All Right, All Right, Enough About Perry Como, Already

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In
the Friday version of LewRockwell.com, Lew posted a link to Mark
Steyn's recent column
on the general decline of popular music,
and his preference for pre-rock era crooners, especially Mr.
Perry Como
. This is the second reference to Perry Como in the
LRC of late.

Has
Perry been dissed, to use the current vernacular, by the lack of
media coverage of his recent
passing
? Arguably, yes.

Was
he a major artist with a unique voice and style who deserves to
be remembered for his impact on American popular music? Again, yes.
During the early 1950's, between his Chesterfield Supper Club
television show and his recordings, Perry literally owned
the pop music charts. While his career languished a bit by comparison
during the early years of the rock and roll era, he made a major
comeback during the 1970's with another television show and hits
like "It's Impossible" and "And I Love You So",
which was written by — omigod — a folk-rock songwriter, Don
"American Pie" McLean.

My
hat is off to Mr. Como for having achieved greatness in his chosen
field, but why does this recognition have to come at the expense
of the majority of popular music since 1955?

Too
often, critics of a conservative social bent insist that the end
of civilization began when Elvis Presley recorded Bill Monroe's
"Blue Moon of Kentucky" in Sam Phillip's Sun Studios on
Union Avenue in Memphis one August evening in 1954. This is baloney.
If anything, the recent rise of interest in libertarian thinking
has come about because of a generation that grew up in the sixties
and early seventies, distrusting government and realizing that war
didn't accomplish much except death and destruction, unless, of
course, you were a politician or a defense contractor.

The
same counterculture that spawned the socialist P.C. repression of
today's campuses also spawned the rise of the new conservative movement
— not neocons, who think Big Government is bad only when the Democrats
are in charge, but individuals who believe that government itself
is the problem.

Sure,
rock music is populated by knuckleheads who get caught up in the
Hollywood world of social activism ("…and this ribbon, Leeza,
is for Transgender House Pets Awareness Month"), but so are
virtually all forms of entertainment in America. This is more a
reflection of our infantile hero worship of celebrity, and how political
activists utilize this phenomenon, than it is a statement regarding
the relative merits of rock music as social influence.

In
his article, Mr. Steyn comments that, "The(Rolling) Stones
liked the songs of those old-time bluesmen, but they weren't going
to end up sitting on a porch in the Mississippi Delta waiting for
the welfare cheque. They were the first band with a registered trademark
and a merchandising operation."

As
a conservative, I find nothing wrong with that. While we can argue
the whole "intellectual rights" issue, it makes sense
to take advantage of the protections that the current law offers,
and merchandising is certainly not a crime in my book.

As
for the Rolling Stones' treatment of their Chicago and Delta blues
influences, they were not only quick to credit bluesmen like Slim
Harpo, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson, but
they would actually perform with them. Live. Onstage. And they did
all this without requiring that the "Negroes" make self-deprecating
references to their ethnicity, ala Sammy
and the Rat Pack
. Not since Benny
Goodman performed with Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton
had such
a statement been made. This raised the awareness of white audiences
to the artistry of these blues musicians, and opened the door to
revenue streams from performances and recording that were not previously
available to them.

Much
as one might appreciate the musical artistry of Perry Como, I don't
believe that the same can be said for him, nor need it be. Different
careers, different styles, different influences, different audience.

Certainly,
there is a lot of trash that gets passed off under the guise of
the generic "rock" label today, and there always has been.
I would never attempt to defend all popular music simply because
it fits a particular genre. In fact, many of these musical categories
are so broad today as to be virtually meaningless. By the same token,
I think it is an error to disparage a musical form simply because
some of its principle proponents are intellectually, politically
or socially unsound. While I support the notion that there is bad
art and bad artists (see
my last column for LRC
), I am disturbed by the intellectual
laziness exhibited in attacking an entire genre as being inherently
evil.

What
we need to do is stop thinking of music as some sort of "zero-sum"
enterprise, where one form or genre can have merit only at the expense
of another. This notion is ridiculous. If you don't care for rock
and roll, ska, hip-hop, rap, polka, country, disco, world beat,
reggae, calypso, soca, punk, opera, chamber music, whatever, that's
fine. You shop at your end of Tower Records, and I'll shop at mine.

Finally,
in light of the recent trend of contributors to LRC posting their
photos to their work, I felt I was performing a disservice to the
readers by leaving my visage out. With today's column, I will rectify
the situation.

May
21, 2001

Jef
Allen [send him mail]
is a technology professional in Georgia. As a reformed Yankee, who
has lived in the South for roughly twenty years, he has very little
tolerance for Northern sanctimony, or the erosion of individual
liberty.

Jef
Allen Archives

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