Category Archives: Society

Pendergrass at Live Aid: Tragedy, Revival and Philly

News of the death of Teddy Pendergrass found many of us posting videos of the singer at his prime, teasing live crowds with “Love TKO” and “Close the Door” as he sauntered the stage in his revealing custom white tank-top in ’79 and ’80.

This clip of singing-songwriter duo Ashford & Simpson bringing Pendergrass to the stage at the 1985 Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine relief at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium brought chills back then and still does. Three years earlier, the brakes failed on the Rolls Royce that Pendergrass was driving through Philly’s northwest Germantown district, leading to an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. So in visual contrast to his heyday, Pendergrass comes on at Live Aid in a motorized wheelchair, the body he used to evoke such sensualized instincts in his audience now almost a heartbreaking redundancy.

Ashford & Simpson–who met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in the mid-’60s–had made their songwriting careers specializing in both ecstatic love songs and grandiose, gospel-tinged tunes like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The duo wrote the last as Diana Ross’s first solo single in 1969 as a strikingly plaintive plea for fellowship in contrast to, for example, the Temptations’ more confrontational “Ball of Confusion” during that year of Nixon, Manson, My Lai and Altamont. Sixteen years later, “Reach Out and Touch” seemed fitting again as cracks of compassion like Live Aid started showing through the Reagan/Thatcher/Gecko era of greed-is-good.

A&S reintroduce Pendergrass to his city in near church-meeting style, from Nick’s heartfelt build-up intro to the duo’s welcoming of the singer with upraised arms. By the time of his accident, Pendergrass had left Gamble & Huff’s CBS-subsidized Philadelphia International Records label–which had just been taken over by EMI–to record with Asylum. A bit of stretch, but maybe we can see this clip as A&S redelivering Pendergrass back to the City of Bro Love and the world.

Another reading: Pendergrass re-emerged in ’85 in this context of an elongated, natural-and-man-made crisis in continental Africa. News of his demise in ’10 came in against the heartbreaking background of an instant though similarly devastating natural crisis for the African-descended people of Haiti–another time for the world to reach out.


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The other Dirty South

UK-based social network site Bebo is packed with pages by kids repping (or claiming to rep) South London gangs, providing an interesting insight into the multiracial (AfrCarib, S. Asian, white) gangsta scene in the capitol (made up of apparently over 160 crewz). Gun & knife attacks are now running sky-high

Start here, and click on the Similar Stuff icons on the top of the page, and you’ll get the general picture. Among other observations:

  • Brixton (Brixx) is at war with Peckham (Pexx, Pecknarm, etc.)
  • These guys can make names like Woolwich Rd., Ladbroke Grove, Walthamstow, and Camberwell sound hard
  • Lots of international Blood/Crip infiltration, BUT where else but in London can there sprout a Yellow Brick Massive, or the impetus to make a gang color out of…yes…BEIGE??

Check out part of Ross Kemp’s chat w/some S. London boyz, and as a bonus, his exploration of London’s Tamil gang scene. Chili powder!


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Filed under Culture, International, Music, Race, Society

Getting it right?

Marcom pro Moses Foster pretty gracefully leverages a truly embarassing episode of benevolent white ignorance to school AdAge readers on the concerns of the black middle class as a marketing segment.

After announcing the existence of the black middle class as the shattering of a stereotype, Foster relates an episode where a white colleague at a conference essentially links his or her perception of black male professionals’ penchant for white women to said professionals’ ability to “talk white.”

Foster follows this up with a curious plea:

I implore you as marketers to get it right, even if no one else does.

And goes on:

We have an obligation to know our target audiences, so that these misconceptions don’t bleed into our communications and feed the stereotype engine. The results can be disastrous — both to company’s trying to build brands within diverse audiences, as well as young, impressionable members of those diverse audiences whose perceptions are shaped in large part by the messaging that accosts them day to day.

Foster goes on to frame marketing’s mission in terms of an urge on the part of the black middle class to “increase access for Black people to the tools, resources, and people that are going to help the community. I’d like to hear in your advertisement about how your product helps me do that.”

