Posted on December 27, 2021

NPR Tunes in to the Beatles and Finds Racism

Tim Graham, Boston Herald, December 27, 2021

Beatles fans of all ages can flock to Disney+ for a new documentary called “Get Back” that reassembles footage of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr creating music as the band begins to dissolve. NPR used the occasion for guilt-trip clickbait: “How did we get stuck with the idea that four white guys make a rock band?”

NPR music critic Ann Powers uncorked a long, unforgiving treatise on how it doesn’t matter that the Beatles were progressive and loved Black music because they were still somehow part of making rock music white and exclusionary: “Rock’s defining narrative still stands alongside others that reflect the historic segregation of Anglo-American social spheres.”

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones wouldn’t play segregated venues and paid tribute to Black musicians who inspired them. But Powers wrote, “As they became rock’s norm, they allowed white fans to enjoy what the late great music writer Greg Tate identified as a pasteurized form of Black culture.” Tate called it “everything but the burden.”

They “allowed white fans” to eat a Velveeta cheese version of Black music.

Powers writes that Black musician Questlove’s documentary on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, compared with the new Beatles documentary, “felt like a newly uncovered landmark in the recentered cultural world emerging in step with the Movement for Black Lives. The other, wonderfully intimate and revealing as it is, reasserts familiar hierarchies.”


NPR’s point here is to keep white men perennially confessional about their “privilege.” {snip}