Some thoughts on the Primettes

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In her biography Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme Mary Wilson discusses how the emergence of the ‘Primettes’ (featuring Betty McGlown, Dian(e)a Ross,  Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson) as a professional act and her role was in part due to her mothers view that being in a vocal group would keep her occupied after school and keep her “out of trouble” and “off the streets”. The group therefore became a means of social discipline whereby this activity stopped the possibility of other activity. It is quite late and my head is somewhat fuzzy but I want to note down this point before it escapes me completely.

We Are The Chantels

I picked up a later issue of the Chantels ‘We Are The Chantels’ (LP 301) yesterday. Released on END records this issue see’s the track listing re-organised into a slightly different order and more significantly has a different front cover. There is no date on the release but online sources seem to date it at 1962.

This cover shows two, white ‘teens’ selecting tunes from a juke box.

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The original release has an image of the group organised in height order wearing light pink, matching dresses with a red say belt and white gloves. I ma keen to discover why this cover was not re-used. An online source describes the group and wearing “southern plantation dresses”. It is difficult to ascertain how accurate a description that is as these dresses seem to be in a style common of the late 1950s. The use of this description seems quite uncomfortable – I need to find out how accurate this is.

I have just received an email from the record store where I purchased the above record. Apparently, the change was due to the image of a group of young black women. This is a disturbing piece of information to receive. If this was the case then the feminist reclamation of such groups has utterly ignored issue beyond gender. I have asked if they have anymore information regarding the alteration and perhaps others.

The Soul Detroit online forum also has discussed this issue. There appears to be two possible theories:

  1. the image was changed to appeal to the south – fearing there would be issues regarding a group of young black women
  2. That the dresses the group are wearing were seen as antebellum plantation outfits.

http://soulfuldetroit.com/showthread.php?15181-The-Chantels-Original-album-vs-repressing

American Bandstand

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American Bandstand seems to have an interesting role regarding the visibility of black performers. As a regional programme it was highly segregated with regard to its audience yet permitted black artists to perform. The division between performer and audience cannot be underestimated here – as a group of young women it must have been a difficult experience to perform only to a white audience. To know that others are being deliberately and forcefully kept away from experiencing your performance ‘live’. What we potentially have is an already mediatized image of young women of colour being experienced by a forcefully separated audience.

Marian Anderson: Sonic Blackness in American Opera

 

 

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Marian Anderson and “Sonic Blackness” in American Opera

by Nina Sun Eidsheim

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Throughout this text Eidsheim establishes how the technical training of opera inhibits the hearing of colloquial traits that may be heard in other musical forms (i.e. pop etc). Considering the work and reception of Opera singer Marian Anderson Eidsheim exposes how the visual component of Anderson’s performances effected the sonic perception of her voice. Archival material shows that Anderson’s performances (along with other performance by women of colour) were always already categorised and valued on the basis of her black body rather then the quality of her voice. However, as Edsheim shows the visual aspect if Anderson’s performances caused the listener reflect on how they could ‘hear’ her race. This is, as the author, points out is a falsehood.

Eidsheim’s text brings up an important issue regarding material associated with girl group. Although the technical training of opera obscured vocal traits such as accent- the same obfuscation was attempted with material associated with girl group. As stated on another post regarding the Ronettes, while recording for Colpix Ronnie Spector (nee Bennett reflects on how two further vocals were used in order to obscure ‘their’ voices.

 

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