If you don't like musical torture, you're a bigot!

I wish people would just calm down a bit and quit it with musical taste inquisitions. I realize that it is normal in high school to criticize the musical taste of your peers, and get all defensive about your own, but the idea that not liking certain music is racist just goes too far. Glenn Reynolds' link goes to Reason's look back at a 1979 anti-disco riot:

At the time the [anti-disco] riot was widely seen as a moment of rock'n'roll rebellion. Since then, as disco's image has been rehabilitated, critics and historians have noted that the music was associated closely with blacks, Hispanics, and especially gays. So now you're more likely to hear the riot described in terms of intolerance. Something I haven't seen anyone explore -- if you know of someone who has, please tell me -- is the fact that this happened around the same time that elements of the Christian right had revived the practice of burning rock records....
(Um, maybe -- but to be fair, didn't they at least play them backwards first to detect hidden Satanic messages?)

A record burner I was not. But one of the things I most hated about the 1970s was disco, which I associated with the kind of fashion-victim type gays who couldn't relax because they were so jazzed on coke and just wanted to screw without taking the time to know who they were screwing. Fine for them, but not for me. (Music I don't like is fine with me as long as I don't have to hear it.) I didn't associate disco with blacks or Hispanics; in fact I associated it more with John Travolta, and the BeeGees -- especially on the hetero side of the disco equation. I thought it was corporate, mass consumption crap, and I was delighted by the appearance of punk rock, which I considered fresh and rebellious. While I had endured the disco cabarets when I was dragged there by friends who liked them (and I usually had a bad time), I loved to go to a place called the Mabuhay Gardens, which featured new and emerging punk bands. But mostly I just stuck with the Grateful Dead.

Was I being racist? It never crossed my mind until today that anyone could even concoct such an idea. Now that I think about it, hating John Travolta and the BeeGees could not have been racist, although I suppose that because Travolta's a Scientologist and the BeeGees British, I could be called an anti-religious bigot and a xenophobe for not liking them.

Hey, lots of people hated the Grateful Dead too! (And I mean, really, really hated, in the full sense of the word.) What sort of discrimination might they be guilty of? Interesting enough, had I been subjected to an intra-deadhead inquisition, I would not have have fared well. Because many Deadheads -- especially the older, "true Hippie" generation -- regarded not only disco but new wave and punk rock (which they called "puke rock") with the kind of moralistic, self-righteous disdain of the sort normally associated with smug fundamentalists, or smug environmentalists. They also sneered at obvious gays and people with short spiky haircuts as if they were beneath contempt, and obviously not belonging at a Dead show. (To be fair, most deadheads would not have been welcome in gay cabarets, and I doubt they'd have made it past the snotty, arrogant doormen.)

Today, it just so happens that I don't like rap music. Especially when it pounds through walls and keeps me awake at night, I consider it musical torture. Is that racist of me? (Surely hating rap can't be "homophobic," so I won't go there.) I've been sick of rap for so long that I'm sick of being sick of it. Does it matter whether the households that generate this noise (and the drivers which blast the same stuff at ear-rupturing volumes out of their vehicles) are young, white, and seemingly heterosexual? In order to make out a case of racism against me, shouldn't they have to be black?

Not, apparently, to those who run the musical taste inquisition.

People have different tastes and they are often judged by their tastes. One man's taste is another man's torture. As it is, I consider the music I dislike but can't escape to be nearly as hellish as an auto-da-fe.

What is not fair is to adjudge someone a bigot for not liking certain music. It's about as reasonable as calling people bigots for not liking torture.

(OTOH, if I didn't have to hear what I don't like, I wouldn't have to hate it, would I? There's probably a paradox in there somewhere....)

posted by Eric on 07.13.09 at 12:32 PM


I dislike disco and rap for the same reason: they are monotonous.

