(photo: © Bent Rej)
The debate about authenticity in music is a pointless self-repeating loop, given that originality as such doesn’t really exist. All anybody can do is add their own DNA to a stylistic framework already established, and re-established, and re-re-established ad infinitum. That said, there’s not much use for those whose only claim to fame is being derivative as accurately as possible. And with all those things said, a lot of proud originators of trends got started trying to nail down other people’s sounds. The real debate is the problematic position of white musicians popularizing – or co-opting, depending on your viewpoint – traditionally black styles of music. The Rolling Stones began as the most skillful deriviators of black music, so much so they often outshone the very people they were trying to pay homage to. On the other hand, they did succeed in introducing some obscure and deserving artists to a wider audience, which was always, in their case, the point of it. You could argue how much Don Covay really benefited from having The Stones covering his song; was it a case of any free publicity is good publicity? Did he even receive royalties from it? I don’t know. In a juster world, however, Covay’s Mercy Mercy would be widely celebrated as one of the first known recordings by a then-obscure session man by the name of Hendrix.