Stop Shaming Black People For Not Listening to the Beatles (and Other White People Music)

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  • rj

    This is such an awesome article, and although it was no way as intense as the berage of abuse you’ve received I’ve definitely got similar reactions when I tell people I just don’t ‘get’ the Beatles. My mum was a jazz singer, my parents are older than the usual demographic of people my age, i grew up on soul and jazz and everything that the beatles bloody wanted to be in the first place! haha
    Anyway, thank you for posting this and I hope you don’t encounter such human turds again! xo

  • The Oppressor of Color

    This is only a big deal because you threw race into it. Otherwise is just two people disagreeing on music taste. And also white mediocrity = black virtuosity has always been a myth. If anything it’s taboo to criticize anything black out of fear of racism.

    • Dusty Ayres

      This is a big deal because white people use older rock music to culturally, emotionally, and socially beat up black people (and people of color) simply because they don’t like it or can’t get into it-it’s only one degree from this to shooting black youth and youth of color, or just disregarding them generally (and I say this as a middle-aged Afro-Canadian man who loves the Beatles.)

  • Blaqqq

    stop spreading ignorance. the beatles, rolling stones, sam smith today, justin beabers and the rest of them play BLACK MUSIC!

    • eweatherfor

      That is soooo true. If it wasn’t for BLACK artists there would be no Elvis Presley, Beatles, etc.

      • EnoughOfThisCrap

        Yeah… Like that time Big Mamma Thornton had her song Hound Dog stolen by Elvis Presley… Oh wait – that song was written by 2 New York white guys Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller… Grow up and read something.

      • Lighten_up

        Yeah, man, so much black music inspiration in Liverpool, UK in the 1950s. FOH.

  • Sarah

    Man, those people you talked to were really being mean, and they were your co-workers, too! I really don’t like it when people say things like that. As if liking all the same things is that important.
    When I was in junior high I went to science camp and was listening to a song on the radio one day with some of the other girls. They started talking about a female music artist (I can’t remember who now) and I said, “Who’s that?” and a girl looked startled and said to me, “You poor, poor child”, and didn’t explain anything. I was really confused.
    I’m Caucasian, and I don’t understand all the weird stereotypes people have about people, specifically black people. I mean…it’s like people sit around and come up with silly and mean things. I think they should spend their time doing more important things that don’t involve being mean to people.

    But anyway, I do know that when I was little I loved listening to Macy Gray, Little Richie, the Jackson Five and later, Michael Jackson’s songs. I also like “The Five Stairsteps”. I really like Noelle from Fitz and the Tantrums. I listen to the Beatles sometimes, and Elton John, but I don’t really know Bob Dylan’s music, or The Rolling Stones, and I don’t know what Across the Universe is. I hope your co-workers will be nicer from now on. If they think about it and realize that not everyone knows about the same forms of media, and if they hear that even me–a Caucasian–doesn’t know those “popular” things, they might settle down and be more polite.

    Unfortunately, people really seem to get hung up on things, and music is one of them. It seems to have to do with popularity and trends, and privilege, like you said. Personally I don’t care what kind of music it is, or what kind of people create it as long as it sounds good. That should be all that matters. It’s not good to be mean to people because they haven’t heard of something.

  • John Stamos

    Black virtuosity in music is Lil Jon, Usher, Nelly, and Sisqo and The Beatles are mediocre?

    The overwhelmingly majority of critics would dissent with you on that, but it appears from this article that what’s your insinuating, get some patrician taste in opus you dumb Negress.

  • nzchicago

    Wow, what kind of people do you hang out with? They sound like really rude people. And doesn’t everyone know that almost all the greatest singers and musicians in the history of American music were black people? I would have thought that would just be a given. And no, black singers do not sound alike, but to my ear, a lot of current singers, whatever race, sound similar. Everyone tends to sing in the same few styles and it’s very homogenized. Like all pop culture these days. But anyone who could confuse Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart vocally can’t be listening very hard. Hopefully that comment was about the visuals, not the singing style.

