books, Music

“Black Like Me” – Mickey Guyton and John Howard Griffin

While watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my son, a new episode came on featuring country music star Mickey Guyton as the Wanderin’ Warbler.

I remember seeing on social media that Mickey Gutyon was going to be a new character, and was excited to see it for myself! Mickey Guyton’s voice is so beautiful and she is a true storyteller.

With her well-earned success, I am surprised to have never heard her songs on any country radio station – and I’ve traveled up and down the United States so I’ve listened to quite a few.

In this interview on NPR, Mickey talks about a lot of things (including why she hasn’t been played on radio) and says that her song “Black Like Me” is named after the book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

I remember reading Black Like Me when I was a kid – Griffin had darkened his skin to appear black so that he could see firsthand what it was like to be treated as a black person in the segregated south of the U.S.

A 2011 Smithsonian article says, “Black Like Me remains important for several reasons,” says Robert Bonazzi, author of Man in the Mirror: John Howard Griffin and the Story of Black Like Me. “It’s a useful historical document about the segregated era, which is still shocking to younger readers. It’s also a truthful journal in which Griffin admits to his own racism, with which white readers can identify and perhaps begin to face their own denial of prejudice. Finally, it’s a well-written literary text that predates the ‘nonfiction novel’ of Mailer, Capote, Tom Wolfe and others.”

While an important document, it speaks to the larger issue that we need to believe others – people’s experiences aren’t just stories. When a group of people is telling us about an experience, who are we to say those stories aren’t valid? Instead, let’s trust, learn more, and help change the narrative.

This Billboard article shares that: On the eve of unprecedented visibility for Guyton (the first Black female country artist to receive a Grammy nomination in 45 years since The Pointer Sisters received a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group), Watson’s 20-page report, released today (March 12) notes that even including crossover artists, only 2.7% of country radio airplay over the past two decades were for songs by BIPOC women.

Despite the radio success of male black artists such as Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, and more recently Jimmie Allen, female black artists are not getting the same representation. The Billboard article goes on to share that “BIPOC artists — in terms of percentage of songs played, of airplay, of charting songs, of artists signed to major labels, and award nominations — still comprise less than 4.0% of the commercial country music industry.”

Why am I sharing this on a blog mainly about books? It’s all connected. Art feeds art and experience feeds art. The media we consume matters a great deal, whether it’s books, music, magazines, tv shows, etc.

As I browse what I’ve read so far in 2021, what I see is a need for more diversity in authorship and topic. An unexpected consequence of keeping track of what I’m reading (using sites such as Goodreads) is that I can go back and look at the titles all together.

Learn more about Mickey Guyton at her website and check out her music on the streaming platforms. My personal favorie song is “Somebody Else Will”.

Happy listening and learning, friends ❤

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