Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bill Withers and John Hammond

I’ve been following writer and record-producer Chris Albertson’s posts at Stomp Off in C on record-producer John Hammond. (There are now one, two, three, four, five of them.) Scanning recent issues of the New Yorker this morning, I noticed this passage in a Sasha Frere-Jones piece on Bill Withers and the documentary film Still Bill:

Though the movie captures Withers criticizing the CBS A. & R. man who suggested that he cover Elvis Presley‘s “In the Ghetto,” in the eighties, his fiercest riposte to the white “blaxperts” can be found in an interview filmed for the 2005 reissue of “Just As I Am.”

“You gonna tell me the history of the blues? I am the goddam blues. Look at me. Shit. I’m from West Virginia, I’m the first man in my family not to work in the coal mines, my mother scrubbed floors on her knees for a living, and you’re going to tell me about the goddam blues because you read some book written by John Hammond? Kiss my ass.”
“CBS A. & R. man”: I’m guessing that New Yorker scruples about fact-checking require that the name be absent. But the paragraph that follows certainly implies that “In the Ghetto” was John Hammond’s idea.

Read and watch
Bill Withers (official site)
Still Bill (movie site)

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