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Covers

What are they?

Aware of the success of small independent labels with the new artists emerging in race music, the major labels create versions of their songs with white, harmless vocalists.

Although at first the supremacy is for the versions sung by whites, in 1955, the original songs performed by blacks manage to surpass in sales those of their copiers. Black music takes its rightful place.

LaVern Baker - Tweedle Dee (1955)

Track composed by Winfield Scott for Baker on behalf of Atlantic Records. Months later it was released, with identical musical arrangements, by Georgia Gibbs for the Mercury label.

Delores LaVern Baker was born in Chicago in 1929, into a family of blues artists. When she was practically a child, she sang in clubs around the city, earning her the nickname of the Little Parking Lot. Since her first hit, Tweedle Dee, had been performed with a very smooth vocal style adapted to the taste of the white audience, it was very easy for Georgia Gibbs to do the version. Even though it was an almost identical copy, she got a gold record and ruined any chance of success for Baker.

Does the situation change?

With the rise of rock and roll the music scene changes and blacks bring their own representatives, who are none other than the greatest: Chuck Berry, Little Richard or Bo Diddley.

Little by little, the Afro-American musical tradition and its philosophy, which considers music a way of life and a root of wisdom, is valued. Its role is recognized as the ultimate source from which rock and roll emerges.

Muddy Waters - The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll (1977)

Theme composed by McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters' real name) and Brownie McGhee. It claims the blues as the true father of rock and roll.

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In the black tradition, music is passed on as culture or entertainment to music as a way of life and source of wisdom. It serves as an oral tradition and as a means of mystical communication. Besides the blues, other black music has influenced the evolution of popular music. The gospel stands out, from which the first vocal groups emerged, and the soul tradition, whose evolutions would lead to funk or hip-hop. White musicians will never cease to be nourished by these sources, from Elvis Presley to Bruce Springsteen, via Cream.

Is segregation maintained?

The record companies are looking for artists capable of performing black music with a black spirit. White musicians who used to play black music are no longer frowned upon and soon become multi-racial stars.

They recognize the work of their race music comrades and will end up collaborating with them. Figures like Elvis Presley will open the way for black and white artists to share record labels, stages and tours.

John Lee Hooker - One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (1967)

Version of a blues song written by Rudy Toombs. In it, the master Hooker shows us the feeling and black sound that the record companies were looking for.

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This new popular music will also be influenced by black music from outside the United States. In this way, the Latin and Caribbean touch will gradually be introduced, followed by reggae and its predecessors, ska and steady rock. Moreover, this exchange is two-way, since Western music styles, including rock and roll, will be exported to Africa where they will be mixed with local styles, giving rise to the so-called Afropop. In this way, Africa will close the circle that began when it exported its musical tradition to the Americas.

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