Can you please explain why 'white' soul rhythm means accented on the first and third beat while 'black' soul rhythm is on the second and fourth?
I'm not certain it extends as far as actual music played by actual musicians of any race, creed or colour, but it is a phenomenon of sorts when it comes to the general public.
Watch any predominantly white audience clap along to a song & unless the beat is very clearly pointed out to them - a rock song with a snare on the backbeat etc, or the singer doing his best Freddie Mercury at them - they will tend to clap on the one & three.
This has always been known, in my musical circles, as "white man's clapping".
Most actual musicians, of any ethnicity, tend to find this rather amusing.
A predominantly black audience will, without guidance, tend to clap on the 2 & 4.
Most actual musicians, of any ethnicity, tend to find this rather cool.
I have no clue whether this is racial or cultural; though maybe a gospel music vs relatively staid 'church of england' type musical upbringing provides sufficient hint to the young that they automatically lean towards one interpretation or the other as they get older.
Though discussing, very broadly, 'race' in this, I'm trying really hard not to do anything other than describe a simple observation. I have no academic studies I can point to, this is just what I've noticed over the years.
I also get the feeling that this type of delineation would tend to apply more to the older generation [ie my age] than the young; as the cultural divisions have blurred considerably in even my life-time.
This 'phenomenon' was made into a running joke in Steve Martin's 'The Jerk' (1979)
Thanks to Brian who points out in comments, Harry Connick's neat way of turning the audience round, when they were probably driving the whole band crazy by sluggishly clapping along on the 1 & 3.
Can you please explain why 'white' soul means accented on the first and third beat while 'black' soul is on the second and fourth?
This is just plain not true. There's a reason that James Brown's biography is titled "The One." Here are a couple of writers talking about this:
“The one,” in James Brown lore, is the source of that which makes funk funky, and everybody knows by now that James Brown more or less made funk a world onto itself. Specifically it’s the first beat in a measure, but “the one” is not so much a musicological place as it is a spiritual place, as the navigation of that beat is invested with age-old rhythms and nuances that end up propelling the rest of everything else – the tune, the band, the audience and Brown himself – into a strutting, rump-shaking beatitude.
Pinpointing the moment funk was born (or even where it came from) is about as difficult as explaining what exactly it is. A seminal moment, however, was two years earlier with James Brown’s 1965 hit “Papa Got A Brand New Bag.” Here is where his band began emphasizing the first beat of every measure (the “one”), making the entire groove more danceable, and new guitarist Jimmy Nolen turned himself into a part of the percussion section.
So unless you think that James Brown exemplifies "white soul," this statement just doesn't hold water.
There's a general problem that people want simple explanations of complicated things about musical style and taste, so when someone comes up with an overly simplified explanation, it gets propagated as if it were true. Some other examples:
In baroque music, you always play dotted rhythms as if they were double-dotted.
Swing feel means playing eighth notes as triplets.
Blues feel comes from a scale called the blues scale.
There is no such distinction.
The racist attitude behind the idea is something like 'backbeat is black music and white people get it wrong.'
The notion is loaded with fallacies.
- How can such a claim be made about a whole group of people? It can neither be denied nor proven.
- It assumes that everyone can keep a steady beat, how do you distinguish if someone just looses the beat versus they don't perceive the backbeat?
- How exactly do you determine how someone accents the backbeat? If I stomp my foot on 1 and 3 and clap on 2 and 4, where is the emphasis? From a musical stand point you do need two points of emphasis to get the backbeat feel. Beat 1 needs an accent to simply make it clear it is 1 and 2 needs an accent to create the syncopation of backbeat. Are certain accent gestures on 1 unacceptable as misunderstanding of backbeat?
The discussion seems to end up asking whether people clap on the downbeat or the backbeat and is the difference based on race. I've never seen race make a difference. Some people may loose or miss the beat or just have a bad sense of rhythm, but if the music has a backbeat all people clap to it.
So where does the idea come from?
My guess is that it comes out of the historical cycle of black music genres being first forbidden then accepted by white society. That happened with everything from jazz to hip hop. At one point rock and roll was not openly accepted in white society. But after it was assimilated into white society everyone understood the backbeat.
Here's a fun comparison.
The back beat seems hard to miss...
...on which beat does Tom tell them 'clap your hands?'
You can watch the rest and see a lot of the audience (they look quite white to me) clapping. I think I see people on and off the back beat through out.
This girl seems to loose the beat...
