Apologies for this but it’s the way my mind works (in other words, I have a terrible memory and I’ve only just remembered that I was gonna mention this).
We caught a documentary at the weekend, one of a series about black comedy, which featured the life of Richard Pryor. I remember the first time I saw him on screen in Blue Streak, and then again in… oh one of the Gene Wilder movies. At the time he didn’t make that much impact to be honest. He came across as a likable, funny guy. Of course my age prevented my from knowing much about his early life, his first appearances on TV flattering Bill Cosby. I know a bit about an addiction, and a little about his diagnosis with motor-neurone disease.
What I didn’t know was the impact he made. Before the documentary I had seen a few clips of his live show, generally tagged before an Eddie Murphy one. He was a black comic. Another black comic. Well he was to me, growing up with Eddie Murphy as ‘the’ black comic (I got ma ice cream, u aint got nun..). How far from the truth was I. He was the ground breaking comedian of his time, paving the way for Mr.Murphy, Whoopi, Chris Rock and all the other black comedians that, as a white guy living in Scotland, I know little about. He used the term nigger. He made it cool and funny, and removed the stigma of it, he raised awareness of black social issues, and much more. Whether he was aware of a lot of this is beside the point, his type of input is never really thought through that far, the truth drives it on.
This kind of documentary about someone I know of, yet know little of has made me aware that my modern social history, and all that it encompasses, is lacking, so I’m on a bit of a mission at the moment to improve it. My starting point, and I am semi-serious, is Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire“. Whether you like the song or not, it covers a lot of (admittedly) American modern social history. Seems like a reasonable starting place. Unless you can tell me different?