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March 31, 1971 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-03-31

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Wednesday, March 31, 1 971

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Pa

Wednesday, March 31, 1971 THE MICHIGAN DAILY

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Daniel Okimoto, AMERICAN
IN DISGUISE, Walker/Weath-
erhill, $6.95.
By TOM SEYMOUR
The place: the Santa Anita
racetrack alien assembly center
in California. The time: Aug-
ust 14, 1942. The event: birth of
Daniel Okimoto, an American
unwise enough to have selected
Japanese parepts at a time
when the U.S. Government had
decided to separate them from
their Constitutional rights and
throw them into concentration
camps. For the next three years,
Daniel paid the price for his
foolishness by imprisonment in
an "internment" camp in the
Arizona desert.
The boy's mother and father
had come to America in 1937 to
escape the oppressive militar-
ism of pre-war Japan only to
end up later in our own deten-
tion camps. Though the family
survived, their hardships did not
end with their release. There
were the jeers and insults, the
poverty and discrimination -
the readjustment into a society
which had rejected them. For
Dan Okimoto and many others
who reached adolescence and
young manhood during the post-
War period, growing up in-
volved a severe identity crisis.

Sounds of the

Charlie Gillett, THE SOUND
OF THE CITY: THE RISE OF
R 0 C K AND ROLL, Outer-
bridge & Dienstfrey, $2.95,
paper.
By STEVE SCHWARTZ
God knows, a serious critical
discussion of American popular
music has long been needed.
However, what has appeared in
its place has been either offen-
sively commercial (Everybody's
Favorite Lerner and Loewe) or
merely inept (Ewan's book on
Rodgers, for instance). Further-
more, very little has been writ-
ten on the music itself. Instead,
we are treated to 'narratives of
composers' careers, essentially
biographical studies.
Rock in particular has had a
rough time of it. First, there is

the book. I have long prided
myself (for no real reason) on
my familiarity with the work of
BobbyBland, but Gillett adds a
bit on Billy Bland as well. You
would expect something on Al-
bert and B. B. King in any de-
cent treatment. Gillett outdoes
himself with sections on Ben
E., Carole, Earl, Freddy, and Sid
(of Sid King and the Five
Strings - you remember "Sag,
Drag and Fall?"). If you look
hard, you can also find out what
happened to Hugo and Luigi.
Gillett has immersed himself in
what must be tons of material-
if you count the records he's
listened to - including almost
unobtainable British and French
blues journals: There is no ques-
tion of his sincerity in wanting
to write a book of real quality.
But we must ask to what result.

rican i
Who am I? Am I Japanese? No,
but am I an American? Yes, but
then how could I have been de-
prived of my Americanness sole-
ly because of my "slanted" eyes
and ancestry? They why . .?
Who am I?
There was and is no e a s y
answer to these questions of
course - perhaps no answer at
all. But in his book American in
Disguise, Mr. Okimoto (a grad-
uate student at the University of
Michigan in Political Science)
describes the long and tortuous
journey to the acceptance and
appreciation of the ambivalence
of his life.
American is Disguise is not,
however, solely an introspective
or psychological examination of
the conflicts involved in the
author's coming to accept him-
self. It is more an examination
of what constituted the con-
flicts. This not only involves a
close look at the Japanese-
American community but also a
trip back to Japan in search of
the social and familial r o o t s
from which so many of Mr. Oki-
moto's values spring. The read-
er is thus doubly rewarded, for
the book provides sensitive and+
perceptive insight into a little1
known American minority group
while giving some valuable in-
terpretation of society in Japan
itself.
'Golden
about attitudes of rock consum-
ers (the "rock - as - rebellion -
against-the-establishment" va-
riety). In short, we are given no
new information in an area
important, indeed central, to
the subject. If it fails, then, as
sociology, is it redeemed as a
history? Again, I have to sa
no. There is an appalling want-
of thesis in this book, so much
so that we have almost no idea
where rock comes from, what
distinguishes it from earlier
forms of popular music, and
what develops from what. In-
stead we are given categories
under which musician after mu-
sician is listed, but among which
little attempt has been made to
.establish connections.
Finally, as the title adver-
tises, this is, or ought to be, a
music history. The writer ought
to have, therefore, some knowl-
edge of music. Gillett's incom-
petence is dizzying, and it is
probably this fault more than
any other which is responsible
for most of the book's misfor-
tunes. For example, in an at-
tempt to distinguish rock from
previous forms of popular mu-
sic, Gillett proposes a three-part
categorization for all popular
music before rock-medodrama-
tic ballad / sentimental ballad /
and novelty-trivial. With very
little effort it can be seen that
not only does this apply to rock
as well, but also to German
Lieder, French chanson, Baro-
que oratorio, and Elizabethan
song to name only a few. In
the end, the distinction becomes
a meaningless one.
Emphasis in the book is
capricious, probably due to his
lack of musical knowledge. Ricky a
Nelson's career is discussed at
length, while Frank Zappa rates
only one mention. Indeed, Gil-
lett's treatment of West Coast
rock is even shallower than his
treatment of anything else,
This is particularly true in
his discussion of the Beatles.
the Beatles [with the re-
lease of Sgt. Pepperi had be-
come fine entertainers, polish-

