In this edition of Progressive Forum, we conclude our celebration of the 15th Anniversary of the Black Rock Coalition with a tribute to the three co-founders of the organization: Guitarist/band leader exemplar Vernon Reid, musician/journalist Greg Tate; manager/video and film producer Konda Mason. In this final installment, we speak with Vernon Reid, the catalyst, visionary and spiritual father of the Black Rock Coalition.
We all know about the infamous phone call that you made to Konda and Greg Tate that kind of set this whole thing in motion. Tell us about some of the things that you were experiencing which prompted the phone call.
Well, at the time, I had started Living Colour. We had been doing that for close to a year after having left the tutelage and the band of Roland Shannon Jackson, who basically was a giant influence on me and continues to be. And it was time for me to set out on my own. So basically Living Colour started pretty much around ’83-ish and by ’84 it was named Living Colour. And we just were having a really tough time. At that time, the whole thing was to get a record deal. Times have really changed now. Even though a record deal is still considered to be something that’s significant, its significance has changed, because things are really different now, and they’re evolving. But anyway, at that time, being on one of the major labels‹’cause there ere more major labels back then‹that was what one did. It was really tough to get heard and it was also, I noticed, the same situation was all over for people I knew. Just didn’t have any place for them. All of us were really oddball, not in the Black crossover thing. “Cause at that time, the industry was kind of slow to fight for Black artists. It was basically existing day-to-day, by the rules, certain people got shut out. The commercial rules have changed, this is really the thing. And at one time the commercial rules really favored a kind of average interpretation of dance music, the interpretations of the love songs. And by the beginning to the middle ’80s, that was not the case. At that time, one artist who was well-known‹and even he was still kinda underground‹was Prince, that was doing anything really exciting, just on the major scene. It was just on my mind. And it was really seeing an Eye.