Rock & Roll is not “white” music

Well, at least at its conception it wasn’t. As we know, the majority does everything in their power to rewrite history in their favor. Rock & Roll started as a Black art form with pioneering artists like Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. These artists are the architects for the genre. Rock & Roll is a synthesis of R&B, blues, jazz and country. With the second migration of freed Black people from the South to the North, our music, style and fashion intertwined with European culture. Our music played on their radio stations and in their nightclubs. All the while, we still had to enter through back doors and alleyways. We began to emulate each other’s style yet still couldn’t patronize white businesses.

As Rock & Roll picked up more wind, we witnessed the beginning of white artists taking elements of jazz, blues and funk. This created a more palatable way to consume Black art without supporting Black people. Albeit, there were a few white agents, club owners and station heads who allowed Black artists to represent the art. That wasn’t enough. The genre then acquired commercial popularity because of white artists such as Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash co-opting the sound. Hip hop recently knocked Rock & Roll out of the spot as the most influential genre of music yet for many Black people, the connection to Rock appeared inexplicable.

photo by Joel Bear

I Love ‘Lucy’

Pete Wilde presents us with ‘Lucy’, an energetic and bluesy track a play on Rock being “the Devil’s music”. He taps into our vices but also the revolutionary act of bringing Blackness back into the music. His story is one of a true rocker. He was raised in a single parent home, witnessed the murder of his best friend. Wilde turned to alcohol to numb the pain. With anger, drugs and alcohol fueling his heart, he ended up in prison yet found a connection to Rock & Roll. During his stint, he wrote about Black history, Black art and feminism taught to him by his mother in his childhood. It then became Wilde’s prerogative to reconnect Black people to Rock & Roll.

“I think a lot of people have forgotten the history and roots of rock ’n’ roll, and now the genre has become murky and blurred.” – Pete Wilde

Rocking out with Pete Wilde

What I appreciate the most about Wilde’s mission and ‘Lucy’ is his determination to keep that original sound. He refused to create a crossover Rock/Pop song. The instrumentation is raw and aggressive, his vocals are silky yet full of vigor like a brisk wind whipping past you on a hot Summer day. Wilde emulates that carefree mystery in his style with a sly smirk as his eyes hide behind dark lenses. The effortlessness of his art brings us back to that initial connection Black people created with Rock & Roll.

“I am making rock music with groove and a ‘black’ sound that isn’t just funk or pop, but real, original rock ’n’ roll.” – Pete Wilde 

Let’s join Wilde in returning Black culture to the music we provided the world to enjoy. Stay updated for the release of his forthcoming album by following Wilde on Twitter (@realpetewilde) and enjoy a live performance of ‘Lucy’ below!