[JPL] No Black Rock Musicians on Miller Cans

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Aug 16 01:39:24 EDT 2004

No Black Rock Musicians on Miller Cans

.c The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A Miller Brewing Co. promotion celebrating the ``50th 
Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll'' has Rolling Stone cover shots of Elvis 
Presley, Blondie and others on eight commemorative beer cans. What's 
missing is a black artist.

Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, said 
the absence is ``beyond conspicuous'' since black artists often are 
credited with inventing rock 'n' roll.

``It would be like doing a set of cans of six great Impressionist painters 
and not including any French people on it,'' he said. ``It leaves out an 
enormous amount.''

The brewer and the magazine issued the cans this summer, depicting Elvis 
Presley, Blondie, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Willie Nelson, as 
well as two guitars.

Gary Armstrong, chief marketing officer for Rolling Stone publisher Wenner 
Media, said race wasn't a consideration when choosing the artists.

``We didn't even consciously think pro or con, the same way that the only 
woman on there is Blondie. We just went with the people that we thought 
were appropriate,'' he said. ``We went through (the covers) and said these 
people we don't think are appropriate, or wouldn't appeal to Miller drinkers.''

Armstrong noted Rolling Stone wasn't around for the birth of rock 'n' roll 
- it was first published in 1967 - when many formative black artists of the 
genre emerged. And many artists who appeared on covers balked at being 
associated with a promotion involving alcohol, he said.

Jimi Hendrix's estate, for instance, is protective of his image, Armstrong 
said. ``Again I think it might have had something to do with the beer.''

Miller spokesman Scott Bussen said the company started with a broad wish list.

``I'm sure that our objective was to get as diverse a representation of 
musical acts as well as diversity,'' he said, but the company's choices 
were limited to Rolling Stone covers.

Miller spokeswoman Molly Reilly said other artists were considered, but 
``these are the artists that gave us approval to use their images on the 
beer cans.''

Six of the initial 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 
Cleveland in 1986 were black, including Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray 
Charles and Little Richard. The Hall of Fame, which is throwing a summer 
concert series sponsored by Miller Lite, declined to comment on the cans.

Todd Mesek, the hall of fame's senior marketing director, said ``African 
heritage is critical'' to rock's development.

``Arguably all rock and roll came from, or at least was greatly influenced 
by, African culture,'' Mesek said. ``Rock and roll came from R&B, jazz, 
folk. All those genres before rock and roll came together to birth rock and 

William McKeen, chairman of the University of Florida journalism department 
and editor of the book ``Rock and Roll is Here to Stay,'' called the list 

``I look at rock 'n' roll in racial terms. Rock and roll is black America 
meeting white America,'' McKeen said. ``It's about the merger of white 
people's music, country, with black people's music, rural blues.

``I mean, sure, you can argue that Elvis opened the door, but then Chuck 
Berry and Little Richard and Bo Didley came through,'' McKeen said.

Armstrong said each of the artists represents developments in rock history. 
For instance, Willie Nelson represents Americana and rock's roots, while 
Alice Cooper is ``stadium rock and shock.''

The artists weren't paid to appear on the cans, although some received 
perks such as free beer or magazine subscriptions, Armstrong said.

He said he hasn't heard anything negative about the promotion, which is 
running in conjunction with three Rolling Stone special editions: rock 
immortals, moments and photos. In its immortals edition, 20 of the 50 
rockers are black.

Thompson said everyone has an opinion when it comes to rock, and the cans 
may have been designed to generate buzz more than anything else.

``My guess is a lot of people will have a lot to say about this list,'' he 
said. ``Oftentimes that's the point.''

On the Net:

Miller Brewing: http://www.millerbrewing.com

Rolling Stone: http://www.rollingstone.com

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