Neil Young's "Blackness"
Rick James of The Mynah Birds, aka The "Super Freak"
Well, in one of those cosmic convergences that we so seem to love, comes yet another.
Earlier in the week you may recall that we blogged on the question of Neil Young's "Canadianness". Has Neil become a southern man, as in had he gone "American" and lost his touch with his Canadian roots? It's an interesting question that a few folks made some semi-provocative arguments for and against.
Well, here's another interesting perspective regarding Neil's "Blackness" from San Francisco Bay Guardian by Kandia Crazy Horse:
Somehow, pre-Web and locked away in the wilds with limited resources, I discovered my favorite bit of rock trivia: Neil Young was in a band with Rick James signed to Motown for a seven-year deal, the Mynah Birds. Young's engagements with psych, punk, and grunge are well-documented — even if most shirk the challenge of unpacking his electro output — but the lurking presence of the funk in his aesthetic is often ignored.
Now, I ain't saying ole Neil could come down to my former hood and swing with a Chocolate City go-go outfit (maybe he could trouble the funk?), but on "Go Ahead and Cry," the ringing of his unleashed 1970s guitar sound is already evident. The sublime meeting of Young's thang with "The Sound of Young America" makes one lament how differently (black) rock history might have looked had the Mynah Birds triumphed at Hitsville.
My view is that Young couldn't have written some of his best songs, like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Mr. Soul," plus freakery I dig such as "Sea of Madness," without that brief spell at Motown. (It's interesting to imagine former auto-line worker Berry Gordy and car enthusiast Young rapping by chance). In a weird way, the shades of Young that appeared on the pop stage and relentlessly morphed between "Clancy" and "When You Dance I Can Really Love" seem to coexist with turn-of-the-'70s Motown mavericks who also flirted with polemics, space rock, and soul yodeling: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Kendricks.
More on Kandia Crazy Horse's blog.
Also, see more on Rick James and Neil Young.