I can’t stand Journey. I never liked them, not a thing about them. (Well, there was that brief moment in time when I had some interest in them.)
For a variety of reasons, I assume, we tend to go easy on African-American musicians. It’s understandable. Rock ‘n roll fans have been raised to praise the “authenticity” of the genre’s predecessors and colleagues from the extended soul world. Most, if not all, regulars in the Hall seem to be white. (I’m not asking for anyone to step forward and prove that assumption wrong, mind you.) Most of us did not grow up with the music of African-American artists as our initial source of music, so we lack the visceral reactions that come from growing up with a particular strain of music that is in the crosshairs of our culture. That’s cool. Hell, some of you don’t know a soul artist exists unless some white dude has gotten behind the production of the artist’s “comeback” album.
However, we’re adults. We’re mature. We’ve developed our hard-earned tastes. We know what we like and what we don’t like. We can spot a white rock turd from a mile away. Some may point to Journey or Styx or REO Speedwagon (or all 3) or Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show or Billy Joel, for instance, or a more contemporary artist of that “minitude.” I bet there’s an established African-American musician who makes your stomach turn—and I don’t mean a 1-hit wonder, like that nephew of Berry Gordy who wanted to be Michael Jackson.
Don’t hold back for fear of ignorance or cultural insensitivity: Who’s your African-American Journey?
After considering Donna Summer, I thought about it and landed squarely on the following:
I get the same nauseous feeling when I hear the music of Al Jarreau that I get when I hear any of my least-favorite late-’70s white rock artists: Journey, Styx, Foreigner… I know Jarreau is musically accomplished/skilled as a jazz singer, or whatever he is, but I can’t shake the sickening feeling his music instills in me.
I first saw Jarreau on an early episode of Saturday Night Live, from around the same time as the above clip. His “jazz faces” and overall Look were a turnoff. I didn’t like “jazz singing” at all back then, and I still have little appreciation for that style of singing, although it is better than the worst genre of singing on the planet: opera singing. It’s petty, but I’m severely turned off by his choice in shirts, specifically the way he wears them.
I’m not saying I’m “right,” but I’m not going to beat around the bush: Al Jarreau is my “African-American Journey.”