a glimpse inside the book…
When I was three years old President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. A few years later we violently lost Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, as the Vietnam War unfolded live every night on the evening news. When I was fourteen I witnessed Richard Nixon resign the presidency. As his copter took flight from the White House, I watched from Lafayette Park across the street. In 1980, a former movie actor named Ronald Reagan was elected president in a landslide. He set in motion a free-market, free trade, deregulatory, low tax, deficit-centric, small government ideology which has accelerated under both parties for the past forty years, the winnings going to the super rich.
Amidst this perpetual trauma, a cultural revolution was exploding on the landscape, with music at the core of the movement. A few grieving months after the death of JFK, the Beatles arrived at JFK Airport, and America would be forever changed. With the arrival of Bob Dylan on the rock and roll scene, young people would have a narrative to make sense of the injustice, at the core of which was a narrative of the Blues. Dr. Cornel West writes,
“I’m a bluesman moving through a blues-soaked America, a blues-soaked world, a planet where catastrophe and celebration- joy and pain sit side by side. The blues started off in some field, some plantation, in some mind, in some imagination, in some heart. The blues blew over to the next plantation, and then the next state. The blues went south to north, got electrified and even sanctified. The blues got mixed up with jazz and gospel and rock and roll.”
A blues-soaked America, indeed. If the unmasking of America is about anything, it’s just that. America is not only the birthplace of the blues, for most, America is the blues.