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Going to Graceland (newyorker.com)
37 points by samclemens 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 4 comments

Graceland is a fun visit. For all Elvis' fame and wealth, the house really isn't all that fancy. He had the best available at the time, but there are better things today.

About the recording, I expect I know how it's going to be. When the list of contributors includes Alec Baldwin and James Carville it seems likely that it's not really about entertainment.

This quote from Van Jones does a great job of explaining why "cultural appropriation" is a thing that some black people feel strongly about.

>It’s an interesting country. It inflicts pain on black people, denies that it inflicted pain, but then benefits from the soulful cry that arises from the pain.

It's a good quote but a rather simplistic description of black music which is much more than just a soulful cry. It can be joyous, funny, bawdy, sexy, devout - every emotion under the sun. And its roots pre-date slavery.

I can't imagine living in an America without black music. It would be for me like living in a desert, but I also wonder what people would say if someone told Wynton Marsalis or Yo Yo Ma that they can't play classical. I'm guessing some people did tell Ray Charles that he couldn't play country, which he loved, and he did it anyway, but I don't think re-drawing those lines benefits anyone.

Same with visual arts. So many great black painters working in America today. Are we supposed to deny them access to the western art tradition? Sorry, Picasso and Matisse are for white guys.

Perhaps by "soulful cry" Jones was referring specifically to the blues and gospel? The article mentions that these were two of Elvis's primary influences.

It's hard to imagine a world without cultural exchange. It seems a huge part of what makes us human. I don't think people who write or speak about "cultural appropriation" want cultural exchange to end. I think it's more about questioning the terms under which the cultural exchange takes place. E.g., who has the power to begin with, is it a fair exchange.

>I also wonder what people would say if someone told Wynton Marsalis or Yo Yo Ma that they can't play classical.

Growing up as minorities in America, one supposes that Marsalis and Ma were told in ways subtle and unsubtle that they were less than. So playing classical music might be seen as a way of defying the prevailing and unjust expectations, rather than appropriation.

Realistic or not, there may also be an expectation that, if you benefit from a people's culture, you should be a proactive ally to said people when the chips are down. And pipe up even when it's not politically expedient to do so.

It was interesting to read in the article that

>the two black newspapers in Memphis at the time, both reported favorably on Presley, whom they saw as a kind of ally.

I wonder why.

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