There has been much acclaim for 28-year-old Gary Clark Jr. from Austin, Texas, before and around his recent first official album release of ‘Blak and Blu’ (released in the US on 22 October 2012). And there is more to this ‘guitar man’ than the news that he has continuously been mentioned with good reason next to giant musical predecessors like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Steevie Ray Vaughan. He has performed next to Sheryl Crow, Citizen Cope, Alicia Keys, Damian Marley, and The Roots band leader and drummer Questlove amongst others. He has also had his share of an exposure to the political sphere. Sometimes pro-actively, at times acceptingly, certainly with the necessary blues.
Gary Clark Jr. Day has been celebrated in his hometown on 3 May ever since he was 17 years old and the local mayor introduced it. He has been invited to and applauded the ‘Red, White and Blues’ 21 February 2012 official White House event where he performed next to B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Warren Haynes, Mick Jagger and others in front of a particularly ‘selected’ crowd. While he musically claims that ‘Times Are Changin’, he is also attempting to contribute his own more tangible share to this very change. Playing at the 2011 Black Ball of the Keep A Child Alive foundation – co-founded by Alicia Keys and Leigh Blake to combat HIV/AIDS on the African continent and in India – he helped raise a total of USD 3 million to benefit the foundation’s work. He also played a Sandy relief concert in New York’s Brooklyn Bowl on election day 6 November with monetary, food and goods donations being collected and directed to hurricane victims. In his one-off cinematic appearance he also featured in the movie Honeydripper – a symbiosis of themes which could hardly have been more suitable: civil rights, discrimination and: the blues!
There was a time when seagulls flew, when ducks were diving, seals still shone;
There was a time in intermission, where some were doubtful some were prone.
This time has passed, the time’s a-changin’,
Now rats are out and run at night –
Intrude your quiet nighttime stroll
and make this game a quest for might!
…or simply quoting:
“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”
(Bob Dylan – Times They Are A-Changin’; Copyright 1962, 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music)
The culturally connoted and enriched enthusiasm of the 2008 US presidential campaigning seems a distant memory today. Back then graphic designer Shephard Fairey spearheaded the election cult(-ure) with his Obama posters. Four years later not many traces of a comparably grand enthusiasm are perceivable. The inspiration and contribution of creative workers seems to have faded considerably. This may come natural with the profit orientation in popular culture and the perceived decrease in public interest.
Inspired exceptions are very welcome, of course: and while Mitt Romney has been re-enacted to join the Gangnam Style crowd, a few have added some more spice. This can come in various forms. The (card) ‘game of politics’ or more serious encouragements to go out and fulfill civil responsibilities. Sometimes it boils down to road side innovation in 2012 as well: the Gum Election 2012 has been in progress for a number of weeks. A reliable and amusing indicator? Possibly also an example of how direct democratic ways can be rather destructive in style and ask ‘Who sucks the most?’. Anyway, let us wait and see who that may be.