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L.A.'s Greatest Band

August 28, 1988

Once again white critics have found a way to "whitewash" rock history.

The Hilburn-conducted poll of L.A.'s "greatest rock 'n' roll bands" doesn't mention such respected and commercially successful black L.A. rock acts as Earth, Wind and Fire or Michael Jackson, or such early figures as T-Bone Walker, who almost single-handedly invented the rock guitar style.

The result is a major distortion of history. Los Angeles was the major center for black popular music in the 1970s, primarily because the smooth sound of L.A. black music had a strong crossover appeal to the white rock market--witness the success and style of Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, the Crusaders, etc.

Los Angeles also has a claim to being the birthplace of rock 'n' roll due to the activities of such 1940s and 1950s figures as Big Mama Thornton, Richard Berry, Joe Liggins, Johnny Otis and Bobby Day.

But the reader of pop critics Robert Hilburn, Greil Marcus or Dave Marsh will never know--just as he or she will never know that George Clinton had as profound an impact on contemporary avant-garde rock style as the Sex Pistols.

How about a little more racial objectivity?


Professor of Pop Music History

Cal State University-Northridge

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