Yarbrough-web1Marshall Yarbrough at The Brooklyn Rail:

For a while now I’ve had a theory about a select group of artists who were making music in the 1960s and ’70s. These are musicians who seem related to their time only obliquely: they may have been marked by it, but they were not of it. Other artists’ greatness might lie in their perfectly embodying certain musical directions of the day—the Beatles, for example. These musicians, on the other hand, have inherent greatness; that it might have been expressed in the language of their day is instructive, but ultimately incidental—they were tapping a deeper vein.

These musicians evoke a term used for a few writers in German literature—Jean Paul, Hölderlin, Kleist—who pop up between the eras of Classicism and Romanticism but don’t fit neatly in either category: die großen Einzelnen, or “the great individuals.” These writers fall between both epochs and draw from each, but to understand them you ultimately have to take them on their own terms. Likewise, each of these few musicians is a category unto himself—if they are to be viewed collectively, it is by virtue of their shared idiosyncrasy. To the extent that it’s helpful, I’d like to label this group. For want of a better term, I’ll call them the Great White Weirdos.

Each Weirdo works, if not within the confines of, then at least alongside a given genre. Thus you’ve got blues and jazz Weirdos (Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa); country Weirdos (Leon Russell, Lee Hazlewood); and pop Weirdos (Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson). There’s no getting around the fact that these are all white men. In emphasizing their whiteness alongside their weirdness, I want to point out a certain self-awareness on their part, particularly when it comes to the use of rock, jazz, and blues—musical forms developed by black musicians.

more here.