    As a side note, just to take one small facet of singing, many genres of music just sound better when sung in a Black accent/style. That’s why so many white singers imitate it when they sing, even though it’s not their normal speaking voice (eg Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Robert Plant). A southern accent is good too. Bob Dylan imitated them all on various songs.

    Then you have the white, Jewish composers like Gershwin, Berlin and Kern who wrote all those great songs, based on their version of what black composers were doing. And then all the great black jazz musicians and singers who used tons of that white, Jewish music as the basis of a lot of their improvisation. Nothing is “pure.” 20th century black American music would not have existed in the first place without all the elements of European music that got mixed together with African and Caribbean music.

    I listen to a fairly even mix of black and white musicians, although I must admit most of my favourite singers are black and female. And I love the Beatles. And Motown. I refuse to have to choose or to knock one type of music down in order to elevate another.

    That said, we like what we were exposed to growing up, and some things can just not be one’s cup of tea. I’m not too interested in country music, and the current pop music just does nothing for me. And hip hop annoys me, but I’m old…I think I would trade all of hip hop for one good Billy Holiday or Sarah Vaughan song. Or a great Beatles song, for that matter. I have read comments from tons of older black people who also dislike the current state of music, so I don’t think it’s necessarily racially motivated in all cases.

    • Gkkjf ty j BBC ft uh jv

      That’s not true. Almost none of the great musicians in the history of America were black.

      • nzchicago

        Sure….you seem to have lived in a different America from me. Mine is full of great black musicians and singers.

      • Thorsten Bredberg

        Hendrix, Miles and Coltrane?
        Marvin, Hookers and King?
        Buddy, Tex and Brown?
        Oscar Peterson? Charles Mingus? Wayne Shorter?
        Do you live in Utah?

      • Ronald Heatherington

        The reason the Beatles aren’t popular with the Blacks is because they like a rhythm to get going whereas white people don’t respond to rhythm as much.

      • Dusty Ayres

        Say what?

  • Sarah

    I accidentally deleted my comment…I had spelled something wrong and wanted to fix it, but I’m not used to the website yet so I hit delete by accident. Sorry about that!

    Bottom line, though, thank you for sharing this article. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was thinking about things like this, or who had a couple of the same things happen, or know that the same things happened to my friends. There really seems to be a strange problem where people get upset (like, confrontational and violent upset) when others don’t like the same little things, or don’t know about certain things. It’s not bad to like different things or to not know. When some people say, “There’s no way you couldn’t have heard about (such and such)!”, I think, “Um, well, there are probably some people over in Botswana (or anywhere) who don’t know what that is, and are completely fine for it.” (I really want to say that one of these days, but I’d need to kind of steel myself to do it…I have moments where I get really shy).

    Being objectionable about when others don’t like the same things seems to just be a thing in human nature (and now I realize that’s from a time far back in human history when different things could mean danger). Luckily that’s not such a big deal anymore; not in matters such as this, anyway. In many circumstances today it’s good that people are different.
    I used to think I couldn’t talk to anyone unless we liked the same things, but there are still other things to talk about and connect on.

  • Dave33

    “Music is the universal language of mankind,” Music crosses all borders, time zones, languages and colors. It does not belong to one people, if any it’s a gift from God. Beatles are great band there no disputing it. Anybody that lives in the Western world & in U.S. Know Beatles, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson (King of Pop), Robert Johnson, Elvis, Queen, Bob Marley, Prince ETC…ALL were pioneers & legends in there own genre/style of music. The author of this articles was little ignorance about music, they obviously ….only listen to limited of genres… Can’t believe author compare Beatles to Justin Bieber & Taylor Swift. White people can be stupid & ignorance themselves, surprisingly A lot of these artist were into the cult. A lot of these great artist music inspired rebellion, sex, drugs etc.. If you look at Sgt. Pepper lonely hearts club band, you can see Aleister Crowley on the album. of course that’s one of many examples.. Not going to run down that rabbit hole.. Bottom line? Please stop writing black vs white propaganda.

    • Dusty Ayres

      Please stop writing black vs white propaganda.

      Please go and tell your fellow white to stop being such racist assholes and to stop using white privilege to fuck others with regards to culture.

