I intend to analyze F. Paul Wilson’s The Years the Music Died and Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, to try and illustrate what was threatening about rock ‘n’ roll and what was prepared to discontinue the threat. A lot of these stories can be taken as legend, but I believe they also may have an underlying truth about the American Government and secret societies operating under our noses. Like most secret societies, they can be traced back to the Knights Templar and the Free Masons. (Reed 138) These groups have throughout history been “cleansers” or “protectors”, no matter which way you chose to look at them.
Prosperous White men don’t want to lose control of the people by letting the music of the Black community influence the masses. These elitists are conscious of the power music wields and are afraid of what could happen if this music takes hold in our nation. These men don’t want to allow the Black voice to be heard, unless they dictate what he’s saying. They don’t want to allow them any of the power they used to have over one thousand years ago.
The oldest kingdom in the world was located in
This is all tied up in slavery for
Dark skinned men and women once ruled over every one, but now things seem to have reversed. The race experiment that was created tens of thousands of years ago is to blame for the situation today. We must deal with the fact that our ancestors chose to breed selectively with their own skin tone. Now we have classes of skin color and someone is always trying to control the other one.
Mumbo Jumbo takes place primarily in the 1920s in
This can be equated to what musicians were creating in
Mumbo Jumbo deals heavily with a phenomenon called Jes Grew. This epidemic as some have called it started in
It knows no class, no race, and no consciousness, which is seen as a problem with those that believe color should be a dividing line. (Reed 5) It’s able to overtake anybody and you never can tell when it will strike an unsuspecting victim. The loas are not violent or destructive, they simply live for music.
The young seem to be affected most of all. They want to boogie as close to one another as they can, while their parents and elders would like to observe them no closer than nine inches. (Reed 21) Every generation pushes the boundaries until it gets slammed back into submission and the process starts all over again. From blues to hip-hop, we’ve witnessed this over and over again with each pioneering music scene.
In the middle ages, the Church would throw the possessed into dungeons or they would burn the spirit out of its victim. They killed millions of people this way, but even that could not stop the dancing epidemics, heresies, witchcraft, or the remnants of pagan religions. (Reed 154,172) What the Wallflower Order was trying to do was not much different. They simply tried to be a little more discreet about it.
The organization that deals with such outbreaks is called the Wallflower Order. They will exercise force if necessary to bring an end to this dancing frenzy caused by jazz, ragtime, blues, and eventually rock ‘n’ roll. (Reed 89) The Wallflower Order is controlled by another group called the Atonist Path. Their job is to restore the “path” when the people begin to deviate from it.
The Atonist Path is a secret society, which is protected by its military arm, the Wallflower Order. There are many types of Atonists. Politically they can be “Left,” “Right,” “Middle,” but they are all together on the sacredness of Western Civilization and its mission. They merely disagree on the ways of sustaining it. (Reed 136) Their goal is to distort the past in a way as to show that they’ve always had the power, so why fight it.
The Wallflower Order is an underground society of enforcers. (Reed 189) They are responsible for the prohibition on dancing in the 1920s. Signs with huge black letters were posted throughout the affected cities. Hundreds were printed in an effort to bring under control the Jes Grew phenomenon. Anybody who was caught dancing could be punished under a federal law. (Reed 17,21,93)
This seems ludicrous to me in this day in age, but back in the 1920s, the color of society was very much of interest to those in power. They didn’t want to lose control of the masses by allowing people to co-mingle racially or religiously for that matter. The fact that this Black made music is bringing together the people, no matter what color they are or what their background is frightened the powers that be. It’s the job of the Atonist Path to control the people and make sure they never figure out that this music can set them free. It can give a population the power and courage to stand up and fight.
The main thing that the Wallflower Order was trying to do was prevent the true history of mankind from ever being told. The mysteries of voodoo and the power of the spiritual world are very much real things, but there are those who try and misrepresent this reality, writing it off as Negro silliness.
The ethnic people of the world have been dancing, singing, and playing instruments for thousands of years. (Reed 34) Some used it to help grow crops or bring about rain in a time of draught. Others used it to celebrate various things. Needless to say, their music was fundamentally linked to everyday life, much like it is today.
Celebration of a common love is the best way to unite people. This is precisely what the Wallflower Order wanted to prevent. If everyone is equal, the elite disappear, leaving the once wealthy White individuals in the same boat as everybody else. This is why Jes Grew had to be stopped. It was threatening the very infrastructure put in place by wealthy White men.
The Atonist Path wants to control the people. Music is something that cannot be controlled, especially when you have many artists creating and performing their own original tunes. (
If an artist were to inject some sort of political message or a subconscious one, all hell could break loose. This type of subversion was not going to be tolerated by the Wallflower Order. For example, a political vote could be swayed drastically if a musician became influential enough. (
Music allows the people to come together in a way that nothing else can. It breaks down barriers and helps people recognize that we’re not so different after all. This threatens such societies as the Atonist Path and the Wallflower Order enough to make them want to eradicate a population over it.
