Tag Archives: history

Today We Learn About: Led Zeppelin & the Blues

Baby, baby, I’m gonna bring it on home to you

I done bought my ticket, I got my load
Conductor done hollered, “All, aboard”
I’m-a take my seat, ride way back
and watch this train roll down the track

Baby, baby, I’m gonna bring it on home to you

-Willie Dixon “Bring It on Home” (1963)

Baby, baby, gon’ bring it on home to you

I’ve got that ticket, I got that load
Join up, gone higher, all aboard
I’m-a take my seat, ride way back
and watch this train roll down the track

Gonna bring it on home, bring it on home to you

-Led Zeppelin “Bring It on Home” (1969)

The popular English rock band Led Zeppelin has been brought to court for their multiple instances of copyright infringement. These cases have settled out of court, but are outnumbered by the startling similarities that reside in the remainder of the band’s catalog. Through an examination of the blues as an art form and contemporary copyright law as it stood at the time of Led Zeppelin’s fame, it will be shown that the band went far beyond the tradition of shared concepts, rhythms, and structure that is present in the blues. Led Zeppelin has committed the unforgivable; they have not only taken ideas, lyrics, arrangements, melodies, and rhythms without any credit, but they have taken these musical elements from a population that has been historically exploited. Led Zeppelin is yet another in a long line of western light skinned appropriators that have taken what they deemed just from African-American culture without fair compensation. This practice has not been isolated to labor and culture, but expanded to creative works that are protected under internationally recognized laws. Called into question is the African-American community’s ability to combat such appropriation. Often the artists themselves are not responsible for litigation, but their record label or other representative who act of the musician’s behalf. We will examine this tendency and its implication for what can be seen as a broad, unrecognized cultural theft. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: The Roman Empire

All things must end, and the Roman Empire was no exception. The Roman Empire did survive in the form of the Byzantine Empire, then the Holy Roman Empire, but the glory days of Rome, the days of Augustus and Marcus Aurelius came to an end in 406. One of the theories Cahill puts forth in the beginning of his book How the Irish Saved Civilization is that the Empire fell so slowly that not even those who were living in it noticed, nor did many of them probably admit it when it did happen. Although we can certainly say that when the tribes of Europe continually invaded Rome that the Empire was dead, it was dying much before this. The theory that all empires must end and that Rome slowly fell out of power seems the most plausible. Cahill speaks of the evasion and harm of taxes, the collapse of the army, and the beginning of illiteracy being the slow murderers of the great Roman Empire. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: Evolution of Presidential Power

Presidential power evolves because our country evolves just as our language, culture, science and technology make progress. The office evolved significantly between 1787 and 1809 as men arrived in office with a particular view of presidential power, only to have this view shift upon taking office. The Constitutional Convention alone saw the presidency change from a vaguely defined office as it was in the Virginia Plan, to specific and powerful as in the Hamilton Plan, which proposed an executive chosen by the electors that would serve for life with the ability to veto all laws passed by the legislature.1 Washington believed himself to be, and acted as, the chief administrative officer of the entire government of the United States.2 John Adams wrote “the other branches are imbecile”, and “the executive power is granted, not the executive power hereinafter enumerated and explained.”3 This view may explain why Adams made some of the decision that he did. Thomas Jefferson arrived in office as a Strict Constructionist, but greatly expanded presidential power through the replacement of federal staffers, carrying out undeclared wars, and committing the nation to the Louisiana Purchase amongst many other expansive uses of power.4 These men had specific views of the presidency that they sought to embody and each executed the responsibilities of the office in a different manner that usually changed over time. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: Hypocrisy in the Quest for Independence

Samuel Johnson said, “How is it that we hear the largest yelps for liberty among the drivers of the negroes?” In this statement a British man remarks on the tendencies of a nation three thousand miles to the west, and this nations thirst for independence from the very land that Johnson himself called home. Spoken in 1775, these remarks came at a time in history when tensions were high and every opportunity was taken to put down, or bring to light inconsistencies or hypocrisies in the practices of other side of the argument. Much like a political campaign, these comments had effects that went beyond merely stating the truth about those who were shouting for revolution. These comments also served to undermine the revolution as a whole, and break down foundations it had been built upon. Given the historical context of this quote, it can be said that there is a fairly decent amount of symbolism behind these words, and much that serves to be considered in the deconstruction of Johnson’s statement. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: Righteous Propagation

Righteous Propagation is a critique of post-reconstruction black culture and examines the race’s various means to regain their pride, self-love, black consciousness, and identity. The book’s author, Michele Mitchell, uses copious primary sources to explain post-reconstruction African-American culture, painting a vivid picture of the many attempts of the race to find their place in America. Finding this place in America was no easy task for many members of the race, and the book’s author details many of these attempts, both successful and failed. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: Showdown at Gucci Gulch

Tax Reform in the early 1980’s was a sensitive subject as many keys players had their own idea as to the shape the reform bill should take. These key players included citizens, legislators, corporations, lobbyists, the president, and members of White House staff. Though the process of reform had many ups and downs, an agreement was slowly reached that pleased most parties. How is it possible for so many interests to be accepting of a bill that reformed our country’s entire tax code? The atmosphere was perfect, near everything fell into place in a way that facilitated reform as our legislators cooperated, our president took a definitive stance, our congress made concessions, and everyone involved participated in a bold plan for reform. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: Heroism of African-Americans in War

The concepts of heroism, and the hero have no greater chance for display than in the context of war. Throughout the last six weeks, the class has repeatedly examined instances of different ethnic groups, mainly African-American and Caucasian, living out their own personal interpretation of what it means to be seen as a hero in the setting of war. Often we are provided with a wonderful theoretical view of these interpretations through the writings of various African-American poets as well as authors, and it is through this view that we have come to understand that the concept of heroism goes far beyond carrying a gun, reaching into territory that spans from ideals, to words and actions. Continue reading

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