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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Prejudice against prog rock

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2006 at 1:48 PM

Phil Freeman's piece on why progressive rock acts are denied entry into the Rock Hall of Fame illuminates the obvious, but he doesn't offer any explanations or solutions. Bands like Genesis, Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Roxy Music and Soft Machine lost a lot of credibility in the mid-to-late '70s because their challenging music strayed too far from basic roots-based rock and roll. It was viewed as pretentious, self-indulgent and high-brow. Punk rock, despite being amateurish and (eventually) equally self-indulgent, offered a refreshing alternative. I think a lot of it, too, is classism and reverse racism. There is a definite bias toward working class and black acts, even though a number of those inducted are one-hit wonders for whom aging stuffed shirts like Ahmet Ertugun have a particular nostalgia. There's also a bias against English artists (why else haven't Small Faces, Zombies, Fairport Convention and the Moody Blues been inducted?). The blacklist against many white, English, musically literate progressive rockers reminds me of our politically correct high-school and college English departments. In our zeal to explore the works of minority and women writers -- many of whom deserve to be studied -- we seem to think we have to turn our backs on hundreds of years of classic literature merely because it was the progeny of white males. Maya Angelou and Alice Walker deserve to be studied, but the vast majority of great literature has come from writers like Shakespeare, Milton, Dostoevsky, Dickens and Proust. Similarly, while there's room at the table for Charles Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic and Blondie (well, maybe not Blondie), we should also recognize the challenging and cutting edge music by late '60s and early '70s prog-rockers. We fans of great progressive rock need to continue to make noise, but I'm not sure denigrating those that have already been inducted will help our cause. Pete Kurtz Marysville

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