching Soul Train.”

Craig said...

The four siblings who made up The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose were apparently not relatives of Soul Train's Don Cornelius, but the name they shared with him could easily have been a factor in selecting the name for their group. They were certainly creative enough to come up with something catchier.

The group had two hits, Treat Her Like A Lady and Too Late To Turn Back Now, that reached the top five on the pop charts between 1971 and 1973 when Soul Train, first airing in 1970, was still new and exciting. Their career was cut short by an automobile accident between gigs on a Texas highway in 1971.

It seems their record contract required live performances on a tour to promote record sales. The death of their lead guitarist and serious injury to their lead singer, Eddie Cornelius, made fulfilling the terms of their contract onerous. Settlement of their lawsuit with the record company is apparently not yet fully resolved.

Too Late To Turn Back Now was composed and first sung over the telephone in a hospital bed with all four limbs in traction.

Phil 3:14 said...

I loved Soul Train.

"I'm white and I'm proud" didn't do as well.

PS Bring back the 'fro