Sometime during the 1980s, I was perusing an antique shop in Tiverton, (East Devon), probably in the Market Place not far from the Half Moon Public House – when I discovered a very old tape recording labelled ‘Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin.’ There were around five or six tracks per side with the entire recording lasting about forty minutes in total! There was no inlay card or any details with the tape – just an album cover portraying Fats Waller at the piano. I played that tape so much it eventually broke – but with the advent of the internet – I was able to reconnect with the world of Fats Waller and appreciate a more precise appreciation of his ground-breaking music. A discerning ear will hear music far ahead of its time and – I believe – a music that serves as the foundation of All modern ‘Black’ (and progressive) music!
I find that I can sit and relax to the jazz element, or get up and train in martial arts to the swing and stride elements! Like Bruce Lee within the context of Chinese culture, Fats Waller was a genius of Afican-American music – a true genius far beyond his time who died far too young! Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller (May 21st, 1904 – December 15th , 1943) – was only 39-yers-old when he died of pneumonia whilst taking a trip on one of America’s luxury cross-country trains! Although I do not know his politics, Fats Waller did write a song dedicated to Russia entitled “Russian Fantasy” – recorded on November 3rd, 1935. The United States had established full diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1933 (sending Harpo Marx as a good-will ambassador). The fascist Mussolini had been in power in Italy since 1922 – whilst the notorious Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany in 1933! The fascist Franco (whilst backed by the Roman Catholic Church) is about to usurp the democratically elected ‘Socialist’ (Republican) government of Spain!
Like the great Paul Robeson – Fats Waller was accepted and treated very well when visiting Ireland and UK! It is a shame these magnificent ‘Black’ characters are not taught about in the UK education system! It is also clear that we cannot ignore world history when assessing an individual aspect of it. The US was already a very ‘racist’ place with its segregation and routine ‘lynching’ of African-Americans! Racism was the norm and always has been and I am astonished with how many Black Americans literally ‘transcend’ this existential reality and let love and light shine through so that these two reactions become fuel for the engines of ‘progression’ on every cultural front! The inherent energy that manifests within Fats Waller’s music is charged with political power even though this is cleverly disguised behind lyrics that the Black community can ‘see through’ – but which the White community cannot get behind. It is a type of very clever camouflage that allows Black people to ‘feel good’ within the existential psychological and physical space they occupy – and which the White community cannot penetrate, understand, counter or interfere with!
I hear musical and lyrical ‘Revolution’ emanating from a great Black man and his extraordinary music! His character is so virtuous and strong that every member of his band becomes enthused with the same ‘Revolutionary’ energy – which on occasion even included the odd young White person who sometimes was allowed to join Fats Waller on stage! Fats Waller exhumed anti-racism and was quite liked by the White community who couldn’t quite understand ‘why’ his presence made them feel this way! Many remained ‘racist’ toward Black people in general whilst deciding to tolerate Fats Waller due to his apparent level of artistic development! Fats Waller spread a very positive manifestation of what it means to be ‘African-American’ to a White audience that was unpredictable, spiteful and sometimes deadly in its reaction to ‘difference,’ To me, Fats Waller is a genius human-being who opens inter-dimensional doors and frees the entirety of humanity!