ed, witty, resourceful, ingen-
ious. But they had earlier
ceased to be rock and roll
singers when they stopped
caring about what they sang.
People seemed to have de-
veloped a deep need for rec-
ords by the Beatles, so the
group obliged by churning
them out. But they no longer
had anything to say, and
amused themselves by seeing
how many different ways they
could say nothing.
How Gillett could possibly know
whether or not the Beatles still
,.cared" is beyond me. His ob-
servation is probably beside the
point. A rather doubtful cri-
terion of sincerity seems to be1
operating here. No great
amount of perception is needed I
to see that sincerity can pro-
duce particularly f r i g h t f u1
music.

Disguise: A

,

When the issei (first genera-
tion Japanese - gave up their
homeland ,they brought with
them many values which coin-
cided with American values: a
strong family tradition, frugal-
ity and desire to work hard and
advance through education. The
agricultural background and the
legal barriers to Oriental pro-
perty ownership in pre-war
America prevented these immi-
grants from achieving g r e a t
material success. After the in-
ternment, they and their se-
cond generation (nisei) offspring
were forced back into urban
areas because they had been
stripped of their farmlands and
traditional mode of livelihood.
In this area, the qualities of
hard work, perseverance and re-
spect for education served the
Japanese-Americans well. Their
education level is higher than
that of the whites while the per-
centage of their members in the
professions is about the same.
They have so thoroughly accept-
ed the white, middle-class trap-
pings of success that they are
often used as a yardstick with
which to measure the progess
of other minority groups, t h e
blacks in particular. This com-
parison is not valid, of course,
because the two cultures are so
vastly different and because the
Japanese did not experience an
Oldies'
it is widespread a m o n g non-
musicians. The fact is that. more
often than not, composers make
great songs from inferior texts
and that great poetry is often
unsuitable for setting. J. G.
Seidl's Die Taubenpost is bad
poetry but becomes one of Schu-
bert's best songs. One might
also compare the number of
times Shakespeare's "It -was a
lover and his lass" has been suc-
cessfully set to that of his Son-
net 129.
A corollary to this miscon-
ception is that there is a hier-
archy of themes and that theme
gives v a I u e independent of
treatment. To talk about the
eternal verities, such as "the
sounds of silence" is better than
talking about a Jabberwocky. To
quote somebody, "Guernica is
great not because it's political,
but because it's Picasso." It
seems ridiculous to me as I write
this that these notions are be-
lieved and that I should waste
my time talking about them;
but they are and I do.
Finally, Gillett's judgment of
the Beatles is, to be kind, ob-
viously controversial. Therefore,
it demands a proof which Gil-
lett never gives and seems in-
capable of giving-a proof by
musical analysis. If music fails,
after all, it fails not on the
grounds of sincerity, but in its
own terms.
I must say that the intentions
of the book are admirable. and
that it attempts to fulfill a
genuine n e e d. Unfortunately,
the need still exists. Gillett's
industry and devotion are com-
mendable, but finally they are
not enough.

