Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There's Roots and There's "Roots": Jack White Opines on Who's Got More Musical Authenticity-- Dylan, Waits or Britney Spears?

As linked in "Expecting Rain," a report on Jack White (The Dead Weather, White Stripes)receiving an honorary award from Dublin's Trinity College's University Philosophical Society.

It seems to have been a very interesting night for Mr. White, and not just the award. The multi-faceted musician, currently focusing his energy on his new band The Dead Weather, received and honorary patronage award from Trinity College's University Philosophical Society. At his acceptance ceremony, the singer/guitarist/drummer gave an impromptu lecture focusing on his musical beliefs, among other things. White's lecture is gaining attention for an interesting statement he made about musical authenticity, evoking Tom Waits and Bob Dylan in the same breath as Britney Spears.

White stated, "I don't know if Tom Waits and Bob Dylan are as authentic as I think they are. Perhaps they're not." The highlight of his observation was: "Sometimes you start thinking that maybe Britney Spears or someone like that who's doing exactly what they want to do in the way that they best know how, is more authentic than any of those people you could mention."

The full article from New Times Phoenix here.

This is an interesting question. Recently, I got a copy of the Best of the Royals and The Midnighters featuring Hank Ballard. A great tune is Ballard's "Tore Up Over You." I always have thought of Jerry Garcia's great great version of this as "Tore Up" but after getting into Hank Ballard's rendition, there is that sense of "The Real" and the "(Great but) Cover" version. Funny how "Roots" music today has taken on new meaning since it has more to do with delving into existing forms and musical catalogs. But, for that matter, "The Beatles" and "The Band" (like Dylan, perhaps) were playing music based on existing musical forms, but in doing so, they seemed to create something brand new and totally different. But not as "authentic" as the original blues, country, and R & B musicians, that they took from. Dylan has always adapted from other styles and artists (even writers), and as influential as he is as a songwriter and artist, I doubt that he would put himself on the same page as "Woody" or any of the bluesmen that influenced him. In that sense, I'm not so sure about Jack's example. Therefore, if there is nothing new under the sun (to quote the Bard), maybe Britney is playing something "real" and "unique" and "original" to the best of her ability, but if that could serve as a good definition of "Art" does it make it "authentic" ? Does it even matter ? Further, to borrow from Walter Benjamin,in the age of Mechanical (and Electronic) Reproduction, what musician has not been influenced by, and consequently built upon, earlier forms, styles, and musicians?

Jack White raises a very thoughtful and intriguing philosophical question, not sure if it can be answered.

--Brooklyn Beat

2 comments:

  1. "if there is nothing new under the sun (to quote the Bard"

    The bible (Ecclesiastes 1:9) not the Bard.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Authenticity resides in the sincerity not necessarily in the inspiration.
    Tom Waits has heard and acknowledged his musical influences. Bob Dylan sees himself as a troubador bearing the torch of tradition.
    Britney Spears barely knows her bra size let alone how to compose a proper bridge.
    Jack White needs better nutrition. His brain is starving.

    ReplyDelete

Current Reading

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