A couple of nights ago, I watched this excellent documentary on PBS. The documentary, called Rumble, showed the influence of Native American singers, songwriters and musicians in the popular music of our time. And watching this was fascinating.
So in case you didn’t see this film, here’s some of the artists they profiled – along with some other musicians and singers who have Native American or First Nations blood in them. Enjoy.
This was the song that was the focus point for the documentary. Wray, of Shawnee descent, gave the world the first taste of power chord rock with this Top 20 hit. Allegedly he took a razor blade and shredded up the studio amplifiers to get this raw, gutteral sound, and the record company only released the song because the company’s president’s daughter loved the track.
Come and Get Your Love
If you’ve only heard “Come and Get Your Love” from its appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy, man are you missing something. The Vegas brothers and their friends took this song to #5 on the pop charts in the early 1970’s, honoring their Yaqui / Shoshone heritage.
This song is no joke. Cher’s mother was of Cherokee descent, and Cher’s soaring voice hearkens back to another Native American singer from the jazz world… let me introduce you to her.
One of the great early jazz vocalists, Mildred Bailey went from the Coeur d’Alene reservation to international stardom, in fact, she was one of the first women to lead a big band ensemble.
JESSE ED DAVIS
No, I didn’t make a mistake here. Take a listen to the electric guitar during the instrumental breaks of Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes.” That’s legendary guitarist Jesse Ed Davis tearing through on electric guitar, who honored his Comanche and Kiowa legacy into a long-time successful career as a session guitarist and musician.
Up on Cripple Creek
Robbie Robertson of the Band grew up on the Six Nations reservation, a proud descendant of the Mohawk tribe. And I should not have to explain to you millennials about The Band. Start with this track and go to “The Weight” and then watch The Last Waltz.
Until It’s Time For You To Go
The acclaimed singer / songwriter / activist / educator was born on a Cree reservation in Saskatchewan, and was later adopted by a Mi’kmaq family from Massachusetts. Among her songwriting credits are Donovan’s “Universal Soldier” and the Joe Cocker / Jennifer Warnes track “Up Where We Belong.”
The Rumble documentary aired on the PBS “Independent Lens” anthology show last week, and may still be available with your on-demand cable provider. I definnitely recommend you watch it. It’s fascinating and it opens up a new channel into the history of popular music.
I watched it, as well, Chuck, and thought it was fantastic. I even watched it a second time last night (had recorded it). That’s rare for me. Once I’ve watched something, I hit the Delete button. Two things were especially interesting: 1. that many musicians with Hispanic names are actually part Native, and this is because when slaves came to America from Africa, they were mostly men. When they married, they could not marry white women, only Latinas. 2. I had always wondered what happened to Jesse Ed Davis, a brilliant guitarist. Now I know that he died needlessly of a drug overdose. Such a loss of human life and talent. If anything surprised me, it was that Rita and Priscilla Coolidge were not included in the documentary. They are very active in preserving Native music.
Looks like WMHT is airing it again tonight at 7:30 – “World,” ch. 17.3.
Needs less Cher, more Siouxsie Sioux.
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