emasculating period of slavery.
Also, the situation for 500,000
Japanese-Americans cannot be
transposed to 25 million blacks.
What price, though, did these
"hyphenated" Americans pay for
their success? In terms of the
loss of their ethnicity in so un-
questioningly accepting w h i t e
America's mores, Mr. Okimoto
thinks it was very high. Along
with their middle-class, mater-
ialistic goal orientation, they
have also adopted the intoler-
ance and conservatism which
does not allow for compassion
and sympathy toward those in
other, less fortunate, minorities.
In fact, the author feels that
the Japanese - American corn-
munity is one of the dullest in
America.'Except for a few young
who are beginning to speak out,
most of its members have shown
a remarkable tendency to re-
main screamingly silent in the
face of injustices. The greatest
example of this was their return
to society after the concentra-
tion camps with barely a word
of protest.
The reasons lie deep in tie
Japanese culture. Individualism
has never been an important
value in Japanese society where
loyalty to a group-family, ;om-
pany, school, state-have pre-
dominated. Emphasis on one's
proper position in the group and
respect for those above have been
assiduously fostered throughout
Japanese history. this, in con-
junction with a mild fatalism,
made the acceptance of the gov-
ernment's edict in 1942 a bitter
necessity.
It is important to note here that
the author does not view this st-
uation from afar but as a par-
ticipant. As a boy, he achieved
and achieved and achieved in
school and elsewhere in order
to beat white society at its own

4tudent
game. By kindly, but determined.
parents, who to a large extent
lived their lives through their
children, he was pressured to
ever greater heights of academic
success. He denied the Japanese
side of himself to become accept-

about the Japanese culture and
think. Much of what he found
was alien to him-not .in a na-
tionalistic sense but in a spiritual
and emotional sense.
Although politically democratic
(at least in theory) Japan seemed
repressive socially: The web of
personal and group obligations
which hold the everyday work-
ings of society together were stif-
ling. The intricate and carefully
prescribed etiquette whicn are
part of most social activity in
Japan was a denial of his-and
everyone else's-individuality in
favor of the group. The maother-
dominated f a. m i l y. structure
which serves as the stereotype
,for group, that is to say, all re-
lations, results in a need for se-
curity which cannot be self-satis-
fied.
Through greater understanding
of the social forces which bind a
Japanese to his society, the au-
thor gained a respect and ap-
preciation for his parents' cour-
ageous decision to give up all
they knew to come to America.
It also led him to a surer accept-
ance of his Americanness.
Living in Japan made me
conscious, as nothing else couil
have, of being very much an
American in my personal at-
titudes and tastes. Yet, at the

s

Daniel Okimoto

able. Much of the cause, he sees
now, lay in a racist America,
which (-uld not tolerate anyone
different except on its own terms
-if at all.
It was only when he began
taking courses in Japanese his-
tory and language at Prlinceton
that this inner conflict came to
a head. And soon after, at Har-
vard, he decided to discontinue
his studies toward a Ph.D., and
left for Japan to study at the
prestigious Tokyo University.
The student strike which closed
down that university just a. he
arrived allowed him time to tra-
vel, study informally, learn more

4,

trip

home

TONIGHT
meet and organize
the
SPRING,
ANTI=WAR
OFFENSIVE
* April Actions
* May Actions'
(in Washington)
8:00 P. M.-Assembly Room in the
Michigan Union Basement
If the government doesn't stop the war, it's time to
stop the government

same time, it liberate
from distasteful notions
pounded by ignorance, th
been associated with
and my ethnic past.
American in Disguise is
portant book. Not the leas
qualities is that it is wri
popular consumption. T
not to say that the book
bian, for, in its very r
way; it conveys some v
phisticated ideas. Still,
daring book. Mr. O
makes revealing comment
the Japanese - America
munity and about Japan
will arouse sharp contr
He has not shied awa
making statements which,
to him correct. If conside
what they are-educated
and not necessarily gospi
-they will provide r
viewpoints from which th
er can make his own judg
But as a social commen
the plight of minority a
tion into American ;
American in Disguise ria
greatest contribution. In
ing us that denial of eth
cultural differences is t
a price to pay for ace
Mr. Okimoto illustrates
willingness to pay the p
indignity.