Donna B.   ·  July 13, 2009 3:50 PM

Not a big disco fan myself. Back in the early '70s, in my early 20s, I was living on Chicago's South Side and going to hear blues every chance I got. Young blacks my age were into disco and had no interest in this blues stuff—it was their parents' music. So at the clubs, it would be us younger whites and those parents, listening to J.B. Hutto or Junior Wells over cheap beers. And these stellar bluesmen were almost always backed by a group with a couple of blue-eyed blond guys from Sweden who had trekked to Chicago to worship at the waning flames of the Checkerboard Lounge and Theresa's. So much for racism. I doubt the black culturati would care to acknowledge it, but the primary force that kept the blues from outright extinction was a white audience that turned out during the decades that the black audience faded almost to black.

HMI   ·  July 13, 2009 6:29 PM

The only benefit of cars with loud music blasting out of them - invariably with the windows open - is that they make it easy to identify the morons of the world and avoid them. Turned-around baseball caps and saggy-baggy pants serve the same purpose. Or they could just wear a sign saying, "I am a moron." It's cleaner than drooling.

Robert Speirs   ·  July 13, 2009 6:56 PM

More likely Robert Speirs identifies the young, not necessarily the moronic (although at some points it may be hard to tell the difference). At any event, exuberant youth wishes (and has always wished) to make a racket and impose itself on the world. Even better, it wants to skewer those old fogies who think that plaid pants with a blazer have a higher inherent dignity than turned-around baseball caps, or even crotch-dragging trousers. The old fogies are probably more on the side of righteousness, but the good news is that most of the new fogies will grow out it in a few years. Meantime, do your best to ignore them and to manage your blood pressure. It was ever thus.

HMI   ·  July 13, 2009 7:48 PM

HMI - it's also really funny when one of those wearing baggy pants loses them. It's worth the loud music.

Donna B.   ·  July 13, 2009 8:37 PM


Who could possibly hate Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive".

11B40   ·  July 13, 2009 8:41 PM

While the Bee Gees may have been born in Britain, they're certainly considered Australian.

I had no room for the disco 'craze', but some of the music, including Donna Summers, was quite alright.

John Burgess   ·  July 13, 2009 9:51 PM

When I taught, I would play music in my classroom before school began- mostly jazz. One day a black student asked that I play some music from HIS generation, so I consented to his putting on some rap music. I greatly dislike rap, due to its loud and monotonous beat, but consented to his putting the music on. I could stand it for less than a minute , which was no big surprise, and removed the CD. “You don’t like black music,” my student said. I silently showed him a CD of Lester Young, to show that my objection was not to black music per se, but to rap. Surprisingly, he recognized a song from the Lester Young CD.

Gringo   ·  July 13, 2009 10:20 PM

I'm 59 and still teach. I've had kids trying to interest me in rap and hip-hop for 25 years. A handful of cuts I've even found to be interesting enough to listen to more than once. I suppose that's not entirely surprising, as talented musicians have always worked in contemporary forms, even if those forms haven't found favor with their elders. That jazz Gringo likes didn't exactly launch to universal acclaim. To tell the truth, the surprising thing to me these days is the number of kids today who listen to the music of my own youth.

HMI   ·  July 13, 2009 11:23 PM

I still associate disco with the same things you did, and being raised around working musicians, with the destruction of their day-to-day livelihoods. The working-class bar-band culture that birthed and sustained rock and blues and R&B, a largely black and Hispanic culture (certainly more so than the audience for disco), was almost totally wiped out.

Disco Demolition night was the underclass audience's last pop-cultural stand (or the tantrum that followed their last defeat), and nowadays, more than anything, "racist" means poor. So of course rejecting disco then is racist now. Of course.

guy on internet   ·  July 13, 2009 11:31 PM

I can listen to some hip-hop. There's a band in the Dan Aykroyd/Chevy Chase movie, "Nothing but Trouble" that's pretty darn good. They have a beat and everything.

As for disco, I used to love it. The music was crap, but you could get laid like nothing in a disco in the late 70s/early 80s.

I can't dance for anything, (I've been told, "You dance like a white boy", which made me laugh, I am a white boy), but disco wasn't about dancing, it was about grinding and ....uhhh.... other stuff.

Veeshir   ·  July 14, 2009 12:31 PM

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