NATIVE AMERICAN-BASED POP PART II: NATIVE AMERICAN BASED POP
Coyote, the trickster, titled that last post!
Now, I will really talk about Native American-based pop!
In the New York Times Magazine last month, there was an article by Jack Hitt entitled "The Newest Indians" about the recent surge in the Native American population of the US. One source of this boost is the increasing number of white Americans discovering (legitimately or not) their Native American heritage. In a nutshell, it's becoming relatively cooler among middle-class white people to NOT be middle-class white people (BIG SURPRISE!). To gauge the harshness and/or fairness of the previous sentence, read the article for yourself here.
Anyway, this is not an entirely new phenomenon. Hippies have been wearing Native American jewelry and hanging dream-catchers in their VW buses since Jim Morrison took a walk in the desert. Probably even before that.
An important artifact in the long and complex history of Native American relations is the 1971 Paul Revere and the Raiders song, "Indian Reservation". This song is no obscure oddity. It hit NUMBER ONE on the US charts in the summer of '71.
In it, Paul Revere proclaims:
Though I wear a shirt or tie, I'm still part RED MAN deep inside.
This song, sung by a white man who spent most of his career dressing up as a famous COLONIST, looks like schlocky exploitative crap in 2005. However, it struck a chord with the Americans of 1971. Experience the tense and angry vibe of this song yourself:
Paul Revere and the Raiders - Indian Reservation
Two years later in 1973, another pop song about the Native American experience in America topped the US charts: Cher's "Half Breed". In the song, Cher, who is 1/16th Cherokee, conveys a sentiment that many of the "Newest Indians" could relate to:
I can't run from what I am
"Half Breed" has 70's-style string arrangements similar to "Indian Reservation", but ups the ante with a semi-tribal drum beat intro.
Cher- Half Breed
In 1986, Swedish pop-metal group Europe (famous for "The Final Countdown") took the Native American pop lament to an international level with their song "Cherokee". Songwriter/singer Joey Tempest lambastes the "White Man's greed" in the verses while solemnly evoking the tribe's forced relocation in the stark chorus:
Cherokee - marching on the Trail of Tears
There's a searing guitar solo that segues into a series of triumphant keyboard arpeggios, perhaps representing the possibility of the Cherokee Nation's return to glory.
Europe - Cherokee
-Cherokees are THE tribe for a lot of people. 100% of the Native American-based pop I could think of was about Cherokees.
-Political songs are easy to dis, perhaps because the pop song is so low on the art forms-totem pole. Fuck that; these songs have heart.
-Don't waste your time studying Native American-based pop if you want to learn about Native Americans; this music is an entity unto itself.