Friday, May 30, 2008



In the summer of 1972 the late, great Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) composed an extraordinary song entitled "You're the Man". Gaye released this powerful and prophetic song in public support of leftist Democratic Party candidate George McGovern against Richard Nixon in the presidential race of that year. In November Nixon won reelection in a landslide. Less than two years later Nixon was ousted from the Presidency when he “resigned” in disgrace facing certain impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal.

I reprint the words of this amazing song below in unequivocal support of Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States in 2008 and as a direct, stinging rebuke and angry repudiation of every single thing the ruthless and thoroughly corrupt Billary, Inc. political machine and the insidiously criminal Republican Party (and their insipid standard bearer John McCain) represent and stand for. Brother Marvin, as always, told the whole unvarnished truth in 1972 and in his typically prescient, dynamic, and uncanny manner his words and legacy ring louder and more truthful than ever...But isn't that precisely what truly great artists always do?


Talking, talking to the People
Trying to get ‘em to go your way
Telling us not to worry and we won’t be led astray
So blind from signifying
Your opponents always lying
Think about the mistakes you make
I believe that America’s at stake…

Do you have a plan with you?
If, if you have a plan
If you have a Master Plan
I got to vote for you (Hey! Hey!)
Got to vote for you ‘cause
You’re the Man

We don’t want to hear no more lies
about how you plan to economize
We want our dollar value increased and employment to rise
The nation’s taxation is causing all this inflation
Don’t give us no Peace signs
Turn around and rob the People blind
Economics is the issue
Do you have a plan with you?
‘Cause if you’ve got a Master Plan
I’ve got to vote for you
You’re the Man

(CHORUS—Multilayered voices singing and scatting various interlocking harmonies and rhythms are all sung via overdubbing by Marvin(!) with a hynoptically repetitive lyrical line weaving in and out of the complex musical and vocal tapestry. Amazing & Beautiful. An utterly innovative and seamless synthesis of Jazz, Blues, R & B, and classical forms also incredibly arranged by Gaye. His somber, ominous voice is foregrounded repeatedly intoning in a much slower incantatory tempo the following words):

Don’t you understand there’s misery in the land? [Repeat X 12]

People marching on Washington
Why not hear what they have to say
‘Cause the tables might just turn against you brother come
election day

Politics and Hypocrites are turning us all into Lunatics
Can you take the guns away from our sons?
Right all the wrongs this administration’s done?
Peace & Freedom is the issue
Do you have a plan with you?
‘Cause if you have a plan
If you have a Master Plan
I got to vote for you (‘cause)
You’re the Man…

--Marvin Gaye,
“You’re the Man”, 1972
Motown Records


"Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win"

The Politics of Racism, Obama, and the Latino American Voting Bloc


Refreshing and honest truth-telling from political journalist and cultural historian Nikolas Kozloff about the real politics of 'race and class' among Latino voters in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States and its continuing major impact on American politics today. This article appeared today in one of the best and most consistently hardhitting political journals in the country, Counterpunch magazine...


May 29, 2008
It's All About Vagueness

Puerto Rico, Obama, and the Politics of Race


The longer the Democratic nominating process goes on, the more the issue of race exposes ugly fissures within the party. With his early wins in Iowa and Wisconsin, two states with a predominantly white electorate, Barack Obama hoped that he would be able to transcend racial divisions.

Then we got Jeremiah Wright and the unflattering media coverage which followed. The Illinois Senator started to lose primaries in white states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. In particular, race played a critical role in the latter state, with one in five admitting that the issue affected their decision once they got into the voting booth.

At the same time, Obama has been racking up the black primary vote in record numbers: in South Carolina he got 78%, and in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. he received nearly 90%.

The media has made much of this white- black split. But what about other racial divisions on the campaign trail?

Latinos: Obama’s Achilles Heel

In Texas Latinos made up nearly one third of the vote. According to CNN’s exit poll, they supported Clinton over Obama by a margin of two to one in the state’s primary. In the Nevada caucus, Clinton nailed the Latino vote two to one. In California, where Latino voters make up 30% of the Democratic electorate, Clinton had an even bigger blow-out: the New York Senator won 67 percent of the Latino vote to 29 percent for Obama.

