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Brad

How to Handle the Hate in America’s Musical Heritage

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An article in The Times about what to do about racist songs when issuing a collection on American folk music.

How to Handle the Hate in America’s Musical Heritage

Lance Ledbetter was buying sweet Georgia peaches near downtown Atlanta on a sweltering June morning when he realized he was about to make a potentially catastrophic mistake: His record label, the Grammy-winning archival bastion Dust-to-Digital, would soon release its first racist songs.”

He and his wife decided they couldn’t release the racist songs, a move with which all do not agree. 

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I haven't read the article yet just wanted to say I hope Allen chimes in here.  

There is no value whatsoever in editing, denying or, no pun intended, whitewashing the past.

And the past, as Allen has has argued, is more than a little complicated.

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I’d love to hear Allen’s thoughts. 

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I posted the article at Hoffmann and just found out it was deleted. Surprising. 

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The thing I find fascinating in any article about race is the need to implant a minority, even when their contribution is irrelevant. thats just a tangent though. I find it interesting that there was a concern that this would be broadcast over loudspeaker at a farmers market and that is what gave pause. I like dust to digital and what they do but I always feel those digging into their compilations know what they're getting. Their audience is very niche, at least I always assumed that. 

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If people aren't confronted with exactly how pervasive, common, and crude this stuff was, at some point they're not going to get it. They'll think of it as an abstract concept rather than the nasty reality that it was. What format this forced exposure is best handled in, I don't know, but right now I think we're at a crossroads between elimination and avoidance. So we could probably go either way.

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If people aren't confronted with exactly how pervasive, common, and crude this stuff was, at some point they're not going to get it.

 

Exactly, they should've left them in.  IMHO they copped out.  On the other hand, I think the whole Anthology B-sides project is absurd anyways - Harry Smith didn't choose those sides for a reason.  There are days I think Harry Smith and his bootleg Anthology are absurd.  Life is absurd, but not as absurd as shying away from the absurd or the ugly in life.

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In the best of all possible worlds those cuts should have been included.  But this is not that world: it's now apparent that many people would not be "confronted" by these songs--  they would just use  them as another tool in normalizing their racism. 

One compromise might  have  been to put them on a separate disc with lots of warning.

 50 years ago when I taught film I used to show Birth of a Nation.  I presumed all my students were nice liberals and I didn't say much to put its racism in context.  (I think I used to joke that the cross-cutting was so good that they would end up  cheering when the KKK rode to the rescue.)  Then a Black friend of mine came to a class and gave me shit for not saying more.  She was right. 

 

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The whole notion of history as entertainment, and all that comes with that, is fraught with peril and maybe even risks becoming propaganda.

That recent Ken Burns series on country music comes to mind...

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