Danny Duncan Collum, a Sojourners contributing writer, teaches writing at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. He is the author of the novel White Boy.

Posts By This Author

The Boss Plays for Change

by Danny Duncan Collum 11-01-2004
Bruce Springsteen as singer, guitarist - and statesman.

The Tupelo Miracle

by Danny Duncan Collum 10-01-2004

How faith and a newspaper transformed a Mississippi community.

Cultural Channeling

by Danny Duncan Collum 10-01-2004
Old-time country music is the new punk rock.

Michael Moore Brings the War Home

by Danny Duncan Collum 09-01-2004
It's the stuff the mainstream mass media won't tell you.

Color Lines and Party Lines

by Danny Duncan Collum 08-01-2004

Race and politics in 2004.

In Iraq, the Truth is Out There

by Danny Duncan Collum 08-01-2004
Throughout the first year of the Iraq war,

Throughout the first year of the Iraq war, the Bush administration managed to keep a pretty tight lid on the war news that reached U.S. media consumers. Embedded reporters told the battlefront story from the viewpoint of U.S. troops. And the big media institutions back home - right up to The New York

Plagiarize This

by Danny Duncan Collum 07-01-2004
Copyright laws choke the commingling streams of King Lear, Iggy Pop, and "Louie Louie."

"Plagiarism is basic to all culture." Pete Seeger claims that his father, a Harvard musicologist, told him that. To which I could only reply (plagiarizing Jerry Lee Lewis), "You're so right you don't know what you're saying."

Seeger was, of course, talking mostly about the folk cultural process by which the same stories and tunes get passed down and reinterpreted from generation to generation. Today that process continues in popular culture. If you don't believe me, read Dave Marsh's landmark work of cultural criticism, Louie Louie.

In his book, Marsh traces the strange career of that tune from its beginnings as a pseudo-calypso authored by an L.A. rhythm-and-blues singer named Richard Berry, who was inspired by a "cha-cha" he'd heard from a band of Filipino-Americans. Marsh follows the song through various cover versions by white Pacific Northwest garage bands. One of those bands, The Kingsmen, had half-learned the song off a jukebox. They twisted the beat into the now-famous "duh-duh-duh, duh-duh," and, since their singer didn't know all the lyrics, he mumbled through some lines. This led to the legendary "secret dirty lyrics," which led to a national scandal and even an FBI investigation, which declared The Kingsmen's recording unintelligible at any speed. But Marsh's story doesn't end there. He follows "Louie Louie" through an afterlife in which it became the template for countless garage-rock records (starting with that class-conscious classic "Hang On Sloopy"); the "secret lyrics" are finally recorded by Iggy Pop and The Stooges; "Louie Louie" becomes a marching band classic; and the song's signature riff is reincarnated (with more unintelligible lyrics) as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

It's the Sprawl, Y'all

by Danny Duncan Collum 06-01-2004
We want Hooterville and Manhattan.

Indecent Exposure

by Danny Duncan Collum 05-01-2004
The 'adult' standards of cable have seeped into the groundwater of broadcast television.

Man of the Decade

by Danny Duncan Collum 04-01-2004

If we get the heroes we deserve, then Pete Rose may just be the man for America today.

What If It's All True?

by Danny Duncan Collum 03-01-2004
Mark Lombardi tried to visualize the spirit of his age.

Keeping it Real

by Danny Duncan Collum 02-01-2004

Sam Phillips spread the blues, broke racial barriers - and left a mixed legacy.

Carriers of the Torch

by Danny Duncan Collum 01-01-2004

The beer-commercial sensibility of deliberate, cultivated empty-headedness is pervasive.

Rebellion as a Marketing Strategy

by Danny Duncan Collum 11-01-2003

Today rock dozes comfortably in the belly of the beast.

Open Letter to Dennis Kucinich

by Danny Duncan Collum 09-01-2003
A political realignment in this country isn't possible until we heal the cultural breach that afflicts us.

It Came From Hollywood

by Danny Duncan Collum 07-01-2003

There's been a resurgence of entertaining protest - or, at least, protesting entertainers.

Marching Toward Jerusalem

by Danny Duncan Collum 05-01-2003

The Mekons: Part of the chain of holy warriors.

A Clear Channel With Nothing On

by Danny Duncan Collum 03-01-2003

The high cost of corporate radio.

Big Tobacco Masters Newspeak

by Danny Duncan Collum 03-01-2003

Philip Morris is the public face of American tobacco.

Fighting a Cultural Battle

by Danny Duncan Collum 01-01-2003

As this is written, rescue workers are still separating the bodies from the bamboo after the terrorist bombing of a nightclub in Bali.