Surely, Clinton benefited from high name recognition within the Latino community whereas Obama by contrast was little known. But given the lopsided numbers, it seems logical to wonder whether Latino voters, like the whites in Kentucky, may have voted at least in part on the basis of race.

These are very sensitive questions and, not surprisingly, we haven’t heard much discussion about such issues in the U.S. corporate media. While white pundits have occasionally mentioned white racism towards blacks they have ignored racial tensions between blacks and Latinos, perhaps because they feel awkward wading into the discussion. And yet, as we near the Puerto Rico primary on June 1st, Latino-black race relations could play a vital role in the nominating process.

Puerto Rico: Determined to Make an Impact

Puerto Ricans are used to feeling disenfranchised in the electoral process. Island residents are U.S. citizens but they cannot vote in the general presidential election. They have no voting representation in Washington, D.C. though the island sends a symbolic, nonvoting delegate to Congress. Because Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous commonwealth and not a state, only Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland may cast ballots for president in November.

Determined to make an impact upon the nominating process this year, Puerto Rico, an island of about 4 million people, has made some important electoral changes. The island has scrapped its traditional caucus in favor of a primary in which 55 delegates will be at stake. In addition, Puerto Rico has moved its primary up to June 1st, which means that Montana and South Dakota will vote last on June 3rd.

Puerto Rico Democratic Chairman Roberto Prats said that caucuses were fine in previous years, when the party nominee was settled by the time Puerto Rico voted and the only task was to choose delegates to the national convention. "Now it's different," he told the Democratic National Committee's rules panel in a conference call. "This is the first time in decades that Puerto Rico will be participating in an event of this magnitude."

Obama and Clinton: It’s all About the Vagueness

Puerto Rican politics largely revolves around the long-standing question about what the island’s future relationship to the U.S. mainland should be. To this day, Puerto Rico is divided between one major party advocating statehood and the other favoring a continuation of the current arrangement, known as a “free associated state.”

If Puerto Rico were to become a state, then the island would receive voting rights and equality under U.S. law. However, it would also mean that Puerto Ricans would be subject to federal income tax, a fate which statehood opponents are determined to avoid. The island has voted on and rejected statehood four times.

At a recent campaign rally on the island, Clinton said, “I believe you should have a vote in picking the president,” even before the issue of the island’s status is resolved. Taking questions in the city of Bayamón, Obama heard an array of concerns from residents who said they felt like second-class citizens. “What it comes down to is respect,” he said.

For the most part however, both Clinton and Obama have tried to remain neutral on the overall issue of Puerto Rico’s future political status.

“I believe all people are entitled to a representative form of government at all levels of government, and that the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine by majority vote the status you choose from among all the options,” Clinton said while campaigning. “I have no preference. My only commitment is to work with those from all factions and with the congress to give you the right to make that decision. I want that done within my first term as president.”

Advantage: Clinton

Will Clinton continue to rout Obama amongst Latino voters once Puerto Rico votes in its primary? No opinion polling has been conducted on the island so it is difficult to predict the electoral result. As the junior Senator from New York however, Clinton probably has the advantage in Puerto Rico. About four million Puerto Ricans reside in the U.S., with the largest concentration in the three-state New York City metropolitan area. While campaigning on the island, Clinton refers to herself jokingly as "the senator from Puerto Rico."

Clinton is familiar to most Puerto Ricans as a result of her stint as first lady. Under husband Bill, she got involved in disaster relief after Hurricane Georges and met with protesters seeking an end to the U.S. Navy’s use of the island of Vieques for bombing practice. In an effort to make her mark in the last stages of the campaign, Clinton has dispatched not only Bill but also daughter Chelsea to Puerto Rico.

Obama by contrast is less well known. Until his arrival this past weekend, Obama had visited just once, for a fund-raiser last year. To level the playing field, he has sent wife Michelle as well as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Puerto Rico to campaign on his behalf. In seeking to appeal to Puerto Ricans, Obama emphasizes the fact that he was also born and raised on an island far from the U.S. mainland.

