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From The Race That Invented Rock ‘n Roll Anyway

from the NY Daily News

Rock is the new black

Sunday, May 25th 2008, 4:00 AM

The rock star named Stew doesn’t have the fondest memories of growing up African-American and loving the likes of Led Zeppelin.

African-American rocker Stew stars in 'Passing Strange,' which deals with the emotional issues of growing up a black rock fan.“There were about four of us in this predominantly black school who listened to rock ‘n’ roll,” he says. “Everyone else would tease us. It meant you were a pansy.”

Fast-forward thirtysomething years and it’s another story.

As Stew observes, “If you walk into the Foot Locker on Times Square, every kid working there is black, Puerto Rican or Dominican. And when rock videos come on the screen, those kids rock out just as hard to emo bands as to rap. To them, it’s all the same.”

He’s not the only one who has observed the change. Earl Douglass, executive director of the Black Rock Coalition, says that growing up in the ’80s as a black kid listening to the Stones was “excruciatingly alienating. My friends, who listened to hip hop, didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand,” he says. “Now, a lot of those walls are being torn down. Black kids listen to everything.”

Acts like Gnarls Barkley are breaking down the old boundaries between musical genres and race.

For proof, look to a whole wave of cool and respected modern rock acts who just happen to be led by, or entirely composed of, African-Americans. They include Gnarls BarkleyTV on the Radio, N.E.R.D.,Saul Williams and Lightspeed Champion, all of whom are so well-integrated into music’s hot set that their race is rarely mentioned.

At the same time, we’re seeing emerging artists like Danielia Cotton(a black singer who performs straight-on classic rock) and a Tony-nominated Broadway musical, “Passing Strange,” which deals specifically with the emotional issues of growing up as a black rock fan. (“Passing” stars Stew, now 46, who interacts with his alienated 22-year-old self throughout the play.)

So, why are such stunning changes happening now?

[ click to read full article at ]

Posted on May 26, 2008 by Editor

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