Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Outside Woman Blues

I was listening to this song from Cream's Disraeli Gears album the other day and I had a thought. In this time of extreme political correctness, you wonder where the line delineating appropriate lyrics lies. Ditto cultural appropriation.  When is a writer correct to accurately evoke a character and when does it become racist and insulting? Here's the lyric in question but you should listen to the song -

Well, you can't watch your wife

And your outside woman too

You know you can't watch your wife

And your outside wimmens too

'Cause when you're out with your woman

Your wife will be at home

 doing your dirt, cooking your food

Buddy, what you trying to do?

Cream, Mayall, the Alexis Corner gang and the Stones borrowed heavily from American blues music, which was basically black music. The bold highlighted line mimics an African American slang vernacular, putting an s on an already plural word. Besides the latent misogyny and stereotypical generalizations of infidelity. Now I am okay if Muddy Waters wants to sing it this way but Eric Clapton? Isn't it a bit gratuitous if not demeaning? Would you knowingly say Aks him a question today? No, because it is also sort of a cheap shot. Doesn't have the necessary verité when a white guy talks about his wimmens.

Dylan engaged in something similarly demeaning but not to minorities, more subtly classist in nature, intoning the voice of poorly educated dust bowl white folk in Don't think twice, it's alright.

It ain't no use in turning on your light, babe

That light I never knowed

And it ain't no use in turning on your light, babe

I'm on the dark side of the road.

Knowed? Is it okay for Dylan to dumb down and pretend he is an illiterate okie here? Is it any better or worse than Clapton in blackface talking about his wimmens? Are either or both of these examples acceptable or are they culturally patronizing? When is it acceptable to portray a character and when does it step over the line? Where does the difference between flattery and imitation and snobbery and bigotry lie? For an experiment why not use wimmens and knowed in polite conversation and note the reaction. Do you feel comfortable saying either word? Are either, both or neither of these affectations acceptable in your way of thinking? Let me know.


Martin said...

Poetic license.

Jon Harwood said...

I think cultural appropriation is potentially a bottomless pit. If I am aware that a particular group finds a particular behavior or borrowing exploitative or demeaning I will avoid it to keep up my good manners. So I don't walk around town with an eagle feather on my head. Otherwise just plain common sense and basic respect seems to work most of the time. I disregard BS like thinking halloween costumes are evil or eating burritos as a form of exploitation. From here though it goes downhill quickly as it is possible to turn nearly anything into a complaint.

Blue Heron said...

Two good points. I am not taking a stand mind you, merely asking a question.

Liz said...

If you go back that far in rock, i,at least dislike the rampant misogyny even more than the cultural appropriation.

Chip said...


Scrota Voce said...

Get over yo badass self, mofuh. It used to be called invention, now it's cultural appropriation?? You wanna stir the melting pot, everybodys in it together, but you can't be anything but what you was born with? Adolescence is really tough to shake off, but there really is a maturity to reach when engaging your synapses, sucka. Ya jus spinnin' yo wheels, bro, drown in' dis here PC crap.

I loves you Porgy
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me and drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wants to stay here with you forever
I've got my man.

George and Ira, uh huh.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Reminds me of my dental crown procedure this week...you touched a nerve Robert!
I enjoy nitrous oxide as much as the next guy - especially when I get dental work done, but if I tweaked every time I heard Bob Weir sing "My number one occupation is stealin' wimmins from their man", every whipped cream can in my supermarket would be flat.

On a different note: Is Scrota Voce actually Jesse Pinkman? Yo Bitch.

"Mommy! Make it stop!"

JeffN said...

I'm with Jon Harwood. I for one am tired of the endless dissection of language into words and phrases that offend...somebody, some ethnicity. The past is done, let's learn from it, but let's not try and edit it. As far as "appropriation" pretty much EVERYTHING we have or say in America is built on language and traditions from other cultures. Renaming sports teams or replacing statues doesn't move the needle much in terms of making the world a better place. How about we focus on things that matter - like secret police being used by the Executive Branch against citizens, or an out of control President stirring up a war with China while a plague burns through the country's population.

Sorry for the mini-rant, but I fear we're being distracted and not addressing the strategic problems that are before us.

Anonymous said...

@JeffN You make a good point, but I do get a kick out of some of the topics here lately, such as "Erecting" statues, and the Washington "Foreskins".
As for your "mini-rant", it's not like your pulling a "Kanye". Rest assured The Blast will continue to focus on things that matter. It's in The Heron's blood. We just need a bit of levity to grease the skids.

On a heavier note, while I sometimes critical of the excessive "Birdiness" of this blog, I find today's coyote photo somewhat troubling. Viewer discretion is advised..

Anonymous said...

I’ve thought about the word “knowed” as I’ve heard Don’t Think Twice over the years. I always figured it was a contrived word to rhyme with road. Poetic license. I thought it was innocent. I like your interpretation but I don’t see anything mocking about it.


Blue Heron said...

So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I was looking for to be employed
Workin' for a while on a fishin' boat
Right outside of Delacroix

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a place name that rhymes with employed? I say bravo.

Elston Gunn

Scrota Voce said...

That's pronounced Dela-Co-Ah.

Blind Boy Grunt

Kerr A. Lott said...

Even oz rockers appropriate black music


Most rock is based on blues which is based mostly on gospel.

So thank god for rock.