Michael Davis, the bassist of influential late 1960s rock band MC5, has died of liver failure, his wife said Saturday. He was 68.
Kick out the jams, motherfucker!
Whitney Houston never said such a meaningful phrase in her life. She never challenged authority. She never once used her gift for anything beyond a paycheck.
Which is why her grotesque funeral was broadcast live on CNN, and most of you are wondering who in the hell MC5 were. The “Motor City 5″ were a groudbreaking punk band, before we had such a phrase. Their debut album, recorded live at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1969, is a legendary, influential blast to your frontal lobes that set the stage for the punk rock of the late ’70s.
Whitney Houston made songs that your mother enjoys. She happened to do so in the early days of MTV, which accounts for why her death seems so natural running non-stop on cable news and the internet. I was in the Atlanta airport, forced to listen to CNN’s coverage of her memorial service, and half-way watched as Jesse Jackson and others got their mugs in front of the camera, all crocodile tears over “our loss”.
Funny, I don’t lose anything when an over-rated pop singer gets to The Dead Pool. Michael Davis was one of the last of the MC5 remaining. Rob Tyner, vocalist, died in 1991, Fred “Sonic” Smith, guitarist and husband of Patti Smith, passed away in 1994. Don’t remember any big gala on those sad days, although the legacy of what the MC5 gave us grows stronger every year, while Houston’s claim to fame is a pretty, saccharin voice bleating out covers of Dolly Parton songs. I’m pretty sure Kevin Costner didn’t speak at Michael Davis’s funeral, in fact, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t know the MC5 from the Stooges.
The MC5 made their statement in a time when you could be arrested and sent to jail for a joint, as their manager John Sinclair learned. The band played protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, drawing the watchful eye of the FBI. Their refusal to edit “kick out the jams, motherfucker” got them dropped from their record label. The MC5 stood for something; they actually walked the walk and paid for it. Whitney Houston squandered her talents singing future karaoke favorites- no one marches in protest singing “I Will Always Love You”. In fact, along with other celebrity deaths such as Amy Winehouse, nobody is going to remember Whitney Houston in ten years. Because she’s a product- nothing more, nothing less. Sure, she had a pretty voice, but I suspect there are 1000 equally pretty voices working at Waffle Houses across this country, and maybe we’ll hear them, or not. But in the end, who cares?
Because of people like Michael Davis and the MC5, our country evolved. Their no holds barred take on rock and roll, their protests on the Vietnam war and the entrenched power structure of the Nixon era, that meant something. There isn’t a single Occupy camper that isn’t in their debt, even though they might not know it, because what is the “99%” movement but “Kick Out The Jams, Motherfucker” writ large.
So Michael Davis dies, and outside of a few diehard fans, nobody cares. Whitney Houston dies, and Sony and Apple jacks the price of her albums to cash in. Because in the end, thats all she was, a product. And nobody marches to a product.