I’m working on the script for episode three of my history of rock and roll podcast, and I want to use it to bring up something early on which will apply to far too many of these episodes in one way or another.
(Trigger warnings: mention of domestic and sexual violence and murder)
This is an excerpt here from the script for episode three, where I’m going to talk about why I’m *not* talking in any detail about Spade Cooley, who one would otherwise expect me to discuss. But I want it to sort of work as a blanket cover for the whole five-hundred-episode podcast. Could people *please* tell me if they think it’s OK and takes the right tone?
(NB I am mostly interested here in the opinions of people who might be affected by these issues. I know it isn’t offensive or upsetting or demeaning to *me*, as an allocishet man who’s never been the victim of this kind of crime, so don’t particularly need to hear other privileged men tell me that they don’t see a problem. I want to know if people who might be hurt by this are being hurt, and if so what I can do to change it).
Now before I continue, I’d just like to point out that I am simplifying a very complex story here enormously, and to get the full detail you should check out the wonderful podcast Cocaine and Rhinestones, which deals with country music history far better than I ever could. In particular, you need to check out the episode about Spade Cooley, if you have a strong stomach.
You see, there were two people who were generally called “the King of Western Swing”, rivals for the title who both had a good claim for it. One of them was Bob Wills, and I’m going to talk about him here. The other was Spade Cooley, and Cooley was a domestic abuser who eventually murdered his wife, horribly.
Now, this is a history of rock and roll, and so I am going to have to deal with a lot of abusers, sex criminals, and even a few murderers. You simply can’t tell the history of rock and roll without talking about Ike Turner, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector, Jimmy Page… I could go on. But suffice to say that I think the assumption one should make when talking about rock music history is that any man discussed in it is a monster unless proved otherwise.
I’m going to have to talk about those men’s work, and how it affected other things, because it’s so influential. And I admire a lot of that work. But I never, ever, want to give the impression that I think the work in any way mitigates their monstrosity, or do that thing that so many people do of excusing them because “it was a different time”.
But in order for this to be a history of rock music, and not a prurient history of misogynistic crime, I’m probably not going to mention every awful thing these people do. I’m going to deal with it on a case by case basis, and I *will* make wrong calls. If I don’t mention something when I get to one of those men, and you think it needed mentioning, by all means tell me about it in comments. But please don’t take that lack of mention as being endorsement of those people.
However, in the case of Spade Cooley, he needed mentioning here, because I’m talking about Western swing. But Cooley’s overall influence on rock and roll is basically zero, so for the rest of this episode, I’m going to pretend he never existed. If you want to hear about him, check out that Cocaine and Rhinestones episode. It’s horrifying, but it puts him in his proper context. But please take this as a general disclaimer for every episode of this podcast.