ge F
~d mi
,coT
Lat ha
Japa
San in
bt Gi
tten f
i hi l
is p
cadab
ery s
it is
)kimo
s abm
n co
1 whi
rover,
y fro
seem
red f
opinij
el tru
'eleve.
e rea
mnents
tary
ssimil
society
ales
war
nic a
oo hi,
ptanc
his u
rice

Junior Year
in New York
Washington Square College of Arts and Science
of New York University sponsors a
Junior Year in New York.
The College, located in the heart of the city, is an
integral part of the exciting metropolitan
community of New York City-the business,
cultural, artistic, and financial center of the nation.
The city's extraordinary resources greatly enrich
both the academic program and the experience
of living at New York University with the most
cosmopolitan student body in the world.
This program is open to students recommended by
the deans of the colleges to which they will return
for their degrees.
There are strong and varied offerings in many
areas, such as fine arts, urban studies, languages
including non-European, mathematics in the
College and at the Courant Institute, psychology,
and others.
A qualified student may register for courses in all other
schools of the University, including the specializations in
Commerce and Education.
The University sponsors programs in Spain and France.
Write for brochurse to Director,
Junior Year in New York
New York University
New York, N.Y. 10003

ive
P
-
d
1-
its
or
is
le-
o0-
a
to
ut
y.
a=
ed
or
th
nt
D-
s
IIm-
nid
l,.
of
-/

LAST

3

an awful lot of money to be
made on such peripheral things
as The Illustrated Beatles (a
marvellous. compendium of 20th
Century graphics, but hardly a
revealing analysis), and second,
there is a peculiar aesthetic
prevalent among rock critics.
For example, Richard Goldstein
has a strong aversion to the an-
alysis of Jimi Hendrix's music
and prefers instead to discuss
his own psychological state as
he watches Hendrix perform.
The music is not as important
to Goldstein as his reaction to
the music. On the other hand,
Ellen Willis of the New Yorker
will ignore Peter Townshend's
music in order to talk about the
social conditions that produced
it. Nothing is wrong with these
approaches per se, but one must
keep in mind that rock is not
what's being discussed.
So with almost nothing to
guide him, Charlie Gillett has
attempted to write quite an
ambitious book - nothing less
than rock and roll in all its
various manifestations, from its
beginnings to 1969. The amount
*of research alone is staggering.
He is probably the only person
living who has read all the issues
of Billboard from cover to cover.
If you have a favorite, long-
lst nne-record rock and roll

Unfortunately, the book is an
incredible botch practically from
the beginning. Reading the ac-
knowledgements, I find that the
book was originally a masters'
thesis in sociology at Columbia.
Furthermore, most of the books
listed in the bibliography are
things like Ellison's Invisible
Man, Faulkner's Light in Aug-
ust, and LeRoi Jones's Blues
People. It is fairly clear that the
book is not about rock, but
about certain social manifesta-
tions related to rock. A bit dis-
appointed, I forge ahead. After
all, a sociological study done
well is valuable. However, I am
never able to recover from my
initial disappointment.
Black culture is discussed in-
frequently, and then in the most
trite terms. We are not given
anything about the conditions
the musicians emerged from,
that may have influenced them
as artists. The most we get are
certain cliches, never supported,

DAYS
'BOOKSTORE
549 EAST UNIVERSITY
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN

!
Tyt
r

STORE SOLD
TO THREE FORMER EMPLOYEES
ERNEST BUNDY - HOWARD BAKER - MILTON MOORE
COME IN AND GET ACQUAINTED

Furthermore, Gillett
judge a song on the
cance" (whatever that
of the-lyrics. To me
strange attitude, but I

seems to
"signifi-
may be)
this is a
find that

$300,000 Get Acquainted

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