Is Music Truly Color Blind?

Today feels like a turning point for America and the world. The protests since the  killing of George Floyd have galvanized a huge part of our country to seek change. It’s also caused us all to look in the mirror. I hate to think of myself as a privileged white person but that’s the reflection I see today. And it hurts. Hurts to know that people I know are hurting and might be living in fear every time they leave the house. 

I have always thought of music, and in turn, myself as a songwriter and musician, as color blind. In truth, I probably have taken it for granted to the point of thinking “that’s not me” when events like this happen. I can’t do that anymore. 

I have a lifetime debt of gratitude to black musicians, songwriters and artists who created much of the music that informed my songwriting. Artists like Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan and many more have recorded my songs. Along the way I’ve been blessed to work with some of my favorite black songwriters and forged lasting friendships with them all. In my heart I don’t feel I ever thought of them as black. Just fellow songwriters. In that sense I hope I have been truly color blind. 

But today that doesn’t feel like enough. I fear I wasn’t seeing them or hearing them as black people. Just creative equals. I can’t do that anymore. 

What I can do is listen during this time. Listen to the voices of the oppressed and listen to the rich soundtrack of music created by black songwriters and musicians and say thank you.  Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf. An endless list and impossible to imagine a world without the contributions of black songwriters and musicians. 

To quote a songwriter who’s brought more joy into this world than I can fathom “Love’s in need of love today”. Stevie Wonder is a black man, and truly color blind when it comes to the message he’s given the world. God blessed him with a gift and in turn, gifted us all. 

I don’t know what else to do today but examine my heart and pray for change. I can do better. That’s something I CAN do. 

Black lives matter to all of us. 

Mark Cawley 

Nashville, Tennessee 

Photo : Shutterstock

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Check out this interview in M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!