Culture

“I’m Going to Learn to Dance If It Takes Me All Night and Day” - Thoughts on Chuck Berry

Geoffrey Jacques
Portside
Much commentary on the late Chuck Berry will focus on how his songs expressed fun and teenage angst. This is the right thing to do. Yet there’s more. For example, Berry’s obsession with the comparative qualities of fast cars — most brilliantly displayed in his song “Maybellene” — did not just reflect the rise of post-WW II consumerist culture....He preferred V-8 Fords over Cadillacs because he spent several years in the late 1940s and early 1950s helping make Ford cars.

Paul Robeson's Songs and Deeds Light the Way for the Fight Against Trump

Jeff Sparrow
The Guardian (UK)
The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars - a lesson today's celebrities could do with learning. These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

Harry Belafonte Knows a Thing or Two

John Leland
New York Times
The city native, about to turn 90, looks back at a glorious past and wonders what his next act will be. The rise of Donald J. Trump alarmed him, but not as much as the passion and numbers of Mr. Trump's supporters. 'I've never known this country to be so' - he paused before saying the word.' Though encouraged by the energy in the Black Lives Matter and Occupy movements, he felt that both lacked an ideology to make real change.

Weaponizing Modernist Culture

Alan Wald
Against the Current
At first glance, modern art and contemporary imperialism make strange bedfellows. The book under review both charts the history of the CIA's work in promoting US corporate interests through its manipulation of culture--what was then called cultural diplomacy-- while also working to define modernism. The reviewer congratulates the author on his first task, but criticizes him on the second.

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