Song Of The Day 1/25/2016: Wolfman Jack – “I Ain’t Never Seen a White Man”

When DJs Sing (or Speak Over Musical Accompaniment) – Before hip hop changed the definition of a DJ (at least in the mainstream public's eyes) they were primarily known for playing records on the radio, developing unctuous or comic personalities, showing up at grand openings for new auto parts stores and having gambling debts. They were not supposed to be recording artists themselves. They'd already chosen their side of the stylus and were not encouraged to made pop records of their own. The gods of commerce thankfully didn't let that happen much. Oh, sure, there was a disco song some DJ did about a duck that was released because some record executive hated America, but other pop song efforts by DJs were gloriously shot down. (Even the ultra-rare good one.)

On the merits of their fantastic voices, and I guess their assumed positions as something akin to community leaders, some DJs tried to release their own pop records. Most of them, as we'll hear this week, were spoken-word monologues espousing philosophies and truisms that we humans don't take time to notice in the everyday hubbub of our lives. Others were statements of position on hot-button topics like the war, draft-dodging, the generation gap and good manners. And still others were about stupid ducks. This week we'll hear five songs put out by actual DJ's, all by names you in the boomer shorts should be familiar with. Four of them are spoken-word treatises. The remaining one, by one of the most important non-musical figures in the history of rock music, is sung. Erratically. That'll be on Friday because I know that's when a lot of you like to get up and go away from your technology devices and go to the post office or something. It ain't good.

Let's start with Robert Weston Smith, aka Wolfman Jack (1938-1995), who was a really good DJ. He had enough self-awareness to play a lightly philosophical DJ in George Lucas' American Graffiti, having a very touching scene with Richard Dreyfuss near the end. His voice was fantastic, of course. In 1972 before his star ascended he recorded a plea for understanding called "I Ain't Never Seen a White Man." Although I'm sure the intent of the song was laudable, I'm not sure what it was. Jack expresses that when he thinks of colors he thinks of specific objects: white/snow, black/coal, red/fire (which I always considered orange) and yellow/sun. But when he thinks of people, a la the old Stephen Colbert character, he doesn't "see" white men, black men, etc. He just sees people like "you and me." A moving sentiment that would be fan-flippin'-tastic, if only institutional racism had been vanquished in the interim. But yes, for the record, it is true that we all are more than our Pantone numbers.

Popular Recent Posts