Super Freak, RIP
“A skilled instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, bandleader, and performer, [Rick] James was an heir to the do-it-all mantle that Prince fooled everybody into believing was his alone. The classic ‘Rick James sound’ … was just one color in his sonic palette. … Not for nothing did the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers honor him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in June. …
“Prince’s mysterious (and sometimes creepy) take on sex and spirituality allowed you to think that your taste for armchair psychology was impelling you out of your seat. And more than one hip-hop scribe has ridden the ‘pain and roar of a disaffected generation’ angle to mainstream status. …
“James, as good as he was, never really had that kind of cachet — his hedonistic funk-punkster played well, but it didn’t obscure the fact that he was just an extremely accomplished, seriously prolific, outlandishly funky individual who had more of an effect on pop music than people give him credit for.”
—Tony Green, writing on “The artist behind the Super Freak,” Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.com
Qui est Francais?
“This summer France’s continuing identity crisis has triggered an orgy of introspection and existential contemplation among France’s newspaper reading population. …
“Asked to define and explain the precise nature of what it means to be French, some 40 philosophers, politicians, academics and writers have devoted more than 50,000 words to the issue, in a series which has occupied most of [Le Figaro’s] comment space for the past two months until it concluded yesterday. Many of the responses have been bleak in the extreme.
“Pointing to France’s loss of its position as a global power, its weakening role within Europe, its failure to integrate its immigrant population, its exhausted public services and its stumbling industry, the exercise has been imbued with a nostalgia for a lost era of French greatness.
“The mood of much of the newspaper series is reflected in an article by the philosophy professor Chantal Delsol, who asks: ‘How is it that such a brilliant nation has become such a mediocre power, so out of breath, so indebted, so closed in its own prejudices. … To be French today is to mourn for what we no longer are.’”
—Amelia Gentleman, writing on “Summertime, and living is not easy for French racked with self-doubt,” Tuesday in the Guardian
“Would America be the America it is today if in the 17th and 18th centuries it had been settled not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is no. It would not be America; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil.
“The unfolding of British Protestant culture in America didn’t just happen; it was orchestrated by our founders. As immigrants poured in during the late 18th century, our forefathers saw the need to ‘make Americans’ of the new arrivals on their shores. ‘We must,’ John Jay said in 1797, ‘see our people more Americanized.’ At the peak of this effort in 1919, Justice Louis Brandeis declared that Americanization meant the immigrant ‘adopts the clothes, the manners, and the customs generally prevailing here … substitutes for his mother tongue the English language,’ ensures that ‘his interests and affections have become deeply rooted here,’ and comes ‘into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations.’”
—Samuel Huntington, writing on “One Nation, Out of Many,” in the September issue of the American Enterprise for Public Policy Research