The glory days of White American music were from about the 1940s to the 1990s. Hip hop and especially the Internet is killing off what is left of it among white performers.
White Americans, because of their wealth and numbers, have had a huge effect on world music. But in a sense most of what they listened to in the late 1900s was a British form of black American music. Of the top 20 best-selling albums in America, 15 come from Britain.
To a large degree White American music is watered-down black music. The swing music of the 1940s came from jazz, while rock and pop came from rhythm and blues (R & B) and gangsta rap from hip hop. Some of its top performers, like Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Madonna and Snoop Dogg, modelled themselves directly on black performers. (Snoop Dogg is black, but his blackness is as studied as the others’, a black in blackface.)
Disco aside, before the 1990s it was rare for whites in America to listen mainly to black music. Which is curious because it was right there at the end of the radio dial the whole time. But whites in Britain did listen to it, enough of them, which is why there have been repeated British invasions. The British would copy black music, change it a bit, and then become huge hits in White America.
In the middle 1960s rock was still a white form of black music, but then in the late 1960s The Who and other bands started to change rock into something very different.
Some things to keep in mind about White American music:
- The melody or tune is far more important than the beat.
- The words do not matter that much.
- Music is largely a private experience. It is something that comes from a machine, like an iPod or a record player, not from churches and dance clubs.
- For the most part it is not meant to make you dance or move your soul. It is more like the wallpaper of your life.
- Apart from anger, there seems to be little deep feeling in it.
Rock sounds terrible to the untrained ear, like the noise a machine might make. You have to listen to it for a while before you can begin to understand it and enjoy it.
Gangsta rap seems to be a form of White American music. Of all the forms of hip hop it is closest to rock and sells the best, mainly to whites. Its videos and words tend to play to the worst stereotypes whites have about blacks, like the old minstrel shows. It is no more a form of black music than were the coon songs of the 1890s.