Lecture: “From Brother Ray to LL Cool J: Black Country Performance and the Politics of the Past,” Diane Pecknold (Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Louisville)

Event Date: 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Music 1145

Diane Pecknold (Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Louisville) May 7, 2014

The history of country and soul in the 1960s and 1970s is littered with what appear to be bizarre paradoxes: both Ray Charles and George Wallace using country to remake their images as massive resistance took shape; Isaac Hayes recording Glenn Campbell, Ray Price and Hank Williams covers while establishing his Black Moses persona; Linda Martell becoming the first African American woman on the country charts as a Plantation Records artist. Why did Black artists choose to perform country repertoire in record numbers at the very moment when the genre definitively became an aural symbol of backward-looking southern racism? What can those performances tell us about more recent controversies over race, country music, and the myth of post-racial America? Black performances of country have been alternately cast as integrationist statements, embarrassing instances of false consciousness, or commercially driven aberrations. But we might equally interpret them as a willful dismantling of white nostalgia, a strategy through which artists have confronted the racialized political economy of the music business, exposed the role it has historically played in affirming white hegemony, and, more recently, traced the effects of post-racial ideology.

Diane Pecknold is editor of Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music (Duke University Press) and author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Duke University Press) and currently serves as vice president of IASPM–US. She is currently at work, with co-author Sarah Dougher, on a book about tween music.