  • MrSmartypants

    Interesting. I assume, of course, you do have a favorite Herman Hermits’ song, yes?

    • Dusty Ayres

      Why should she? She didn’t grow up in a nostalgia bubble like most white people did dating from when the classic rock radio format was created.

      • MrSmartypants

        Uh, that was a joke. But if she wants to “fearlessly write about pop culture,” it probably would be a good idea to actually learn about it rather than dismiss the most popular selling quartet in history. And for the record, James Brown and Elvis were friends, and plenty of white and black artists admire each others’ work and have for a long time. I’ve actually played with older black and white artists, and they would find her essay laughable. But your generalizations about white people aside, your point is well taken. Whatever it is.

        • Dusty Ayres

          I think that she has learned about it enough for her liking, and that she’s tired of it, especially the way that whites throw it in people’s faces or down people’s throats. And again, I say this as a black fan of the Beatles and most of the 60’s groups. People have a right to their own culture, and she felt that her co-workers couldn’t respect hers, hence this rant/post about the Beatles. And I daresay that there’s probably others that think the same way.

          • MrSmartypants

            If we’re going to get into quote battles, how about this: “Personally, I don’t know many white musicians pre-1990.”
            Okay, beside being proud of being ignorant, she essentially dismisses, oh, I don’t know, 4,000 years of music right there.
            Secondly, I’ve been in numerous musical arguments and the idea that someone is “shoving it” or “throwing it” is just an indication you’re not equipped to debate. If you’re going to debate music in a music-saturated culture, then put on your armor or don’t bother. People do have a right to their own culture, and I’m probably a better advocate for black music than most blacks at this stage, many of whom don’t even know the history of blues, jazz, ragtime, big band, even hip hop (which started with the Last Poets, btw) because I’ve actually played with black musicians as opposed to listening to third generation samples of them on my Dre phones, but she’s the one who decided to attack the Beatles and “mediocre” white musicians (which she never defines — and she also says “many white people,” but I don’t see how she backs that up with surveys or data or, well, anything) And c’mon, comparing Rod Stewart to Barry Manilow? Wow. I have no problem with her or anyone hating the Beatles if they want, that’s not my point. She can despise the British invasion if she wants, a lot of squares did. My point is how can you call yourself a “fearless writer about pop culture” and not know the Beatles? At the very least, you need to listen to their catalog, which inspired everyone from Earth Wind and Fire to Lenny Kravitz and Michael Jackson — all black, and the final member of that trio the actual owner of the Lennon-McCartney catalog at one point. That’s like saying “I’m a fearless writer about politics” but not knowing who the two major parties are. She or you or anyone can dislike the Beatles all they want, but I know songwriting, I know songwriters, and if you dismiss the Beatles, that’s like dismissing Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Leiber and Stoller, Prince, et al. You’re gonna get pushback from people who actually play and understand music, white or black. In fact, I’ve never, not once, talked to a black musician who didn’t know or like at least some of the Beatles’ tunes. Not once. You know why? You can’t understand the progression of popular music without them. Freakin’ Jimi Hendrix learned Sgt. Pepper’s opening theme 48 hours after the album was released! She trots out how she was raised, well a lot of us were raised on music by our parents, but we then learned about OTHER KINDS OF MUSIC. Like black music, West African music, Asian music, etc., on and on. If you’re a “fearless writer” then what are you afraid of? Apparently, in her case, 1989 and all years beforehand.

          • Your comment is proving my point. Your standards include music that I am not interested in. So, that makes me ignorant?

            I made it clear in the post that I was raised listening to different music. I like that other music. From what I have heard from older White musicians (and much classic rock), I can’t relate nor do I feel those artists resonate with me.

            And, I can call myself a “fearless writer about pop culture” because – clearly – I have a different understanding and definition of what pop culture is. I don’t think the Beatles constitute pop culture for a Black Millenial.

            Good for you that you have such strong emotions about the musicality of the Beatles. But, again, they are not interesting to me. I’m not at all intrigued to discover anymore of their boring ass music. So, if you can’t understand that, why are you here?

