Since I got that unexpected CD last Friday, I decided to read up on Annie Lennox a little, and there are a few sites which quote VH1 which, I guess, called her "The Greatest White Soul Singer Alive." That's really cool and I'm sure she should be flattered. But it makes me ask questions.
The first question is, who's the greatest dead white soul singer?
The second question is, isn't such an attribution a little racist?
I refuse to say I'm not racist, because I think everyone is, in some way they're usually blind to, and plus, anytime I've ever heard anyone say, "I'm not racist . . . " the next thing to come out of their mouths is usually something that makes me want to push it back in there. I will say that the racism of which I am conscious drives me crazy and makes me really angry, but I don't usually find myself objecting anti-white racism because I don't usually notice it, and plus, I'd rather try to stick up for somebody else, I think. Maybe that's racist . . .
I guess I'm just asking. I'm not trying to dispute the veracity of the claim regarding Ms. Lennox. I'm just trying to unpack the implications. Which might be something like, "She's not quite as good as a black soul singer, because let's face it--she's not black. And she's unusual, because let's also face it--not many white people can sing soul."
This may or may not be true, but it seems to me that it would be better to be known as one of the greatest soul singers alive and skip the ethnicity part, than to be set apart because of skin colour. I'm pretty sure there are more white than black opera singers, but I'll bet no one says so-and-so is the greatest black opera singer alive. If they did, I think that person might be (and would have a right to be) offended, as if one's ethnicity should determine whether or not one can excel in a certain art--as if it should dictate whether or not we should be surprised that they did. It's just plain condescending. I'll bet no one set Seiji Ozawa apart for being Asian, but for being a great conductor, whether or not the music he was conducting originated in Europe or Asia or someplace else.