Sincere Forms of Flattery: Blacks, Whites, and American Popular Music

In this presentation, Billy Stevens demonstrates how historic interactions between African Americans and European Americans shaped the evolution of American popular music. With its roots in slavery and the fusion of musical traditions brought from both Africa and Europe, American music is a natural outgrowth of the unique culture of the American South. From rap stars to rock ‘n’ rollers, gospel shouters to big band crooners, from Stephen Foster to Elvis Presley, a pattern of contact and conflict between white and black cultures fueled the creation of confluent musical forms recognized worldwide as distinctly American. Using musical instruments as well as rare recordings, Stevens helps his audience understand the relationship between jazz and blues, ragtime and gospel, and how the first distinctly American musical genre, blackface minstrelsy, has influenced country musicians up to the present day. The result is a better understanding of how our music reflects America’s social fabric, affirming the contributions of performers both famous and forgotten, while empowering minority communities often relegated to obscurity.

Requirements: 
Lectern (Mr. Stevens brings his own sound system)