          • Dusty Ayres

            Good response-I’m tired of people like him attacking black millenials like you over the Beatles, and shaming them when said millenials state that they don’t know who one of the Beatles is.

          • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

            Millennials of all colors are morons. Black millennials deserve more scorn for thinking Drake is better than KRS-ONE and Nicki Minaj is better than MC Lyte; white millennials deserve scorn for thinking Imagine Dragons is better than R.E.M. and Tame Impala is better than The Cure. Millennials are vapid as fuck and have the most irritating sense of humor ever.

          • MrSmartypants

            Your post showed up in a Facebook feed. I did not realize you only wanted affirmation and “amens” as opposed to what I thought was a thoughtful critique of your stance (which, if you read my post, I actually said was valid save for your needless attacks on white musicians, many of whom actually worked with and admired all the black musicians you mentioned). Had I known that this was simply a support group page, and not a place for a serious debate, I would have put on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” smoked a bowl and eaten some Cheetos. I will refrain from commenting further since it’s clear you don’t trust anyone over 30 or 35 or whatever it is you kids don’t trust these days.

          • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

            Literally nothing of merit constitutes pop culture for a Black Millennial (two n’s).

          • Dusty Ayres

            Just one point, Jenn; there is no such thing as ‘classic’ rock-it’s a radio format made up in the 70’s and ’80’s by greedy and venal radio consultants just to placate/please aging white baby Boomers.

            I used to love it as a kid growing up in Toronto of the late ’70’s/early-to-mid ’80’s, because it was a view onto another world of music. But over time, I discovered the music of my own era that I was growing up in, and learned to love the new stuff coming out, for white and blacks, and now I despise this format because of the stranglehold it has that prevents new music being disseminated like it should be.

          • Dusty Ayres

            If we’re going to get into quote battles, how about this: “Personally, I don’t know many white musicians pre-1990.”

            Do you and the rest of your friends/family know of any black musicians past 1990? Kiss my ass and hers, and stop trolling with your ‘the Beatles are better than any current black music and you people aren’t smart enough to realize this’ bullshit.

          • MrSmartypants

            Uh, woke on the wrong side of the bed today ladies? Did I personally insult you? No, I questioned your self-definitions. I love black music, have played in multiracial bands, and from your tone, can tell neither of you know what it takes to actually write, produce and perform music. Ms. Jackson, you anointed yourself a public, not private figure, so learn to take some heat like a big girl when you write your essays, not a potty mouth. And Dusty, I never actually said the Beatles were better than any current black music, and in fact, I’m going to see Bosco tonight. You’ve heard of her, right? Since you’re both so au courant.

          • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

            There aren’t any black musicians past 1990. There are tons of black RECORDING artists…but no musicians.

          • Dusty Ayres

            Fuck you, there are a lot. Just because they’re not popular in the current millennial back community doesn’t mean that they aren’t. And stop making said artists better than anybody who’s out now simply because they play an instrument and the others don’t.

          • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

            First of all, yeah, someone who can play an instrument well is by definition more of a/a better musician than someone who can’t play any instruments. But that wasn’t my argument. The point is there has been relatively very little music which merits serious regard made in the past 15 years or so, both by black artists and whites. But where I think many whites respected the fuck out of a ton of black music (and other products of black popular culture and art) from the turn of the century to the early 90s, there has been a precipitous decline in artistry and excellence in that area in the new millennium–yet millennials (you know, the people who say bae and deadass and yaaaas every 10 seconds) eat that shit up.

            All that said, I think “white music” has suffered a similar decline–but I still feel, no matter how “racist” this sounds, that white rock/pop artists from the 60s to the 90s achieved far higher heights with their art than black artists did. I think the average black person demands less challenging popular music and is more willing to embrace formulaic styles that have little real exploration or innovation to speak of. All singers sing in

  • Uh… no. So much no. This has nothing to do with “superiority”. You’re ignorant of an integral part of “white music”, just as these people are ignorant of integral parts of “black music”. Let’s not make this a “privilege” thing. I got endless shit for liking white people music, not liking rap, etc. while growing up. My experience is in no way an isolated case either. Black people do this just as much as white people. Even more, I would stake, considering it’s not politically incorrect for black people to shame white people…

  • Larry Flyathanamothafuka Buck

    Yeah, people are dicks and the Beatles are subpar at best…truth. But throwing Iggy Azalea under the bus with the Beatles and other undiscernable artists from pre-1980 is bullshit.

