'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm a Rainbow 

Just to show that I'm not entirely devoid of sentimentality:

And all the colors that you see, are all a part of me, in this crazy world of mine. Has anyone ever so concisely captured the personal alienation that so many of us feel from the world in which we live? Such a lightning flash of recognition can lead people to travel down many paths, including, but not necessarily, political activism. For my money, Donna Summer remains one of the most unappreciated pop musicians of my lifetime because of the racially tinged ridicule of disco. Another of my favorites, On the Radio, was a prominent feature on the soundtrack of an excellent, but now forgotten, Jodie Foster film, Foxes, where it was used to ironically comment upon the naive expectations of the teen protagonists in a jaded, late 1970s Los Angeles. Apparently, I'm a Rainbow was recorded in 1981, but not released until 1996. One of the impressive subtleties of this composition by her husband for her is the thread of self-doubt (or is it self-awareness?) that runs throughout: I'm a rainbow and sometimes I can shine.

Rarely have the personal and the political been as brilliantly fused as in this 1964 Holland-Dozier-Holland composition for Diana Ross and the Supremes. As accurately noted by wikipedia: The song seemed to strike a chord in the USA as, while on one level it can be seen as a simple tale of a failed relationship, it can also been as capturing the spirit of the time after the assassination of JFK, racial tension, deepening problems in Vietnam and foreseeing the end of the early optimism of the 1960s.

But, at the gut level, this reaction by someone over at YouTube has it exactly right:

When this song came out I was 13 yrs old and my best friend Denise and I were walking up the street listing to the radio and it just blew my mind. I started walking backwards and she and I walked up Clinton Ave´╗┐ and I said, "Denise, this song will last FOREVER!" And it has.

And, finally, along similar lines, there is Angie, the Rolling Stones' valedictory to the communal spirit of the late 1960s:

Angie, Angie, when will all those clouds all disappear, Angie, Angie, where will it lead us from here, with no lovin' in our soul and no money in our coat, you can say we're satisfied, Angie, Angie, you can't say we never tried . . .

Typically, the Stones gave expression to a stark pessimism, which suggested a socially Darwinian future. Being the good cultural capitalists that they are, though, they continued to flourish by highlighting the sybaritic aspect of their music to the detriment of its other, more ambivalent qualities, so as to be compatible with Reaganism. If there could be said to be a pop music representation of neoliberalism, the Rolling Stones would be a strong candidate for it.

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