Tuesday, January 20, 2009

". . . Doomed to Repeat It"

As I was driving home today, I caught a little bit of the hubbub about the the Rev Joseph Lowery's benediction at the Obama inaugural. I could not believe my ears -- not because the passage was offensive, but because I had heard something similar before.

When I was in college, I was a DJ at the college radio station. It was the final days of the good old vinyl record -- the newfanged CD was around, but not yet widespread. One of these old vinyl gems was Richard Nixon Superstar by David Frye. One of my favorite bits from the album was entitled "The Blacks" and involved a visit to the Nixon White House by Muhammad Ali. You can hear the first 45 seconds of the piece here. At the end of the skit, as I remember it, Ali becomes exasperated with Nixon's false hospitality and indicates that in America "if you're white, that's all right; if you're brown, don't come around; if you're red, you might as well be dead . . . ." The Rev. Lowry almost could have taken his inspiration from David Frye's Ali:

Lord, . . . , we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right.

P.S. My old roommate and I always regretted not stealing that album upon our graduation. In the coming years, the station converted to CDs, and the copy of Richard Nixon Superstar was used as a weight on the bottom of a banner hanging outside the radio station window. The album is out of print, and very hard to find. If you are ever able to find a copy of the album, listen to "The Blacks" and see if it doesn't remind you of the good Reverend's benediction.

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Blogger Jaya said...

My guess is that the Rev. Lowery was referring to the Big Bill Broonzy song from the 30's, "Black, Brown and White Blues", about racial inequality in society. The sarcastic chorus goes:

"Well, if you're white,
You're all right,
And if you're brown,
Stick around,
And if you're Black,
Oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back."

It sounds like the Mohammed Ali sketch was making the same reference.

7:58 PM  
Blogger DMinor said...


Thanks for stopping by. I was not aware of that song at the time of the post. I did find out about it from a commenter on the American Catholic shortly thereafter.

5:45 PM  
Blogger CMinor said...

He's pretty unequivocally dated us with the Nixon sketch and the vinyl records, anyway.

8:00 PM  

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