It started out with actual white people doing actual blackface, but matured into Elvis and rock n' roll, disco and hip hop. There is even a pop singing accent ("bah" instead of "by", "mah" instead of "my") which is so normal we hardly hear it but, for me at least, it belongs to someone somewhere else.
So, it should come as no surprise that freedom is such a popular subject matter. We used to be slaves, remember? We've been downtrodden and oppressed for centuries, you know. Remember Martin Luther King? Che Guevara? Malcolm X? Gandhi? Patron saints of the ordinary freedom-yearnin' man...
I don't know what freedom is any more than a fish knows about water. Sure, my great-great-great grandfather was a convict, but he was buried in an unmarked grave by his son. And us Townsends have been free ever since.
The chances are you're free right now. Flick on the TV and see what free people do. We cry over food and houses. So, with the greatest respect to Nina Simone, I've rewritten I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free:
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could pay off all the chains holding me
I wish I could buy all the things that I could buy
Buy them now, buy them cheap, and then I would be free
I wish I could sell all the love that's in my heart
Renovate all the bars that keep us apart
I wish I could own every film that's being shown
Then you'd see and agree that entertainment should be free
I wish I could fly like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be if I found I could fly
Oh, I'd soar to a branch at the top of a tree
Then I'd feather my nest, decorate all the rest
Of the twigs in my view, paint the trunk to look new
Sell the place for a gain, then go do it again
In a much better tree with a birdbath and seed
With a view of the sea: What it means to be free