Chuck Berry is a huge fan of ladies’ makeup products, and that’s why he wrote a song shilling for the Maybellene cosmetic company. The end. No. Chuck Berry was such a huge fan of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys that he just had to rip off their song Ida Red. Because if there’s one problem with American pop culture, it’s black people always stealing ideas from men who wear cowboy hats. *sarcasm* Actually, it’s a little bit of both. Berry was inspired by Wills’ tune. He often covered it in concert, and even wanted to record his own version, until Chess Records’ Leonard Chess dismissed it as ‘too rural’. It was Chess who had the idea to market “a hillbilly song sung by a black man.” Thus Berry’s signature sound was born; designed to crib from the blues for black appeal, and ‘hillbilly’ country for white appeal. And, yes, he totally lifted the name Maybellene from the cosmetics manufacturer, if you were wondering which came first.
This song is corny and stupid on so many levels, yet I can’t help liking it. It’s so chipper it makes me forgive everything that’s wrong with it. Also, Frank Sinatra makes everything classy. You may well remember this as the theme song of Married…with Children, which should be enough to acid-burn away every last trace of classiness – but yet. (If you don’t remember that, good for you, because Married…with Children was a truly terrible sitcom back from when I was a kid.) And, of course, the song is incredibly stupid on just the most basic level of having absolutely the worst lyrics ever. Mother Goose would be ashamed of those rhymes. Not to mention that marriage and love have historically had about as much to do with one another as higher business management and love, or banking and love, or selling cars and love, or any other purely financial transaction has to do with love. Since society has in the last century or so undergone such changes that the institution of marriage is no longer a survival necessity, there’s been a drive to romanticize it enough that people would still want to engage in it despite its obsolescence. Therefore, songs like this one, hammering the misguided point home with zero subtlety. The concept that the institution of marriage, which still grants a number of purely legal benefits but serves no truly necessary purpose, is somehow entwined with matters of romance and personal fulfillment is, I believe, one of the great fallacies of our time and needs to be thoroughly eradicated posthaste. How are we going to achieve a state of equality and a non-gender biased social structure if society is still hellbent on brainwashing women into willingly pursuing the instruments of their own oppression? I don’t see anyone openly telling African-Americans that maybe they’d be more fulfilled if they’d only go pick some cotton*. You know why? Because that is an incredibly shitty and offensive thing to insinuate, and I don’t know why everyone thinks it’s alright to suggest to women that we are expected to seek out and enjoy the institutions that have historically been an instrument of our bondage.
On a side note, as we are entering a long block of songs about love, be forewarned, I am really not in a good mindframe right now regarding the subject. If the timing were just a little bit different I would be approaching it either with happy enthusiasm or benign indifference, but as it happens I’m in a state of rage, frustration and pain that makes it hard for me to even tackle the topic. But, since my therapist did suggest that perhaps writing out my feelings would be helpful for me, I may just use this forum for a little therapeutic venting. Hopefully, no one with a vested interest in my personal life will be paying attention.
*Yes, society most certainly still does insinuate that, but not openly and not in so many words. I’m not sure if that counts as progress.