  • iman

    im black i love the beatles. but i feel your pain. people call me the “whitest black girl” becasue i like them.

  • Marc Rodd

    The Beatles were apologists for British colonialism and imperialism, who spoke out in favour of individualism and metaphysical abstracts over revolutionary struggle and material conditions. They were mildly talented but happened to be one of the firsts to make use of mastering as a tool to make studio albums.

    • Dusty Ayres

      What’s wrong with mastering? And how are the Beatles ‘apologists for British colonialism and imperialism’? They never talked about any of that in their songs.

      • Marc Rodd

        I didn’t say there was anything wrong with mastering. They did create the tired old formula of chorus, vocals, chorus, vocals, chorus which everyone thereafter had to follow if they wanted to make a hit.

        They sported around British symbols like the Union Jack and the Queen and received orders and knighthood while preaching pacifism and hanging out with collaborators like Gandhi.

        Fuck them.

        • Dusty Ayres

          I don’t know how or where you make your connections, but getting OBE’s is not necessarily endorsing imperialism done by the British government. And John Lennon gave back his in 1968.

          • Marc Rodd

            Listen to “revolution”, it’s anti-communist bourgeois propaganda telling people not to fight.

            Just be like Gandhi so you can collaborate with your masters.

            There is numerous examples of pro-British symbolism plus romanticism of old eastern philosophies which is really quaint when your white millionaires who aren’t actually experiencing what the people you find so humble actually are.

          • Dusty Ayres

            Questioning authoritarian dictatorships in a song is not any of the bullshit you’ve said about the Beatles or John Lennon. And the song is about how uncertain he felt about it and having doubts-nothings wrong with that except to people like you trapped in absolutist dogma about how things should happen.

          • Marc Rodd

            “Absolutist dogma” is white people in imperialist countries thinking they know what is better than the billion + people worldwide who found liberation in the ideology of Marxist-Leninist Mao Zedong thought.

            Indeed, they defeated Japanese imperialism, liberated millions in India and disposed of the monarchy in Nepal.

            The Beatles just made crappy songs and criticized shit they didn’t understand.

            To those millions of people in post-colonies the “authoritarian dictatorship” was Britain and the Beatles represent an apology for it.

            Fuck them.

          • Dusty Ayres

            They did nothing of the kind, please stop defending Mao. Also please don’t respond to me anymore, sir.

          • Marc Rodd

            They did everything of the kind.

            I don’t need to defend Mao because 1 billion Chinese do that, along with millions of South Asians who have actually achieved a revolution.

            Don’t tell someone to not respond to a thread they started, it makes you look foolish. This is my comment and no one is forcing you to reply.

  • As a white lady also raised on The Four Tops, The Commodores, The Supremes, etc., I empathize with this piece wholeheartedly. I’ve been shamed by family and friends for simply admitting that I don’t think the Beatles are actually all that great and I usually prefer when someone covers one of their songs versus the original. It’s shameful, that something that has been annoying or silly to me in my white privileged life, was straight up abusive in yours. I’m impressed you didn’t report them all to HR/try to sue their butts because I would have been tempted to do so. Instead I have to presume you’re so used to white ignorance, you dealt with it your own way. Good for you for not bowing to their pressure to conform – both as a woman of color and a unique human being in your own right. This piece also made me think of the Grammy awards last night. How the heck did Taylor Swift get album of the year with her pop drivel when Leon Bridges put out his amazing work last year? Ugh, sometimes I just really hate white people.

    ETA: Just now noticing this piece is hella old. Gonna just slink off to my corner now…

    • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

      Leon Bridges is a revivalist and not even a good one.