Meanwhile the island’s political establishment seems pretty split between Obama and Clinton. Puerto Rico’s Governor Aníbal Acevedo-Vila has endorsed Obama. However, other members of Acevedo-Vila's Popular Democratic Party, as well as politicians from the opposition New Progressive Party, are reportedly leaning towards Clinton.

Hardly a “Racial Democracy”

With no clear ideological differences between the two candidates, race may enter into the political equation. In an interesting article in the New York Times, the paper remarked that “Obama’s biracial identity is perceived as working to his advantage” in Puerto Rico. The article goes on to quote Juan Manuel García Passalacqua, a political commentator: “On the mainland, Obama is black, but not in Puerto Rico. Here he is a mulatto, and this is a mulatto society. People here are perfectly prepared to vote for someone who looks like them for president of the United States.”

On the surface at least, the New York Times would seem to be talking some sense. African slaves were imported into Puerto Rico to run the island’s sugar plantations during the colonial period and mixed with the native population. To say however that Puerto Ricans identify as blacks or mulattoes is overly simplistic and ignores the fact that racism has long characterized social life on the island.

Many scholars agree that Puerto Rico is stratified along color lines, ranging along a color continuum from white to brown to black. Puerto Ricans of darker skin color have faced racial discrimination in private schools, the University of Puerto Rico, private enterprises, voluntary associations and residential areas. Loiza, the town with the largest proportion of black people, is one of Puerto Rico's poorest and has been plagued by complaints of police brutality.

According to Jorge Duany, a leading Puerto Rican sociologist, “Although the empirical evidence on racial politics in contemporary Puerto Rico is still scanty, several studies have documented that blacks are a stigmatized minority on the Island; that they suffer from persistent prejudice and discrimination,” and that they concentrate in the lower classes.

Puerto Rico Primary and Racial Identity

Duany writes that Puerto Ricans have developed an elaborate racist vocabulary to refer to racially stereotyped characteristics. Kinky hair, for example, is referred to as “bad” (“pelo malo”). Meanwhile racial prejudice is apparent in folk humor, beauty contests, media portrayals, and political leadership. “In all these areas,” Duany says, “whites are usually depicted as more intelligent, attractive, refined, and capable than are blacks.”

All of which is not to say that racism in Puerto Rico works in the same way as the United States. However, the island is hardly a “racial democracy” as some of the island’s boosters have claimed. Indeed, many Puerto Ricans deny their cultural heritage and physical characteristics and buy into an ideology of “whitening” through intermarriage with light skinned groups. Interestingly, a whopping 81% of Puerto Ricans called themselves “white” on the 2000 U.S. census.

What does all this racial politics portend for the territory’s upcoming primary? Obama has swept U.S. states with sizable African American populations like South Carolina. Puerto Rico however could be another story however as it is by no means clear that island residents self identify as black. On June 1st, we may see Latinos continue to vote en masse for a white candidate over a black one.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan)

Monday, May 26, 2008

LONG LIVE MILES DAVIS: May 26, 1926-September 28, 1991


In recognition of the glorious and extraordinary art of one of the greatest and most important artists of the 20th century this magazine celebrates the 82th birthday of the musical legend known as Miles Dewey Davis III. For an extended critical and celebratory examination of his life and work please consult the following links below, including this essay by myself that was originally posted on this site on February 23, 2008. The following links contain many film clips and various articles, reviews, and essays about Miles Davis as well as an extended excerpt of Miles talking about his storied life and career in his own words and voice from his acclaimed autobiography published in 1989 and co-authored by poet, critic, and cultural historian Quincy Troupe. There is also a section of some famous (and infamous quotes) by Davis, who was as well known in many circles for his erudite and insightful commentary, wicked barbs, and often caustic and witty aphorisms as he was for his visionary and highly innovative musicianship on the trumpet. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MILES!


"Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself."
--Miles Davis

"Don't play what's there, play what's not there."
--Miles Davis

"For me, music and life are all about style."
--Miles Davis

"I know what I've done for music, but don't call me a legend. Just call me Miles Davis."
--Miles Davis

"I'll play it and tell you what it is later."
--Miles Davis

"I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life."
--Miles Davis

"If you understood everything I say, you'd be me!"
--Miles Davis

"It's always been a gift with me, hearing music the way I do. I don't know where it comes from, it's just there and I don't question it."
--Miles Davis

"The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas."
--Miles Davis

"It took me twenty years to be able to play that note and you want to understand everything I do in five minutes?"
--MIles Davis

"I have to change. It's like a curse"
--Miles Davis

Miles Ahead: Bibliography

Chris Albertson, "The Unmasking of Miles Davis," Saturday Review, November 27, 1971, pp. 67-87 (with interruptions).
Frank Alkyer, "The Miles Files," Down Beat, December 1991, pp. 22-24.
------ (ed.), The Miles Davis Reader. New York: Hal Leonard, 2007.
Amiri Baraka, "Miles Davis: One of the Great Mother Fuckers," in Amiri and Amina Baraka (edd.), The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues. New York: William Morrow, 1987, pp. 290-301.
Bob Belden and John Ephland, "Miles... What was that note?" Down Beat, December 1995, pp. 17-22.
Ian Carr, Miles Davis: A Biography. New York: Morrow, 1982.
Franck Bergerot, Miles Davis: introduction a l'ecoute du jazz moderne, editions du Seuil, Paris, 1996.
Luca Bragalini, "Miles Davis e la Disgregazione dello Standard, parts 1-2" Musica Jazz, 53/9 (Agosto-Settembre 1997) and 53/10 (Ottobre 1997). An English translation is available on this website.
Howard Brofsky, "Miles Davis and My Funny Valentine: The Evolution of a Solo," Black Music Research Journal 3, Winter 1983, pp. 23-34.
Gary Carner, The Miles Davis Companion: Four Decades of Commentary. New York: Schirmer Books, 1996.
Ian Carr, Miles Davis: A Critical Biography. New York: Morrow, 1982; London: Quartet Books, 1982.
Jack Chambers, Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. Previously published by Quill/Morrow, 1989. Originally published in two volumes, 1983 and 1985.
Bill Cole, Miles Davis: The Early Years. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.
George Cole, The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004.
Todd Coolman, The Miles Davis Quintet of the Mid-1960s: Synthesis of Improvisational and Compositional Elements. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1997.
Julie Coryell and Laura Friedman, Jazz-Rock Fusion: The People, The Music. New York: Delta Books, 1978.
Laurent Cugny, Electrique Miles Davis 1968-1975. Marseille: André Dimanche Éditeur, 1993.
Michael Cuscuna and Michel Ruppli, The Blue Note Label: A Discography. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.
Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.
Miles Davis with Scott Gutterman, The Art of Miles Davis. New York: Prentice Hall Editions, 1991.
Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1997.
Chris DeVito, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler, David Wild, edited by Lewis Porter, The John Coltrane Reference. New York and London: Taylor and Francis, 2008.
Gerald Early (ed.), Miles Davis and American Culture. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 2001.
Leonard Feather, "Miles and the Fifties" (Classic Interview), Down Beat, March 1995, pp. 36-39. (Interview originally appeared in Down Beat July 2, 1964.)
Leonard Feather and Miles Davis, "Blindfold Test." Davis did five Blindfold Tests with Feather in Down Beat magazine: September 21, 1955 (pp. 33-34); August 7, 1958 (p. 29); June 18, 1964 (p. 21); June 13, 1968 (p. 34); and June 27, 1968 (p. 33).
Larry Fisher, Miles Davis and Dave Liebman: Jazz Connections. Stroudsberg: CARIS Music Services, 1999.
