Monday, July 18, 2011
Body and Soul: Redux
As we continue the Book of Richard, we find these words:
"...but even after obeying, after killing, they still ruled him. He was their property, heart and soul, body and blood; what they did claimed him sleeping and waking; it colored life and dictated the terms of death."
The easy thing to do with this passage, even all of Native Son, is to run the critique of the gangsta stance, from the first time we sang about a gun going rooty-toot-toot on a rekkid 'til Ice Cube defined a good day. But that'd be easy, and therefore incomplete.
So instead we observe that the passage reminded us of our versionology of "Body and Soul." We are taking careful, slow steps up to a few posts on the way music makes meaning in the Book of Richard, and we are uncertain that this passage belongs in those posts. Nevertheless, the dialectic is obvious, just as it is when we read through tropes of visibility in Native Son and imagine tropes of invisibility that loom so large in the Book of Ralph.
Let us begin by observing that the passage cited offers important political nuance to the approaches to the lyrics we posted back in the day. In light of this, we think we should come back to the material and consider the place of the citizen in the song. We should also consider how Dunbar/DuBois, as ancestors concerned about the masks that dual civic status places on citizens, informs the versionology, however indirectly.
As we go, we will, of necessity, observe that the Book of Richard proposes, of necessity, a totality that is belied by the simple historical proof offered by the example of "Body and Soul." This is the same topic we have been addressing in our recent readings in the Book of Langston. Freedom is demonstrated when we defy the expectation that we'll repeat ourselves, that we'll be consistent.