There is a group that is trying to undermine what the Atonist Path is doing by raiding museums and returning the art to wherever it was originally stolen from. These people are called the Mu’tafikah. Their name derives from the inhabitants of
Digging up bones and putting them on display, or melting down sacred jewelry of the peoples in
These people see Jes Grew as a phenomenon that is brought about by repression and the stifling of the masses. The Jes Grew has come to liberate the people and restore equality of sorts.
The Wallflower Order has far reaching hands in every walk of life. They were even able to inaugurate an anti-Jes Grew President. Warren Gamaliel Harding triumphed on the platform “Let’s be done with Wiggle and Wobble,” indicating that he will not put up with the spreading of Jes Grew. (Reed 17) The interesting issue that Ishmael Reed reveals in Mumbo Jumbo is that President Harding may have actually come from African descent.
Rumors have circulated for many years that during his campaign, a manuscript that was written by William Eastbrook was delivered to
There is speculation that the Wallflower Order discovered this bit of information and took President Warren G. Harding out of the game. On what historians now refer to as “Harding’s mysterious journey West,”
In the 1920s,
The Wallflower Order tried many forms of misinformation to try and reduce the impact that Jes Grew was having on
People were arrested for simply singing a tune that could be classified as jazz, ragtime, or the like. Jazz did a number of things to popular music as well as to metropolitan life. It sped up the tempo of things. Once the new musical spirit had arrived, it quickly spread into all aspects of life. (Reed 115) This menace was enough reason to call the dogs on this kind of music. They were so threatened by Jes Grew that they would stop at nothing to prevent it from spreading further.
The Wallflower Order devised a plan for putting an end to the Jes Grew epidemic. They wanted to set a man in place, grooming him to be a talking android for them. He would infiltrate this movement and eliminate it from the inside. (Reed 150) This pet zombie that they envisioned could be used to undermine Jes Grew. He would enlighten the Blacks that they had a long way to go and to just give it up. (Reed 139) He was to convince them that they must adopt the ways of the Whites. They must produce Elizabethan poets; they should have Stravinskys and Mozarts in the wings, that they must become civilized. (Reed 114) I think of people like Thelonious Monk and say forget the Mozart, create your own flavor of music. Unfortunately for them, they could locate no such Black man to accomplish the task.
After this didn’t work, they resorted to even more desperate measures. They decided to remove the musicians who were putting out this subversive music. They would arrest them on trumped up charges and sentence them to unusually long prison terms. (Reed 154) F. Paul Wilson’s The Years the Music Died goes into great detail about what was done to eradicate certain influential musicians from their reign as kings of rock ‘n’ roll.
They knew they couldn’t just silence rock ‘n’ roll, but they did know they could tame it by replacing the very influential with the not so outstanding. They wanted to bring it to the mainstream but only after removing the soul of where it was coming from. Their goal is to one day erase the people’s knowledge of the roots of this music. They want to make it purely entertainment without implications to where it originated.
Many artists through the years have been removed from the power and glory they once had. In The Years the Music Died, Elvis Presley was portrayed as the prime target. (
Black artists were even looking to him for these crazy dance moves. He, regardless of color, was Black music. This meant he had to be gotten rid of. An influential White man cannot go public and say it’s alright to be involved with, what some ignorant people refer to as “nigger” music.
I believe Elvis’ lyrics and choice of cover songs is the biggest reason the Wallflower Order wanted him gone. Elvis was able to release six albums in his first three years recording, which is unheard of in this day in age. Many of his early songs promote dancing and are packed with sexually charged lyrics and innuendos. On top of this, he was choosing to cover many Black artists music and bringing that sound to the masses, including millions of White people. This was seen as a huge threat to those that want to keep the dark skinned people down. If Elvis wasn’t directly covering the songs of these artists, he was referencing them and possibly even responding to these songs.
In the song Blue Suede Shoes, Elvis doesn’t want his shoes stepped on because he needs those things to dance. Dancing was directly linked to Elvis’ message. In the song Just Because, there is a lyric that could be taken as promoting multiple woman relationships. This undermines what the Western Civilization is all about. One man and one woman is what is expected and desired by them.
On Elvis’ first album, he covers Ray Charles’ I Got a Woman. This is significant because Ray was already very popular with the Black audience. Elvis covered this song and made it an even bigger hit, due to the new audience of White America. He is thus, bringing everyone together by uniting them with the common love of this song and many other songs. This again undermines those who want to keep our cultures completely separated.
Elvis also covered Little Richards’ Tutti Frutti on his first album. Little Richard is even more flamboyant and probably seen as more of a risk than Ray Charles.
