Historical Comparison of Cultural Texts and Contexts Essay Example

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Historical Comparison of Cultural Texts and Contexts: Billy Preston vs Kaash Paige

               In the 1960s, it was difficult and risky for gay musicians to reveal their sexuality unlike in modern culture or the current generation when gay musicians openly and repeatedly proclaim their sexuality. This paper compares two gay Rhythm and Blues (R&B) American musicians from two different generations – Billy Preston (1946 – 2006) whose music career peaked in the 1960s and Kaash Paige (born 2001) who is currently on a rise (BBC Sounds, 2010; Saagar, 2020). The comparison covers the controversies and nature of cultures in which the two musicians explored their talents and entertained the world. Preston hid his sexuality under his Christian faith and he only came out of the closet sometime before his death (BBC Sounds, 2010). Kaash Paige whose first name stands for “Kill All Arrogance Stop Hatred” (KAASH) boldly proclaims her sexuality as a bisexual and is ready to defend it at all costs. Whereas Preston lived at a time and culture (the 1950s and 1960s) when Americans and the world mistreated and denied gay people many rights, Kaash lives in a culture that appreciates people for their sexual authenticity, and one that is highly accommodative.

Billy Preston hid his sexual identity because his cultural upbringing and the society he lived in were openly opposed to homosexuality. Billy was brought up in a Christian home and had grown up listening to gospel music. As a child, he learned to play the organ and served as a backup singer for gospel musicians James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson (BBC Sounds, 2010). Being a Christian, Billy could not come out as gay because that could contradict his religious beliefs and his place in his society. He was certain that coming out as gay whilst proclaiming to be a Christian would have hurt his music career, probably led to some form of ex-communication, and isolated him from his people (BBC Sounds, 2010). Most Americans were more religious in the 1960s than they are today and religious beliefs shaped cultural beliefs and practices much more than they do now. Therefore, Billy chose to hide his true sexuality and he only revealed it sometime before his death in 2006, when the American culture had changed to accommodate the LGBT culture in arts, politics, sports, business, and almost all spheres of life including in the Christian religious circles.

Kaash Paige is growing up and exploiting her musical talent as an openly gay woman in a culture that has progressively accepted the LGBT community. Paige’s generation is highly understanding and they show her great love and support through social media. She has more than 330,000 followers on Instagram, about 130,000 followers on Twitter, and 120,000 on Facebook (Saagar, 2020). Since these figures count in the modern tech culture that drives the world of arts, and entertainment it can be safe to state that Kaash enjoys significant support. Most of her fans know of her sexual orientation and have chosen to keep supporting her (Saagar, 2020). In the current generation and culture, people are becoming less critical of the personal or private choices celebrities choose to adopt unlike during Billy’s time when they had to make personal choices in a manner that resonated with the majority in society.

There are many contrasts between the cultures in which Billy and Kaash sing R&B because America has undergone progressive changes in all issues affecting the LGBT community. Unlike in the 1960s when marriages between gay people were largely banned, today same-sex couples across all 50 states can get married since the 2015 landmark ruling in the Obergefell v Hodges case which ruled that state prohibitions on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional (history.com, 2021). It is these legislations that have shaped a change in culture from one of condemning gay people to one that seems to celebrate them especially when celebrities such as Paige are involved. Paige has stated that she intends to keep the identity of her boyfriend/girlfriend secret. She is openly bisexual and remains confident that her sexual identity should not define her music or shape opinions about her. In an interview with the Dallas Observer in December 2019, she opened up about her sexuality by revealing that she had a girlfriend who was stolen by another friend. Such casual talk about belonging to the LGBT comes up because the American culture regarding sexuality has changed into one of acceptance and accommodation rather than condemnation and intolerance.

Kaash’s music remains unaffected by her sexuality, if anything, her sexuality seems to be advantageous to the growth of her music career. Although she served briefly as a teenager in gospel music by singing in a choir, that association has in no way blocked her from announcing her LGBT status and her fans have not used it against her. Paige’s 2018 hit single “Love songs” rose to number 2 on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart accumulating 6 million streams (Saagar, 2020). The song also topped on Apple. She continues to release many songs that top the charts. Her 2019 single “Parked Car Convos” rose to number 13 on the R&B/soul chart (Saagar, 2020). Kaash, probably not as talented as Billy Preston, is doing great at her young age and has a bright future in music because of the cultural changes the American society, including conservative states, like her native Texas have gone through since the 1960s.

Billy had a troubled life as a gay musician. In the 1970s, Billy was engaged to Kathy Silva, a model, and actress. When his friend Sly Stone had an affair with Silva, Billy stopped having relationships with women. Only close friends such as Keith Richards knew all along that Billy was gay since the 1970s. Preston later stated that some musician (a pianist) and later a local pastor sexually abused him when he was aged 9 (BBC Sounds, 2010). When he told his mother she did not believe him. The mother may have failed to believe him because few people in the 1960s were ready to confront controversies involving sexual molestation. Being black, systemic racism in the criminal justice system, education, and all other areas made it difficult for Billy to get justice and exposure necessary for him to freely choose his sexual orientation. In his struggles with his sexuality (denial and hiding) led Billy to start abusing drugs to cope with the guilt he felt.

Kaash lives in a society that defends her rights and freedoms as a gay person while Billy Preston lived in a judgmental and culturally inhibiting society that shaped personal choices on sexuality. The passage of time has allowed many legislations to come into force, made America more culturally integrated (between conservatives and liberals), and expanded the freedoms and rights all Americans enjoy regardless of their race, culture, gender, or social class. The changed context gives the two talented musicians very different fortunes in music. At 20, Paige has declared her allegiance to the LGBT community and is doing well in her music, but Billy Preston had to hide his sexuality for more than 30 years fearing for his music career, and all of his social-economic wellbeing.

References

BBC Sounds. (2010, December 21). Billy Preston: That’s the Way God Planned It. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b00wqb5d

history.com. (2021, May 27). Gay Marriage. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/gay-marriage

Saagar. (2020, February 27). Kaash Paige wiki, family, boyfriend, girlfriend, net worth. Retrieved from https://starsoffline.com/kaash-paige-wiki-family-dating-boyfriend-net-worth/