Time Essay: The Stones and the Triumph of Marsyas

In theory, the lyrics the white boy is singing ought to enrage the audience with their racism and sexism. In theory.

Gold Coast slaveship

Bound for cotton fields,

Sold in a market

Down in New Orleans,

Scarred old slaver know

He's doin' all right,

Hear him whip the women

Just around midnight—

But 20, even ten rows back, the words can scarcely be heard. They exist not as nouns and verbs, but as a physical mass, a hot, indistinct slur like sausage meat: ground out of the famous lips, eaten by the mike, driven into banks of amplifiers...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!