Elvis wasn’t solely interested in covering Black artists. He also covered many lesser known white musicians to try and resurrect them and bring a new found inspiration for their music. He pays homage to so many artists. Anybody can see that this man had a deep love for all kinds of music.
On Elvis’ follow up album, he continues on the same path that he blazed in his first release. He again promotes wild dancing in songs like Rip it Up and Ready Teddy. Elvis seems to be promoting extra close contact of men and women in
Elvis’ third album comes by way of the soundtrack for his first movie role. The film Love Me is mirrored after Elvis’ own rise to fame. He sings some racey songs on this album. Mean Woman Blues is blatantly about sex. His line, “She makes love without a smile” seems pretty risky for 1957. Elvis was obviously willing to take that chance.
Elvis’ fifth record came out in May of 1958. One song that caught my attention was Jailhouse Rock. In this song, Elvis sings the lyric about these tow men and they’re talking about escape. Instead they stay to dance. Elvis shows us here how important the dancing really is. It’s even more important than trying to escape the hold they have on you.
On Elvis’ sixth and final record before he was drafted into the Army, he hints at a Ménage à trios as far as I’m concerned. Covering The Ink Spot’s That’s When Your Heartaches Begin, Elvis sings the line “If you bring a friend into your love affair, that’s the end of your sweetheart, that’s the end of your friend. That’s when your heartaches begin.” Elvis seems to have pushed the envelope too far. He had to be removed from his reign as the king of rock ‘n’ roll.
Thus, Elvis was taken out. He was drafted into the Army during a time of no real conflict. This seems a little suspicious to me considering he’s was such an influential musician. The powers that be were threatened enough to get rid of him in this manner. There reason for this must certainly be because he had his fans dancing like crazy people and he too was boogying down too much in the eyes of those in power. He was only allowed to be shot from the waist up because his hip gyrations were a little too close to sexual expressions.
After he was released from the iron grasp of the Unites States Army, he was a much tamer Elvis. Just like everybody else, he was brainwashed and molded into a soldier. He never quite returned to the enthusiasm he showed in his earlier career.
After Elvis would do a song, whether a cover or his own, often times another artist would put their version of it on their albums. Artists like Pat Boone only took away from the soul of rock ‘n’ roll by making it almost humorous. This could be seen as the androids that the Wallflower Order was trying to put into place. They too wanted to twist the music into something malleable.
Many other artists were removed besides Elvis. The great Chuck Berry was arrested in 1959 for bringing a minor over state lines. He had several hits prior to his conviction. His career was luckily resurrected by the British invasion of rock ‘n’ roll.
These youths were no different then the ones in 1920s, or the ones in 1950s. They wanted to contract Jes Grew and the way to catch it was through this music. It doesn’t matter if it was created by bagpipes, flutes, conch shells, or guitars; it all brought you into a possessed state.
Jerry Lee Lewis is another prominent musician whose image was tarnished by scandal. He married his third cousin which isn’t a crime, but when she’s thirteen it is. According to F. Paul Wilson’s The Years the Music Died, an over enthusiastic operative was responsible for Eddie Cochran’s death and Gene Vincent’s horrible limp. They were riding in a taxi when it swerved off the road and crashed.
Alan Freed was a disc jockey that promoted rock ‘n’ roll over the airwaves. He was brought down in a payola scandal. I doubt the authorities were overly concerned with him taking money to play records. I think they were more worried about what he was playing, what these musicians were saying, and how the youth of
The one that hits closest to home for me is the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. This is probably where F. Paul Wilson borrowed his title from. This incident is known as the day the music died. Again,
These mysterious disposals of musicians are not just what used to happen. The most prominent artist I can think of that may have been removed is Tupac Amaru Shakur. He was a Black hip-hop artist whose parents were both members of the Black Panther Party. Until his death in his mid twenties, he was very outspoken politically and culturally. This threatened those in power. They were threatened by the fact that he was selling millions of albums to White America. He had the potential to change people’s minds and the youth were ready to listen.
Nine months before his death, he was shot five times. The next day he was sentenced to prison for an alleged sexual assault. This was one of those trumped up charges I discussed earlier. Tupac’s life was ended nine months later in a hail of bullets. I can guarantee that Tupac will not be the last musician removed from the public eye when they get to out of control.
As time passes, these artists have become more powerful. Their words and melodies will live on forever. The message to the youth will continue to be heard with each rising generation. Jes Grew will never be stopped because it is so innately part of all of us.
We, as human beings must realize that the world is a small place and only getting smaller. We cannot rule over each other or dictate how any certain people should act. We can’t control people’s religions. We can’t control a people’s minds. We must allow this freedom for mankind to prosper.
One day the people will rise up and fight for the right to say and sing whatever they feel. This repression will not do. Even today, artists are not vocal about things that really matter. Especially the youth need music to convey what they have to say.