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In Living Black & White

Dick Gregory

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Album Review

1961 was unquestionably humorist Dick Gregory's breakthrough year. After numerous nightclub and television appearances Gregory's first long-player In Living Black and White (1961) was issued to considerable acclaim, even charting at a very respectable number 23 on the Top Pop Album survey. More than simply a comedian, Gregory was able to diffuse and dilute the racial bias being felt throughout America with his own seemingly innocuous observations. In actual fact, Gregory's modus operandi was to point out some of the glaring inconsistencies that existed between traditional old-school rationales and the newer, hipper and, for its era, radical points of view emerging from outside the establishment. So different were Gregory's insights, a narrator of sorts is incorporated to place the artist in context. 2000s listeners — many of whom won't be familiar with the concept of the comedy or the "party record" phenomenon to begin with — will undoubtedly be non-plussed by the presence of ABC Network's so-called "Man on the Move" Alex Dreier as he tempers Gregory's act — basically telling Middle America that is it OK to listen. Dreier sets the stage, which is located at the original Chicago, Il-based Playboy Club, and without wasting a beat, Gregory immediately spins the media's skewed mentality back to them. He tells his audience that instead of reading the local Windy City area newspapers — which were concurrently calling him the "...white Mort Sahl... — they should read the "Congo Daily Tribune" and see where they are "...calling Mort Sahl the white Dick Gregory. Each of the LP's eight tracks centers on a specific theme. However the contents are presented in highly edited pastiches as opposed to a single audio vérité performance that moves organically from topic to topic. That certainly doesn't impact the power of Gregory's delivery or the potency of his messages. Although his raps would take on the mantle of dissertations, here he simply plants the seeds of change. Of course, there is much more to his standup act than race relations. He jokes about the nuisances of being famous, one of which is being thrust into the watchful eyes of the IRS. Gregory also takes on politics of the day, numerous John F. Kennedy references — whom he calls "my president" — in the present tense. Nowhere are his comments as poignant than during the insightful "Commentary on Affairs Political" and "Thoughts on Outer Space." Initially he chides that he wants a change in the White House because "...Truman gave us eight years of piano playing, Ike gave us eight years of golf, I want four years of bingo!" The latter title brings up not only the US/Soviet challenges and interplanetary goals, but the space that exists between the listener's ears as well. Thoughts such as "...wouldn't it be funny if Nikita Khrushchev didn't hate us, but his interpreters did" are enough to give one pause. It is during these crucial moments that Gregory gets his listeners to laugh and, perhaps more importantly, to think. In 2008, Collectors' Choice Music issued In Living Black and White on CD — making the recording available for the first time in decades.


Born: October 12, 1932 in St. Louis, MO

Genre: Comedy

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the first African-American comedians to cross over to mainstream white audiences, Dick Gregory was also one of the fiercest sociopolitical satirists of his day; using the nightclub stage as his soapbox, he provocatively explored the racial inequities...
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In Living Black & White, Dick Gregory
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