The first recorded black woman blues singer (ie first black woman to record a non-religious commercially released song), Mamie Smith’s 1920 song Crazy Blues had the lyrics:
I’m gonna do likea Chinaman… go and get some hop
Get myselfa gun… and shoot myself a cop.
That’s about sixty years before NWA and Ice-T came along.
Adam Gussow (in “‘Shoot myself a cop’: Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues as Social Text” (Callaloo 25.1 (2002): 8-44) claims:
Ths song is… an insurrectionary social text, a document that transcends its moment by contributing to an evolving discourse of black revolutionary violence in the broadest sense – which is to say, black violence as a way of resisting white violence and unsettling a repressive social order (10).
I’m doing some reading on blues and women blues singers of the 20s and 30s and it’s hardcore stuff. No pussyfooting around this topic. I’m still working on ideas I wrote about briefly here, here and by extension here.
And to think a bunch of white middle class kids are using this shit to dance dirty at late night parties. Though I guess they were doing exactly the same thing in the 20s too.
I can’t seem to get past the idea of the 20s as a far more radical moment than the late 30s. And the 20s were charleston time, flapper time – women dancing on their own, not wearing stockings, cutting their hair, staying up all night and getting divorced. While the 30s were lindy hop time, partner dancing, seriously tailored clothes with lots of darts and War Work.
It’s really nice to have a chance to finally read and read on things that are entirely ‘off-topic’. I can read whatever I like and write about whatever I like. I still can’t get over that!
Meanwhile, I’ve done that paper I had to do and a draft of that guest blog post thing (which is scaring me – the pressure!). I’ve also got a stack of stuff about online community to read, including some neat stuff by Barry Wellman about the relationship between offline and online community. That dood is beginning to rock.
…I’m sure my interest in writing about seriously dance-related stuff (as opposed to more media-centered stuff) has lots to do with the fact that I’m actually going dancing more often than I have in a year – I dance pretty much every day and do at least 2 serious out-the-house dance things a week. My brain is ticking over all the time. And I feel like I have the time (and freedom from stress) to really think about ideas and make them coherent (sort of, anyway).
No doubt this is post-thesis euphoria and will soon be all over, replaced by some sort of post-thesis anxiety/depression/self-doubt.
For now I’m enjoying myself.