And now the same song with Wilson Pickett and a black audience. It's interesting to see what happens with the audience when Pickett leaves the stage. I see clapping, snapping, and stepping on the backbeat, and I also see a bunch of shaking with no regard for the backbeat...
What conclusion could anyone possible draw from watch these examples? It certainly isn't that the white people clap on the downbeat and black people clap on the backbeat.
I remember that we used to clap in sunday school to 1 and 3 in the chorus and when I discovered to clap off-beat I had first difficulties with this “new” rhythm.
I remember this off-beat clapping and also syncopation came from the spirituals by Afro- American gospel groups (was on concerts of “black nativity” by THE STARS OF FAITH. And I waited always for the moment when the audience lost the off-beat and dropped into to marching beat.
I also remember that this rhythm and finger snipping was exciting to me and how I was driven by it and got a certain satisfaction and appeacement!
I don’t see any reason why it is not in the white soul to clap off-beat except of tradition, as the off-beat clapping is nothing else than the um-pa um-pabin march music.
But I know that even clapping on 1 3 was confusing me with singing: as a little child I couldn’t do both things together, and with the off-beat things were even more difficult! This observation was later confirmed when I asked my classes to clap while singing. They stopped singing when they started to clap even if off-beat clapping can be trained very easily by stamping on your feet on 1 and 3 and clapping on 2 and 4.
For pianists and all jazz musicians, rock and pop and classic music this will never have been problem.
So I would say it has been a difference - also the syncopation- between the white and the black soul but no more in our days.
In an episode of the television show “The Monkees” explains why Wh**e people have soul.
In an episode of the television show “The Monkees” explains why Wh**e people have soul.
Davy Jones of the Monkees: Hey Charlie, Charlie listen…listen. I wanna ask you a question man. Oh, first of all let me introduce you to the people. This is Charlie Smalls, he’s a friend of mine from New York and now we’re out in California and we’re writing songs together. This is one of our first songs, right?
Charlie Smalls: Right
DJ: Tell me…why don’t I have soul? You’ve known me all these years. Why don’t I have soul?
CS: You do have soul but I have to explain it to you…uh…rhythmically. That’s the only way I can really talk is in music. Your soul would emanate on the accented beats 1 and 3. Where my soul emanates on the accented beats 2 and 4. And to give you a good example of that The Beatles…
CS: Play hard and funky on 1 and 3.
DJ: (Laughs) funky?
CS: But Really. Ringo plays the hardest 1 and 3 I’ve ever heard in my life. Now if you clap four I’ll show you. 1-2-3-4 (they clap together)
CS & DJ: (Clapping together) 1-2-3-4
DJ: (Counts) 1-2-3-4
CS: Uhn-pat-uhn uhn-pat uhn-pat-uhn uhn-pat uhn-pat-uhn uhn-pat
DJ: Yeah right.
CS: …the whole thing….as long as it swings its soulful
DJ: That’s 1 and 3 right
CS: Now an example of 2 and 4 would be more of a Motown sound
DJ: 1 and 3…1 and 3 is like wh*te soul…right?
CS: Right, exactly…
DJ: and two and four is the motown…
CS: 2 and 4 is motown soul brothers so you know (turns to look at cigar store indian behind them) give me five over hear…uh
CS: It would be the motown soul…clap again (they clap together) 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4
DJ: (counts) 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4
CS: uhn-Bop-ski dun dun-bop uhn-bop-ski dun dun-bop uhn-bop-ski dun be dun-bop
DJ: Oh yeah the accent now is on the 2 and the 4
CS: I almost got carried away excuse me I’m sorry
CS: but you can do the same thing if you take a two soul which is emanating from Brazil and you play (shakes percussion can) uhn-be dooby dooby uhn-be dooby dooby
CS & DJ: (together) Two uhn-dooby dooby One uhn-dooby dooby-Two
DJ: One Two…yeah right
CS: (hands can to Davy and starts playing the piano) right
CS: (inaudible) these songs together…come up with the same toon
DJ: yeah… right
CS: You wanna try it again? Let’s sing
DJ: I know a girl…her name is Ann…she is the girl that I dream of…she give me love I never knew…she show you how to love me too
DJ: It’s all the same right? So everybody’s got soul?
CS: Everybody’s got soul
DJ: It’s just a different kind of soul
CS: Swing it and you got soul
DJ: A 1 and 3 and a 2 and 4…this is a 1 and 2
CS: Everybody swings
CS & DJ: (together) la-lala-la