An Unsolicited Critique of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged

Andrew Marzoni at The Baffler:

What is missing in Clapton’s imitation of African American musical tradition on Unplugged, which Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot fairly described as “a blues album for yuppies,” is the quality most responsible for the music’s sadness as well as its humor, lasting relevance, and political bite: that is, a profound self-awareness. As Eric Lott writes in Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993), whose title Bob Dylan lifted for his 2001 record, “Minstrelsy brought to public form racialized elements of thought and feeling, tone and impulse, residing at the very edge of semantic availability, which Americans only dimly realized they felt, let alone understood.” The antebellum minstrel show, whose enthusiasts included Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Abraham Lincoln, was an expression of white America’s ambivalence toward its own culture of self-proclaimed supremacy; “the whites involved in minstrelsy,” Lott writes, “were far from unenthusiastic about black cultural practices or, conversely, untroubled by them, continuous though the economic logic of blackface was with slavery.”

more here.