KEN I wrote a biography of Stephen Foster in order to understand popular culture, and the original impetus behind it was more contemporary than historical.1 My own background was in rock 'n' roll, which I began writing about in 1968 for a sex, drugs, rock-'n'-revolution alternate newspaper in Boston that one could be arrested for peddling on the streets, which was its initial means of distribution. My very first article in Avatar was about a short-lived psychedelic band called Lothar and the Hand People, and it quoted a French singer-songwriter named Antoine whom I had come across during a summer in France. "Le seul regret de ma vie," he told a French fan magazine, "c'est de n'avoir pas été né noir." My memory and my French may have faltered over the decades, but what Antoine said translated to "The only regret of my life is that I wasn't born black." I've always been fascinated by when and why it first became cool for white teenagers to pretend they were black. Obviously it started long before the Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice, Antoine, and Elvis. Benny Goodman, Mezz Mezzrow, the Austin Hill gang, and other nice Jewish boys from Chicago
American Music – University of Illinois Press
Published: Apr 24, 2012
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