Tracing Motown

Following the history of Motown turned out to be a bit obscure, as I always viewed it as a musical movement predominately dominated by African Americans in the 60’s and 70’s, but what I found was a bit contradictory. When searching the words Motown music on google Ngram the results showed a start of references around 1966 and a peak around 2004 followed by a deep decline. While these statistics seem odd since Motown did not peak in 2004, I believe the references did peak because of the amount of works being published about Motown in the early 2000. A 1988 article in the USA Today suggests that Motown peaked in the late 60’s. Another interesting thing I found while researching were the results for Motown Records. I am not sure if the majority of Motown music came from this record label, but the same USA Today article seems to suggest this. In the article artists like George Michael cite the importance of Motown stating: “Soul music is a sound track to people’s lives, and no music has had a greater impact on my career than the artists of Motown.” Although the genre may be gone, its legacy lives on as you can see a Motown influence in some of todays pop and R&B.



Zimmerman, David. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered — Motown is Sold.” USA TODAY (Pre-1997 Fulltext), Jun 29, 1988, (accessed March 28, 2018).

reminiscing on a former life

I found It very interesting that with the migration of many folks out of the poor South in hopes of making it in larger Northern cities they did not forget their past. Many of these musicians reminisced on the South so much in their music that it may seem like they are mocking the south and their heritage. I do not think these men are mocking their heritage, but rather embellishing it in an effort to relate what may seem like oddities to the Northerners. There is no debate that this is effective as this Southern music begins to flourish in the North, but at what cost? By embracing these oddities, I think it helps reinforce stereotype that Northerners hold about the South, even till this day. These songs help enforce a stereotype of the “less educated Southerner” and even to this day there are people that look at country music and say, “It’s just rednecks singing about drinking beer and driving their trucks”. I think that embracing particular things in the South and embellishing on them helped build a negative narrative of Southerners.

What about crossing genres among genders?

We have seemed to have a heavy focus on music crossing racial boundaries as whites have imitated blacks and their music. With all the discussion about music transcending cultural problems, I’m interested if this is similar with women and dealing with sexism. If white men are performing in minstrel shows and performing different genres did this also happen across sexes? When did drag shows begin and would this be the best example of crossing genres among gender? This also leads into sexuality in music and how that was handled.  I’m interested learning in how political culture compared to popular culture when dealing with the women’s rights movement. Are women afforded the same opportunity as men in music or would men imitate a female vocalist in certain recordings?

The soul in music

As we examined the some of the music that carried Afro and European influence it seemed to me that African Americans put soul into music. Yes, there’s some great European music and classical music, but it does seem to miss the sense of soul. American music by African Americans and then adopted by whites seemed to have been forged in hardship giving it a dynamic that separates it from any other music. This swing beat music helped tell a story and it felt like artists were putting their soul into the music they performed. This music told a story and captivated even some of the most famous bands like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and convinced them to visit Muscle Shoals, AL to add some soul into their music.

Why the Obsession with the Minstrel Show

It is hard to fathom the popularity of the minstrel show post civil war and into the early 20th century. I begin to wonder whether it’s about whites displaying their insecurities because they now feel challenged by free blacks. If this is part of the reason it may make sense for these shows’ popularity. Whites, specifically in the South, may feel threatened by the now freed black man and they may be showing their insecurities through the minstrel show. For the whites performing and watching they may have felt that the only way they could feel secure was to display stereotypes that made African Americans look like lesser people. I think there may be another thing that draws whites to the shows and that is freedom and escape. Under black face your identity is altered and you’re given a sense of freedom and a lack of societal constraints. It is possible that during reconstruction, people in the South felt their identity had changed and minstrel shows provided a metaphor for those without a real identity looking for an escape from society.

