midnight lightning-greg tate

“for those other dark angels,

more recently fallen to earth

June Jordan

Jam Master Jay

Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes


he had me from the dedication. really and truly. just like kanye‘s tribute to left eye and aaliyah in through the wire. this one made the list because of my desire to consume everything that greg tate has ever written, but-in this “post-racial” election year climate of kids shooting and being shot (lost lyrics we see you-thanks for a great conference), erykah badu video controversy, and the alabama shakes-this is as good a time as any to read this book. and i don’t support highlighting or underlining (in pencil or pen) in library books, but sometimes peoples’ comments in the margins are interesting-this one person disputed tate’s description of hendrix’s discharge from the army by writing, “No! He faked homosexuality!”

to quote freedom williams, “things that make you go hmmmmmm….”

oh-and it’s prince‘s birthday, right?

One thought on “midnight lightning-greg tate

  1. spheres of influence:

    “As his own mad children can’t ever stop themselves from cussing up a storm or brazenly exhibiting the stigmata and stain of his mark. Roll call: David Bowie, Evel Knieval, Bootsy Collins, and DJ Shadow. Chris Whitley and KISS. David Murray, James Newton, and Butch Morris. Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane, and Ishmael Reed. William Gibson, Lucas Samaras, and DJ Spooky. Betty Davis, Zaha Hadid, and the Bomb Squad. Jeff Mills, Alice Walker, and Ikue Mori. The Pharcyde, Susie Ibarra, and Me’Shell NedgeOcello. Roll call: Patti Smith, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tracey Emin, AR Kane, Simon Reynold’s Generation Ecstasy, and Colson Whitehead.” (4)

    “There are, again, many striking racial anomalies in the Hendrix story-that he had white sidemen backing him up, that he became a success in America without being a rhythm and blues or jazz success first, and actually, never. The Twins talk about how in the late ‘60s, at the height of Hendrix’s fame, he could travel to Harlem and walk about as unhindered and unrecognized as he did when he was an unknown starving artist. Irony of ironies: in London and the East Village, Hendrix was The Man. In Harlem, he was The Invisible Man. What role did the exclusive, whites-only marketing plan of his management and record label play in this conundrum? How much of Blackfolks’ disinterest was because his music held little appeal for people for people whose tastes ran exclusively to Motown, Southern soul, urban blues, and funky jazz-anything but psychedelic rock? Rhetorical questions to be sure, but telling ones about Hendrix’s amazing ability to concoct a music from those same roots that might as well have been a frequency inaudible to negroes.” (19)

    “Hendrix, however, became an international pop music phenomenon without ever having been even a minor sensation among those useful abstractions, The Black Masses and The Black Community. The reason for this turnabout speaks volumes about the complicated way race politics and race manners can play out in the real world. A world where gatekeepers are made to be trampled underfoot and sent sliding down history’s slippery slope by the likes of a Jimi Hendrix.” (24)

    “Unlike his older contemporaries Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis, Jr., Hendrix never became the target of psychotic white male animus because he ‘fucked white,’ as the saying went. The pains with which other Black performers want to keep their liaisons with white women on the downlow back then never had to cross Hendrix’s mind. The abuse, harassment, and bomb threats Sammy Davis, Jr. faced for daring to kiss a white woman onstage in 1965 make Hendrix’s honorary-white-penis status come 1967 all the more startling.” (27)

    “A number of things surely converged to make Hendrix rethink his relationship to other African Americans-the unavoidable turn racial conflict took in the country especially after King’s assassination in 1968, the aggressive interest the Black Panther Party took in him as a possible cash cow for their multiple legal defense needs (showing up backstage at concerts, rolling mob-deep, trying to shake him down), and the return of a host of Black friends into his musical life like The Twins, Miles, his Army bud Cox, and percussionist Juma Sutan, among others.” (29)

    “Nearly every piece of sound-enhancing gear available in a modern recording studio has been devised to emulate some musical effect of Hendrix’s. The lyrical, composerly ways he laced his songs with such staples of contemporary pop as flangeing, phasing, chorusing, multitracking, pitchblending, tapesplicing, looping, delay, reverb made them register as far more than novelties and ‘ear candy’ (that handy studio rat name for those sonic tricks meant to impress the world with what clever boys we are). Hendrix made all such devices and conceits emotional landmarks in his songs, largely because he privileged emotional projection as much as he did innovation. The acoustic blues tradition, of which Hendrix was a devoted disciple, was the by-product of diligent musical research and cathartic need. The paradigm of uncanny musicality and uncaged feeling Hendrix followed had been established by Southern blues players like Blind Wilie Johnson and Charlie Patton and jazz players like Charlie Christian and Lonnie Johnson decades before he was born.” (34-5)

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