Yasuhiro Fujioka, Lewis Porter, and Yoh-Ichi Hamada, John Coltrane: A Discography and Musical Biography. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995. Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies, Studies in Jazz, Volume 20.
Ralph J. Gleason, "Miles Davis," Rolling Stone, December 13, 1969.
Frederic Goaty, Miles Davis, Editions Vade Retro, Paris, 1995.
Gregg Hall, "Miles Davis: Today's Most Influential Contemporary Musician," Down Beat, July 18, 1974, pp. 16-20.
Alex Haley, "The Miles Davis Interview," Playboy, September 1962.
Max Harrison, "Sheer Alchemy, for a While: Miles Davis and Gil Evans," Jazz Monthly, December 1958 and Febraury 1960.
Don Heckman, "Miles Davis Times Three: The Evolution of a Jazz Artist," Down Beat, August 30, 1962, pp. 16-19.
Michael James, Miles Davis. London: Faber and Cassell, 1961.
Ashley Kahn, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece. New York: Da Capo Press, 2000.
Barry Kernfield, Adderley, Coltrane, and Davis at the Twilight of Bop: The Search for Melodic Coherence (1958-1959). Ann Arbor: University Microfilems, 1981.
Bill Kirchner (ed.), A Miles Davis Reader (Smithsonian Readers in American Music). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.
Jan Lohmann, The Sound of Miles Davis: The Discography 1945-1991. Copenhagen: JazzMedia ApS, 1991.
Daryl Long, Miles Davis For Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers, 1994.
Jeffrey Magee, "Kinds of Blue: Miles Davis, Afro-Modernism, and the Blues," Jazz Perspectives vol. 1, no. 1 (May 2007): 5-27.
Howard Mandel, "Sketches of Miles," Down Beat, December 1991, pp. 16-20.
Barry McRae, Miles Davis. London: Apollo Books, 1988.
Dan Morgenstern, "Miles in Motion," Down Beat, September 3, 1970, pp. 16-17.
Yasuki Nakayama, Miles Davis Complete Discography. Tokyo: Futabasha, 2000.
------, Listen to Miles, Version 6. Tokyo: Futabasha, 2004.
------, Miles Davis: We Love Music, We Love the Earth. Tokyo: Tokyo FM, 2002.
Eric Nisenson, 'Round About Midnight: A Portrait of Miles Davis. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996.
Tore Mortensen, Miles Davis: Den Ny Jazz. Aarhus: n/a, 1976.
Chris Murphy, Miles to Go: The Later Years. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002.
Takao Ogawa a.o., Jazz Hero's Data Bank. Tokyo: JICC, 1991.
Toyoki Okajima (ed.), The Complete Blue Note Book: Tribute to Alfred Lion. Jazz Critique Special Edition, No. 3 (1987). Tokyo: Jazz Hihyo, 1987.
------, The Prestige Book: Discography of All Series. Jazz Critique Special Edition No. 3 (1996). Tokyo: Jazz Hihyo, 1996.
Harvey Pekar, "Miles Davis: 1964-69 Recordings," Coda, May 1976, pp. 8-14.
Bret Primack, "Remembering Miles," Jazz Times, February 1992, pp. 17-88 (with interruptions).
Michel Ruppli and Bob Porter, The Prestige Label: A Discography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1980.
Michel Ruppli and Bob Porter, The Savoy Label: A Discography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1980.
Jimmy Saunders, "An Interview with Miles Davis," Playboy, April 1975.
R.B. Shaw, "Miles Above," Jazz Journal, November 1960, pp. 15-16.
Chris Smith, "A Sense of the Possible: Miles Davis and the Semiotics of Improvised Performance", in In the Course of Performance: Studies in the World of Musical Improvisation (edd. Bruno Nett and Melinda Russell), University of Chicago Press, 1998.
John Szwed, So What: The Life of Miles Davis. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.
Greg Tate, "The Electric Miles: Parts 1 and 2," Down Beat, July and August 1983.
Paul Tingen, Miles Beyond: Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991. New York: Billboard Books, 2001.
Gary Tomlinson, "Miles Davis: Musical Dialogician," Black Music Research Journal 11/2, Fall 1991, pp. 249-64.
Ken Vail, Miles' Diary: The Life of Miles Davis, 1947-1961. London: Sanctuary Publishing, 1996.
Robert Walser, "Out of Notes: Signification, Interpretation, and the Problem of Miles Davis," Musical Quarterly, Summer 1993, pp. 343-65.
Peter Weissmüller, Miles Davis: Sein Leben, Musik, Schallplatten. Berlin: OREOS, 1988.
Richard Williams, The Man in The Green Shirt. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993.