Clayton Bigsby and the Modern day minstrel show

The minstrel show in its earliest form shows white performers crossing genres and taking part in activities that may not do without being under a guise. While the minstrel shows attempted to reinforce stereotypes it also demonstrated how whites would like to act if they were not judged by society. A large change occurs when African Americans begin to perform in minstrel shows, some may believe that they’re accepting the stereotype. I believe that these African Americans took these roles to act subversively and point out the ridiculous of the stereotypes and help dismiss them. I think a modern day example of African Americans accepting a role in a minstrel type show to bring about change is Dave Chappelle in the Chappelle show. In a certain sketch, Clayton Bigsby, Chappelle plays a blind racist white supremacist who is actually black and the color of his skin is not known to himself or to his followers. Bigsby takes on the role of an overt racist making jokes which makes the audience confused at whether to laugh or not because of how racist they are. In this scene Chappelle is taking the issue of racism and mocking it for how ridiculous it is to judge someone for the color of their skin. It is in this manner that he plays what can be seen as a minstrel part playing to racial stereotypes while at the same time undermining it.

Arpanet and Undermining Authority

Under DARPA, the arpanet provided information separated, so that there is not one central demand. The information could be divided into packets and relayed across the country. In class we discussed how this goes against the cold war in terms of undermining authority and control, but I believe it does more than just go against a regime. I think that the arpanet is paradigm shifting for the military in the United States. The military was and still is for the most part a very structured system consisting of individuals having to run decisions up the chain of the command then having the decisions come back down. With the influence of a non linear progression in arpanet helped alter decision making in the military. It proved that technology could interfere and possibly skip steps in the hierarchal form, leading to more decentralized command in the military today.

Meaning of the Message

In 1948 Claude Shannon stated that “information has nothing to do with any inherent meaning in a message”. This quotes states that the meaning is irrelevant and the message should be treated for information. This, in a mathematical context and technological context makes sense to me, but I think it should be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, if you’re relaying a message in a technological sense it seems logical that you just want to get across the information. I think that if you apply this notion to life in general it does not apply. I think that in every personal interaction between individuals the meaning is the message and that they are not divorced as Shannon theorized.  I think the key to fundamental success in human relationship is to be able to determine the meaning in the message. I do not buy Shannon’s theory outside of the a mathematical context, but I do think it his theory is applicable to viewing how to transmit messages more efficiently.

War bringing about technological innovation

As detrimental and as terrible as war is, it can be said that war brings about technological advancement. Carr may argue that this is detrimental since the cold war brought about the birth of computers, but I think this is one of the few upsides of war. The government flushing researchers with money allows for advances that were previously not thought of. I believe that these atrocities had one small positive in that it produced innovative men and gave them the funds to pursue unique ventures that would change the way we thought of technology and ultimately our approach to life. One great man who arose during this time is Vanover Bush who envisioned the Memex – microfilm reels storing information. Though some may say this idea undermines authority and changes how we perceive information and authority, I believe it is instrumental for completing a more efficient society. I also think that this approach which may seem less organized is more realistic to that of the human brain. The human brain does not function like a book it seems to jump around more and the perfect example is when you day dream or have thoughts come into your head that you either think about or dismiss in order to continue what you’re currently working towards.

A Review of Carr’s work

In reading Carr’s book, there were certain things that did make sense, and I do think the internet has taken away from our ability to focus and develop a deep knowledge of certain topics. I believe people today have some knowledge of a myriad of things; but also, lack a deep knowledge of certain topics. There is no denying that the internet offers a large amount of distractions, but is it the internet’s fault for human performance and knowledge declining as Carr believes? I believe it is much more of a psychological effect that the internet may play a role in, but the blame should ultimately fall onto the individual. For me, the fundamental problem is the lack of discipline. Some may say that the internet is to blame for this, but I believe that by blaming the internet we avoid being accountable and looking at ourselves in order to become more disciplined. It is not fun to sit down and write a paper or read a book for class, it requires discipline. This skill, I believe, can be learned by doing things that we want to avoid each day. I do believe the internet may encourage distractions, but I think that blaming the internet is the easy way out. We should not blame the internet and technology for why we can’t concentrate, this action avoids accountability.  I think the proper way to correct societal issues is to work individually to accept the problem and encourage tasks we want to avoid in order to build discipline.