My take on cultural appropriation stems from my early guitar playing experience. Back then “Eruption” was the gold standard that everybody and their mother was trying to copy. However, I figured that Eddie Van Halen would make all the money that was to be had being Eddie Van Halen ever, period. So I never thought of that exercise as anything other than being a complete waste of time. The only money to be made in music for me was in being me, for better or worse.
I’m getting ready to record and post the latest installment in the Pieces of Malarkey saga which will be the tune “Affirmation” by Jose Feliciano. In trying to do that song, I’ve rediscovered that I am not Hispanic, or black, or really that good. So I am forced to discover my own approach as painful as that is. So when you hear it, you will immediately notice that it’s not anywhere close to anything you’ve ever heard on the radio, ever. This despite the fact that there are literally a million videos of kids coping exact duplicates of the most famous version. But that’s too much like work for me and I don’t have the patience for it (or the chops).
However, I firmly believe there is nominally a market for my version. Yes, it involves wineries, art galleries, restaurants, and other non-glamorous venues. But I won’t be depriving George Benson of anything when I play there.
My experience is also that maybe 10% of musicians have my viewpoint. Most are hung up on duplication, not creativity.
But that’s alright. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve made all the money that’s to be made being me.
And it’s been a blast.