We Could Be So Good Together: Rock and Roll and American Fiction. Nebula ebook - epub
One of Sherman Alexie's best short stories is titled "Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play 'The Star Spangled Banner' at Woodstock." In it, Alexie explores the contemporary Native American's search for cultural identity and the ways in which American popular culture impacts that search. Beyond Alexie's specific thematic concerns, the story also drives home at least two other important American truths: rock and roll saturates American popular culture and, thus, influences the making of American fiction, even Native American fiction, literature we would not normally associate with rock and roll. However, unlike jazz and the blues, critics have largely overlooked rock's influence on American fiction, even though, as Alexie shows, the rhythm of rock and roll pervades the American psyche to such a degree that it can't help but influence the production of its literary counterparts. Jim Morrison, poet, singer, and character in the increasingly fictionalized melodrama of his life and death, sings with the Doors, "We could be so good together / Ya, we could, I know we could," and he offers to "Tell you 'bout the world that we'll invent" ("We Could Be So Good Together"). Rock and fiction can be good together, too, because their enterprises are similar: Both invent lies in order to invite listeners and readers on an expedition to the truth of human experience. Although the phrase "rock and roll" and its variants had for years carried sexual connotations in blues and rhythm-and-blues tunes, when Alan Freed applied the term to the new sound of the early 1950s, only he, the artists he played, and a few avid fans caught on. According to Irwin Stambler in the revised edition of The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, Freed was the first disc jockey to use the term regularly (242). Though Freed had an avid following, neither the term nor the music was immediately embraced nationally. In fact, according to Songfacts, a huge database of rock trivia, when Sonny Dae and His Knights released "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954, the reference was so esoteric the record flopped. Even the record company did not know how to describe the song and on the label called it a "novelty foxtrot."
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