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African American Music and it's Influence on American Culture

            Leroi Jones book, 'Blues People: Negro Music in White America' offers insight into jazz and blues in American social, musical, economic, and cultural history. From the music of African slaves in the United States through the music scene of the 1960's, Jones traces the influence of what he calls "negro music" on white America - not only in the context of music and pop culture but also in terms of the values and perspectives passed on through the music. In tracing the music, he brilliantly illuminates the influence of African Americans on American culture and history.
             The White Negro is a 9,000 word essay by Norman Mailer that recorded a number of young white people in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's who liked jazz and swing music so much that they adopted black culture as their own. The "white Negroes" adopted black clothing styles, black jive language, and black music. They mainly associated with black people, distancing themselves from white society. One of the early figures in the white negro phenomenon was jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow, an American Jew born in 1899 who had declared himself a "voluntary Negro" by the 1920's. This movement influenced the hipsters of the 1940's and the beats of the 1950's.
             The article presents an examination of the blues music of musician B. B. King in terms of how King reflected race relations and racial politics in the U.S. in the 1960's, a period when King became a commercially successful popular musician rather than a respected musician in a niche genre of popular music. This commercial success is attributed to a new popularity of King among white music fans. Statements from King's autobiography discussing a 1968 concert before a white audience are offered indicating his mixed emotions of appreciation and unease at his popularity with a new audience. Music albums released by King from 1969-1973 are considered in terms of stylistic changes in King's music which reflect his "crossover" appeal to white audiences.

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