De Latin Delight of DeLay

I missed the spectacle of Tom DeLay, former Texas Republican Congressman, now rhinestone cowboy, shaking his ass, sliding on his knees, and playing air guitar to "Wild Thing," on Dancing with the Stars, as investigators mulled money-laundering charges against him.

But I was struck by the how well DeLay--who, while representing a state that is more than one-third Hispanic, supported a 1999 bill to declare English the official language of the U.S.--highlighted the Afro Latin roots of American music. He danced to the Troggs' 1966 hit in a cha-cha competition.

How enlightened, Tom.

So pronounced is the clave of that song, that one would need to strain not to hear it. Yet the centrality of Afro Latin roots to early rock and roll is a well-kept secret in this country. The best exposition of this truth can be found in Ned Sublette's terrific first book, "Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo" (he uses "Louie, Louie" as the essential case). And I'll tip my hat to Ned, who tonight celebrates the release of his fine new third book, his second on the Crescent City, "The Year Before the Flood: A New Orleans Story." Wish I could be at the Mother-in-Law Lounge, to hear the always animated Sublette read, across the room from an inanimate likeness of Ernie K-Doe (who is among the book's characters), at what promises to be the mother-in-law of book parties.

I'm rereading Ned's book now, as I work on an essay about it for The Nation.


September 24, 2009 10:22 AM |


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