Some offBeat Progress

I had a great conversation yesterday with Eric from My Name Is John Michael. This is the band that’s featured on offBeat Magazine’s March 2010 cover – both of them. Eric said that offBeat was working really hard to print a second version of the cover in time for SXSW, which I was very, very glad to hear. The new cover is featured on offBeat‘s website and here, below:

This action, to me, satisfies offBeat‘s responsibility to the band they honored with a cover. I’m glad offBeat was willing to take this step for the band and everyone featured in the March issue.

I still feel that offBeat has an unfulfilled obligation toward their readers and I recognize this is a matter of opinion. I think the apology posted online and Jan Ramsey’s comments after the fact were pretty disrespectful to their readers. So, it’s with this in mind that I’m looking forward to seeing this addressed in next month’s issue (or in the 2nd March issue, if I can get my hands on it). But the re-issue of the March magazine has given me a lot of hope.

Most of all, I was gratified to hear from Eric that everyone’s been very supportive of My Name Is John Michael. The band was on tour when the controversy broke out last week. Driving from Athens to Asheville, the band listened to “Strange Fruit” together in the car. I loved imagining that scene and how that must have felt to the band members to experience the song together at that particular moment.

I suspect that a few more people listened to “Strange Fruit” in the past week than ordinarily would have, and some may have heard it for the very first time, and if so, that is music to my ears.


Filed under music, New Orleans

4 responses to “Some offBeat Progress

  1. It is such a gorgeous, moving song.

    I love Nina Simone.

  2. emofalltrades

    I’ve been thinking a lot, in the two weeks or so since I saw the cover, about how there is still a pleasure in phenomenal art, even when the subject matter is something awful. Being moved by the beauty of the art in contrast to the ugliness of the subject matter, perhaps.

  3. nonsequiteuse

    I hadn’t even considered how this whole mess must have made the band feel. I know that they had no control over the situation. I, too, appreciate that some of the good that has come from this is introducing those “young people” OffBeat mentioned who did not know the song or phrase to a hauntingly beautiful and terrible poem and song, as well as a vital and horrible part of our history. Those who forget, after all, are doomed to repeat. Trite, but true.

    • emofalltrades

      Hi Andrea,

      Nice to digitally meet you. I wasn’t even aware of Jan’s March 10th editorial till I read your post. Whoooweeee. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t see it till now, till I’d achieved some personal peace with the situation and till I’d seen offBeat’s printed editorial/reaction, which I wrote about yesterday. I think the thing I find most disturbing about the March 10th editorial, what I’ve found most disturbing about this entire thing ,is the assumption that *discussion* is the problem. Discussion is not the problem, it indicates that we’ve achieved a level of growth that we can even talk to each other about this, and other things. That and the assumption that a white person can’t call something like the original March cover racist. Apparently, we have no right to recognize and address racism. Assumptions like these threaten to set us back a far way in our collective progress.

      Your comment was so well put, especially the “trite” reference to forget = doomed to repeat.

      Jan mentioned the Holocaust and Nazis in her March 10th editorial. One thing this brought to MY mind is that the swastika is an ancient sun symbol that was perverted for the Nazi cause. You see it all over Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna’s diaries and belongings because it was once a positive, lucky symbol. Can we ever see this symbol again without thinking of the horrible things done to millions of people? And *should* we?

      Can the combined words “Strange Fruit” ever have another meaning besides lynched bodies? And should it? [I liked reading about the acrobatic troupe in your post, as I also discovered them while researching the phrase “Strange Fruit” and my novel is circus-related].

      I never would have reacted to the cover if there had been an intent there that was not dismissive and inappropriately (in my mind) light. If offBeat had been trying to make a reference to the music with their cover title, to engage in conversation. My entire objection originated in the light-hearted and flip nature of the reference, unconnected to the implications it was making, insensitive to the wounds it was callously stripping open.

      What would it mean if we’re completely unmoved by a reference such as the one on the original March offBeat cover, if we don’t object? If we don’t recognize the history, the reference? That is what art is FOR after all. To remind us, to move us. And best of all, we live in a country where we get to discuss and disagree and discuss.

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