This is pretty striking. Who else but a marketer would call on his industry to please get perceptions of race–and presumably relations between his own community and the commodified mainstream–“right, even if no-one else does”? Does that “no-one” include teachers, artists, community activists and others whose main interest lies in simply enriching the community?

Among other things, marketing creates desire for products and services, and anything remotely socially redeeming about the process is entirely secondary. Calling on marketers to “get it right” in terms of discarding stereotypes seems a little cart-before-the horse, if only because marketing perpetually lags far behind the cultural zeitgeist. Hell, marketers get their clues from the cultural choices of consumers, which reach far beyond their buying choices. Let’s not forget that 1) it took FOREVER for the ad world to recognize hip-hop–even as a trend, much less a cultural phenomenon and 2) it’s taking even longer for a print or broadcast ad to feature a gay or lesbian couple.

In short, marketing is generally a chicken-shit industry that doesn’t want to upend the apple cart.
Asking marketers to get race “right” is like asking me to fully understand the social impact of video gaming. NOT INTERESTED.

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Time Magazine Cairo correspondent Scott McLeod offers up a remarkable slideshow from Education City on the outskirts of Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Read it and weep, America–this is what can be done with a portion of the profits from a half-million barrels per day. Fourteen million square meters, branches of 5 major American universities. Proportionally, if Qatar can hook up one of these, we can do better than our single Education City of Boston—right?


Filed under Culture, International, Society



Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco.

Ted Nugent, Wall St. Journal, 7/4/07

That Nadine, what a teenage queen
She lookin’ so clean, especi’lly down in between What I like
She come to town; she be foolin’ around
a puttin’ me down as a rock-and-roll clown
It’s all right
Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
Wang dang, what a sweet poontang
a shakin’ my thang as a rang-a-dang-dang in the bell
She’s so sweet when she yanks on my meat
Down on the street you know she can’t be beat
What the hell
Wang Dang Sweet Poontang

Ted Nugent, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, 1977 

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Virginia Tech the Story Event

Cho as ostensibly dictated to by Oldboy. Or maybe not.

Finally getting to this…

What happened is what happened, so we can talk to it all we want. It makes some sense to add to the discussion how extraordinarily mediated everything seems to be during an event cycle like this.

Yes, we cottoned on to the Hinckleyian influence on the kid of a certain South Korean blockbuster. Sure, we get projected to and inspired by, and we act.

But as Thomas de Zengotita related so well on NPR’s On the Media, the participation ran in all kinds of directions:

FEMALE STUDENT: This is something that no one will ever get over. I mean, the people who died, yes, they’re, they’ve finished their pain, but the pain for everybody else will go on forever.

MALE STUDENT: It’s just insane. That’s just, that’s such a big number. Like we were already saying this is just like a college Columbine. This is, it’s just really sad.

THOMAS de ZENGOTITA: Yeah, those two particular individuals, there’s no question in my mind, just listening to their voices, that they understand they’re in a drama, as well as something real. It’s a fusion of reality and representation. I call it the “story event.” The story shapes the event. The event shapes the story. It unfolds in real time, just the way the kids who were trapped in their various classes were reporting on their cell phones simultaneously as the events unfolded, and hearing themselves on their own laptops reporting through MSNBC on themselves.

The aesthetic of his self-presentation is extremely powerful, extremely potent.

And we really have to recognize that this isn’t a world of representation separate from a world of reality. This is a fused world of representation and the real that we’re all living in, and that means we need to have a whole new set of concepts and a whole new set of ways of making judgments about what to do and not to do in that the world. It’s a different world, literally.

 Yr welcome, PHL. Or do you want Konders back, baby? 

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Herb up, drink down

From psychologist Robert S. Gable’s article The Toxicity of Recreational Drugs in American Scientist mag online.

Possess the equivalent of a wet bar’s worth of weed, and yr in danger–if caught–of doing a serious bid.

Possess the far more lethal wet bar and the cops will apologize if that’s all they find when they search yr house.

Plus, am I the only person kinda stunned that coke seems to be 30% less lethal than booze??

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