Let’s put politics aside for a moment and just appreciate that this guy is smooth. Years after Clinton squawking away on a sax and eight arduous years of Bush trying to dance (or whatever that is), we finally have a President with at least a hint of musical acumen.
Making the rounds this week is the President singing some Al Green, which is awesome enough. But it’s not the first time The Crooner in Chief has put his pipes to the test. Dig his repertoire.
I was born at Great Lakes Naval hospital just north of Chicago. My dad was in the Army and stationed at nearby Fort Sheridan and we lived in Chicagoland until I was four. Our family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I grew up, but I always had a fascination with Chicago. That fascination grew when my best friend and GLONO founder Jake Brown invited me to the annual spring break trips he took to the city with his mother. Two teenage boys wandering the streets of downtown Chicago was sure to lead to something, and for me it was a determination to someday return to my birth city.
College and years wandering from job to job in Michigan kept me from following through on that dream until 1999 when my girlfriend and I decided to just pull the trigger and make the move. We’d grown bored with Grand Rapids and we had a couple friends who’d recently moved to Chicago so why not? That decision was the start of nine and half of the best years of our lives.
The Chicago Tribune calls Barack Obama“The first hip-hop president” in an article that examines the President-Elect’s sometimes reluctant love of the genre. We’ve heard plenty about the forthcoming changes in economic policy and foreign relations, but we haven’t heard much about how the presidency of Barack Obama will affect music.
Rev. Al Sharpton told the Tribune that Obama’s victory will force hip-hop to change its tune. “You can’t be using the ‘b’ word, the ‘n’ word, the ‘h’ word when you have Barack Obama redefining overnight the image that black people want to have. Here’s the greatest political victory in the history of black America, and the thug rappers can’t come near it. They will have to change, or become irrelevant.”
[Russell] Simmons says that’s hogwash. “Young people will use their language the way they want,” he said. “If it’s in their heart, they will express it.”
Any predictions on what the next four to eight years of music are going to sound like?
Looking back, it’s so clear what was going on. A nation weary of years of war and a generation desperate to define itself in the shadow of their parents—who changed the world and reminded you of it on a daily basis—congealed around one man who would defy racial barriers and make everyone believe that there was something special about America.
Elvis Presley was a goofy, poor kid with a funny name and a ridiculous naiveté about his place in mid-century America and what it was to be “white” in the south. In January 1956 Elvis released “Heartbreak Hotel” and by April of that year it had changed the face of music and created rock and roll as we know it today (yes, it’s debatable which record is the actual “birth” of rock and roll but the cultural impact of Elvis’ first number one single is undeniable—just ask John Lennon).
From that January in 1956 until his death in August 1977 Elvis Presley was rock and roll. He encompassed the good and the bad, the dangerous and the pedestrian, the leather jacket and the jumpsuit. No, he wasn’t perfect but he molded and shaped a disparate palette of influences (blues, gospel, R&B, soul, and occasional jazz tones) to create an entirely American musical experience. And your life is better for it. More than fifty years later we at the dawn of what could be another rebirth for America.