The guitar was in all forms of popular music for nearly five decades. Ever since its amplification in the 30s, guitar has been heard in Jazz, Rock + Roll, and early R+B (it was already the focus of Blues and Country musics).
But something happened in the 80s that started in the late 70s. Guitar was being taken out of 'Black' music, to be replaced by keyboard synthesizers and samplers. Nothing against those, but why the disappearance of the beloved 6-string?
(the next question is especially for to the 40 and over crowd) Anyone know what happened?
the silly fad of "rap" music maybe? Not even worth defining as "music" in my opinion.
By the way, it didn't just adversely affect "black" music; it affected all popular music from rock to gospel, including "white". ha. And....I might be wrong about this, but...didn't "rap" originate from the "black" genre of music? Or at least they took disco and ran with it in another direction?
I remember I used to watch MTV years ago; loved some of the rock songs that were popular then. Then, a period of time went by when I didn't have cable and so didn't get shows like MTV, and by the time I next watched it, it had been taken over by rap this and rap that.
Thanks for the response.
Rap was in its baby stages when this transition--which I'll say was about a decade long--took place. I would say Rap was the 2nd front, whereas Disco (remember that?) was the 1st assault on the guitar in mostly Black music.
Now, early Disco featured guitar. But as time went on, and as Disco got more popular the guitar's presence in it decreased. Soon it was not uncommon to see "Disco Sucks" tee shirts. This was a clear sign that the Music Industry had successfully polarized musics in the bigger attempt to polarize listeners.
There was, in my estimation, simply too much collab going on btwn 'the races': Aretha Franklin's rhythm section--the epitome of funky soul music--was mixed, as was Rufus + Chaka, Sly + The Family, War, etc. Average White Band was doing cutting-edge funk and soul music...all this activity had to be controlled somehow.
So, the guitar came to define 'Rock', which became nearly the exclusive property of Whites, while Disco and middle-aged R&B virtually abandoned the guitar. This was pretty much solidified by the early 80s.
Fast fwd to now and it's pretty much the same, save a few exceptions. Usher featured an electric guitar solo in one of his hit songs some years back, and T-Pain currently performs with one, or so I hear.
As far as the guitar disappearing from the current mainstream, that's because Rap and R&B is the 'new Rock'. 'Urban' music is today's biggest-seller.
I love guitar music. 2nd is piano. Can't play a lick of either, but in the right hands they make beautiful music.
I take it you're a guitarist?
Why call it black music don't you mean modern pop music in the genre of hip-hop? In hip-hop there really isn't a melody for the most part. I think the genre will never have the wide acceptance that rock music which is now pop has.
I think it depends on what kind of music you're talking about.
Blues isn't as big in the US as it is in Europe, but they're still playing their guitars.
Very true...and it'll always be that way, thankfully. Blues w/o guitar is like writing w/o ink--well, let's say 'w/o pixels' to keep the conversation current (LOL). I mean, the harmonica is important also, but guitar is the heart of the blues. And, thankfully as well, the blues has remained a Black artform with significant contributions made by Whites (Roy Buchanan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many others...Joe Bonamassa being one of my favs).
Same for Jazz: the guitar will always be prevalent in that genre (although it is less depended on there). However Jazz, unlike the Blues, is more of a 'White' genre today, as evident in the modern Jazz groups, particularly underground and *middleground acts (*more popular than underground but not headlining, such as the Maria Schneider Orchestra).
So while Wynton Marsalis, who is Black, is a top name Jazz musician, there are many more headlining acts who are not. Diana Krall, Michael and Randy Brecker, Pat Metheny, Chris Botti, etc., etc.
So the genre I'm talking about when saying the guitar has 'disappeared' is really R+B, which remains a Black artform, although Whites have made contributions here as well (New Kids on the Block, Justin Timberlake, etc.).
The brilliant George Benson is still going strong, and many of the great black blues players too, but if you're talking about six string accoustic players I cannot think of one who is black.
I like to think that Lenny Kravitz can certainly handle a guitar unplugged.
Tracy Chapman also springs to mind.
Although their sound is geared towards rock, they still do the acoustic numbers regularly.
Aw..... Just remembered B.B.King and Chuck Berry for the other forum.
@ Dale N. --Chapman and Armatrading just slipped my mind...! Thanks 4 catching those.
SLASH is 3/4 there and all that - blows your mind!
kimberlyslyrics, what's the fraction for?
There are not many black "rock idols" left, and most musicians are inspired at an early age by previous musicians. It's funny because most of the classic rock bands from the 60's and 70's were inspired by black musicians from the 30's and 40's. Jimmy Page once said there was a period in his life when he would only listen to music from black musicians. Those influences are now gone.
I think economics plays a role here as well. You don't need any instruments or expensive lessons to freestyle. Add in a laptop to create beats and sample some other songs and you've basically got the ingredients to start your hip hop career.
Pop music is always changing, and I think we'll see more guitar in hip hop in the future. Jay-Z's collaboration with Linkin Park was pretty popular and it showed (once again) how hip hop and rock music can blend well together -- a tradition that's been going on since Aerosmith and Run DMC made a new version of "Walk This Way".
Great post, DBCooper. To add if I may, I believe Rap star T-Pain is now performing with a guitar. I haven't seen him so I don't know if he's really playing, and, if so, what he's playing.
Yes, economics, the public school system, etc., all of these things play a role in the acquisition of instruments. However, I believe that--outside of Black Christian churches where you will find many talented instrumentalists--the interest simply isn't there. It has been successfully communicated through mass media, etc., that a cool Black kid just does not play guitar. He RAPS (and maybe sings + dances as well).
Don't get me wrong--I am not 'blaming the system' entirely. Ultimately it's up to parents / communities, etc. But the message has been put out there. To the majority of Black youth today (and it's been this way for a while) the guitar is simply a White thing.
It's not just guitar, and its not just "black" music. It's a general trend as Americans become lazier and less motivated. Learning an instrument requires discipline and hard work (both of which have been traded out in favor of "self esteem" and "empowerment"). It's much easier to steal music from someone who had the discipline to learn how to play, let a computer scramble it up for you, and all you have to do is shake your ass, hold one hand to your headset so you look like a DeeJay, and push a little record back and forth to make it sound all neat and scratchy. It's pretty sad. We've come a long way from Bach and Beethoven that's for sure.
@ Shadesbreath Interesting take on the whole thing. Some DJs (called 'turntablists' today LOL) are actually quite talented: Jazzy Jeff, Marley Marl, JMJay (RIP), etc., etc. But I agree with you 100%. Creatively speaking, the work ethic in mainstream music is almost in the negatives. But then again, mainstream was always money-motivated.
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