Monday, December 24, 2012
AKIM and THE TEDDY VANN PRODUCTION COMPANY - SANTA CLAUS IS A BLACK MAN
You've heard me rant about this before - here in the NYC area, radio station WLTW (aka "Lite FM") has made it a holiday tradition to start bombarding us with "holiday favorites" (because heaven forbid they have the balls to say "Christmas music") about TWO WEEKS BEFORE THANKSGIVING! Thanksgiving! We've just put the Halloween decorations back in the attic and these clowns are shoving Christmas (er, sorry, THE HOLIDAYS) down our collective throats! ARRRRRGH!
To make matters worse, as I've said time and time again, the station programs the most homogenized, safe, and BLAND versions of Chris - oops - HOLIDAY songs they can come up with. It's like the musical version of the pink slime they use in McDonald's food; extruded from a machine, like one long gigantic turd, no variation whatsoever. Only the bottom of the barrel here, folks; Rascal Flatts, Rod Stewart, oh, and I hear that Taylor Swift has now come out with a nifty new version of "Santa Baby" (JUST what the world needs). Also, it seems that, just for my own personal annoyance, the station contracts every one of the artists they play to do a version of "Silver Bells" - my LEAST favorite Chr - damn it, HOLIDAY song.....
I think that's what annoys me most about the station; their insistence on calling the music "holiday favorites". Funny, every song they seem to play is a CHRISTMAS song. I've never heard any Chanukah (or Hanukkah, however you wanna spell it) songs on there, and I certainly haven't heard any Kwanzaa tunes (hell, I haven't even heard "Back Door Santa" on there, even in an inferior version by the likes of Keith Urban or Jason Mraz or Josh Groban).
If I had the opportunity, I would LOVE to go to the station's studios, tie up the program director (or unplug him, since it's most likely a computer), and take over for a day. If I did, you'd hear some GOOD holiday music by folks like James Brown, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Ventures, The Staple Singers - and this one, celebrating Kwanzaa, by Akim.
Akim is the daughter of famed record producer Teddy Vann, who produced many, many soul and R&B artists in the 1960s, such as The Bobbettes, Johnny Thunder, The Sandpebbles, Dave "Baby" Cortez, Donald Height, and Frankie and The Classicals.
But Teddy was much more than just a record producer; he was one of the first to get into the "black consciousness" movement in the 1960s. Calling himself a "born-again African", he gave his three children traditional African names - Akim, Kayode and Chinyere - and let his (and his childrens') hair grow out into a "natural". But lest you think Teddy was simply a black militant, he also preached multiculturalism; many of the Jews who lived in his neighborhood in Brooklyn noted that he could speak Yiddish almost as well as they could.
In 1973, Teddy decided to take his oldest child into the studio with him to record an LP which celebrated the holidays - the holidays as HE saw them. Teddy did not want his children growing up thinking that there was no one to represent their people at Christmas time. So he wrote this tune and made it the title cut of the LP, and the LP's one and only single. It's probably the ONLY holiday song that wishes its listeners a Merry Christmas AND a Happy Kwanzaa.
Hmmmm.....and Lite FM doesn't play this because.....?
I mean, it fits in with their "multicultural" approach to programming..... could it be that, after all these years, the station is afraid of the term "black"? I dunno. But what I DO know is that I'm gonna blast this 45 at my house as long as I'm able to. Sure, I'll never be able to relate to the lack of cultural identity vis-a-vis white America that caused Teddy Vann to write this, but I can totally get behind a dude teaching his kids about their cultural heritage, making the holiday season an opportunity for EVERYONE to enjoy their holiday without fear of ridicule, and in the end, isn't that what America is SUPPOSED to be about?
Of course, someone DID ridicule it - namely John Waters, filmmaker extraordinaire. He included "Santa Claus Is A Black Man" on a compilation called "A John Waters Christmas" (illegally) and then proceeded to call the record a "crackpot carol" and a "Christmas lunatic song". Teddy Vann was not amused. He sued Waters for improper use of the song in 2008; I don't know how the case turned out, since Teddy Vann died from cancer on December 6, 2009.
No matter how you hear this record, I guarantee that it will become one of your favorite Christmas / Kwanzaa tunes!
So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and for you atheists, have a nice day. But I will not wish ANY of you a "Happy Holiday".
Akim and The Teddy Vann Production Company - Santa Claus Is A Black Man (Simtone 2001) - 1973