  • Dusty Ayres

    The same shit’s STILL going on in 2016 with regards to young black people and the Beatles: Tyga Given Hell For Not Letting Paul McCartney Into His Grammy Awards Afterparty

  • Pooh Baer

    Wow. that’s the weirdest story I ever read. I didn’t know there were other people who would do that . Personally, I only listen to music I like, I often get criticized for having a wide interest in music. Example, I love hip hop, but do I really need to know it’s origins and all the history behind it? No, why should I be expected to care? People care about what they like, and that’s alright!

  • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

    Yes, the Beatles are inherently superior to all the artists you named.

    • Dusty Ayres

      No, they’re not.

      • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

        Yeah, they factually are.

        • Dusty Ayres

          No, they’re not automatically so. And now, you’re being a troll and cyber-stalking me for no good reason. please stop.

          • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

            No.

  • Don

    OMG shut the fuck up – the entire premise of this article is pathetic

  • evin98

    Amen.

    When I was a kid, I liked the Beatles and all that stuff. I thought black music was repetitive and boring. I went to a black high school where at the dances, if no one was dancing, the DJ would punish the crowd by playing a Beatles record. The crowd would start howling in pain.

    When I grew up and my ear got more sophisticated, I started picking up on what it is that black musicians are doing. Entelechy, you might call it.

    Bottom line, black music is more sophisticated and skillful. I haven’t listened to white music in 20 years, and when I do, it sounds like tone-deaf, no-rhythm-having gradeschoolers at their third music lesson.

    Yes, I’m white, and I think whites (the talented ones, anyway) are better at certain things. But if you can’t hear the superiority of black music, get your ears checked.

    If you can’t handle these racial stereotypes, too bad. I’m sick of PC.

    Oh yes, BTW, you DID violate the white code at your workplace. Whites believe that there is a great difference between the Eagles, Billy Joel, etc. Even when that stuff is ALL secretly written and performed by the same group of anonymous hired-hand musicians.

    Oops, let the cat out of the bag.

    • BallsDeep MacGillicuddy

      You’re a fucking idiot. Anyone with a white of musical savvy can tell the difference between songwriters’ sensibilities, and the tone and “voice” of songs by Billy Joel vs. The Beatles are quite distinct, not to mention that Joel’s lyrics are much more literate than the Eagles’. I’m sick of PC too, even though I’m a raging fucking liberal, and if anything is homogeneous, it’s black music. The key songs of most black eras and subgenres–whether it be turn of the century blues, Motown pop, late-70s disco-soul, 90s New Jack Swing, or latter-day rap (it’s not hip-hop anymore)–could all be wrought by the same hand, so redundant are they in sound and thematic content. It’s really only the sound of the vocals that set them apart from their respective contemporaries, and not even always then. And I enjoy a TON of material from those categories, mind you, but I don’t enjoy it in the same way I enjoy the Beatles or Simon & Garfunkel or Pink Floyd or Steely Dan or R.E.M. or The Cure or Radiohead–artists who actually strove to find something more transcendent, something more ARTISTIC. If there were more Stevie Wonders and Princes and Terence Trent D’Arbys and pre-breakdown, non-racistreligiouszealothomophobe Lauryn Hills, black music would have a chance of competing with white music for innovation and singularity and versatility. But alas there are not, and most black people are content with their clichéd sonic and thematic tropes.

  • Guest

    It’s funny because I’ve been shamed by black men so many times for listening to rock music and not rap.

    • Dusty Ayres

      Big deal, and so what? Welcome to our world as black people, where liking rap (or even listening to it) was considered a sin by whites.

  • nekrololi

    I know I’m late to the article but I feel compelled to write a reply.
    TO the author and anyone listening, this has nothing to do with cultural preference or race.
    There are some objective facts to music that transcend cultural bounds and that’s the characteristics of sound and how they can be categorized and interpreted.
    The author is obviously ignorant about music and instead of educating themselves they throw a hissy fit and use the race card.
    Listen, hip-hop is pop music and while not bad per se (depends on the artist), it is objectively inferior to art music such as classical or experimental.
    I don’t even like The Beatles.