Music Is Collaborative: Jay-Z To Sugar Hill Gang To Al Jolson And Back Again
from the wonderful dept
Toney Rome contacted us to point our attention to a 14-minute video he put together, showing how music is collaborative. He claims this is episode one, so it'll be interesting to see if there will be more. He noted that he was inspired to put this video together after reading James Boyle's The Public Domain, which he first heard about when we mentioned it on Techdirt. I have to imagine that much of this video was inspired by Chapter 6, which traces a variety of songs related to Kanye West and Ray Charles. Instead of Kanye West, this video starts with Jay-Z:
While a few bits of the video seem extraneous and probably could be done without, what the video does nicely is track how even modern "original" music is very, very collaborative when you start to dig into the details. It talks about Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind, a song that has been redone hundreds of times, and notes how the underlying music loop is from The Moment's song Love on a Two-Way Street -- and how that song was written by Sylvia Robinson and two others (and how it also was covered and sampled a few other times before). Robinson, beyond being a recording artist, started Sugar Hill Records, and went on to put together the Sugar Hill Gang... who put out the first rap single to go gold: Rapper's Delight. That song, of course, was based on an (originally uncleared) sample of the classic disco song Good Times by the band Chic. The video has two clips of one of the songwriters of Good Times. In the first one, he talks about how his music was "sacred" and how annoyed he was to hear it sampled on Rapper's Delight without permission (eventually the two parties settled...). In the second clip, however, the same guy talks about how Good Times was actually pulling from Milton Alger's Happy Days Are Here Again and About a Quarter to Nine by Al Jolson. In other words... that song that was so "sacred" was built off of the works of others.
There's a lot more in the video, including a variety of other interesting tangents, including the fact that one of the lyrics from Rapper's Delight copied a lyric from another rapper so directly that it includes that rapper's name in the lyric. The video concludes with a great line:
Many musicians like to believe that they created their art by themselves, but most likely, it was collaboration.