September 15th, 2011
First off, heâ€™s got a voice like aged Jack Daniels, with a dollop of tobacco juice mixed in to give it a raw edge. The albumâ€™s title song, â€œHey nigger, donâ€™t call me â€˜Jewâ€™â€, acknowledges the angst he feels as a descendant of Abraham. He whips himself remorselessly. From the first words, â€œI am a Hebrew, but donâ€™t call me Jew, expecially you, Niggggerrrrr!â€ The irony is in the racial taunt. It is George Allen calling himself names â€” that he is all races contained in one is clear to anyone who has a soul. It simply comes through in the music. And the part of himself he knows best is the part he calls â€œNiggggerrrr!â€ The word comes out as one long, keening note which starts low in his rich baritone and reaches well into soprano territory. I wanted to lift up my speakers and cry back into them, â€œDonâ€™t tear yourself down like that. You have value. You have become a Senator. Isnâ€™t that worth something?â€
Another song: â€œGot a noose with your name on it, darkie.â€ Low, quiet, anguished strumming (yes, he plays the guitar himself) while, incredibly, he picks the melody octaves higher. (I wish this were a DVD so I could see how he does it). A long intro then the haunting words: â€œMy people were expelled from the temple, oh so many centuries ago. The Romans reviled us. Europe reviled us. Especially Germany reviled us. So why must I take it out on you? I donâ€™t know, but it pains me, too, darkiieeee!â€ We all have a part of ourselves we wish to kill off, but how many of us confront it so starkly?
Then Allen rounds off the set and goes to his roots with, â€œIâ€™m surfing, Bojangles, get off the beach.â€ This is a lighter song. It fairly romps. You can hear the waves and the wind (I believe Allen might actually have mixed in some wind and wave sound effects, but who knows? Heâ€™s got such shit-kickinâ€™ licks, they might actually morph into the sounds of Godâ€™s natural creations). But interleaving the thump of the waves and the plopping of the surfboard are the words, coming out almost pointillistically â€” â€œMy trunks are star-spangled, the swells are right-angled, I donâ€™t need to be Bo-jangledâ€¦ if you donâ€™t mind.â€ On the surface, the song is free of Judaic self-allusion, but I heard something that caused me to play the tape backwards at three times the speed. Amazing. It sounded like a trio of dolphins singing, â€œIf I was a rich man, da da dumble dumble doodle doodle deedle deedle dee.â€ Again, very light. It was as the performer had accepted his Jewishness and was moving beyond.
As for â€œniggerâ€, â€œdarkieâ€, â€œBojanglesâ€, â€œdingeâ€, â€œSamboâ€, etc. They are only the necessary psychological catalysts for deeper self-exploration. Perhaps it is too late. The spinners are at work in the media: â€œGeorge Allen is a racist.â€ Blah blah blah.
Get the tape. Listen carefully. Make up your own mind.
(This reposting of a piece I wrote in Sep 2006 is inspired by the news that Virginia’s onetime senator, George “Macaca” Allen, is again in the Virgina senate race. He is poised to beat Tim Kaine, a very good man. Let’s hope it does not happen.)