Monday, September 3, 2012

Living Colour - "Open Letter (To a Landlord)"

Open Letter (To a Landord) - Vivid

(Debuted July 8, 1989, Peaked #82, 5 Weeks on the Chart)

Yes, the title of the band is right. Living Colour's name uses the British spelling, because founder Vernon Reid was born in the U.K. even though the band hailed from New York. While often tagged as a novelty because hard rock groups of the era weren't usually ethnic, Living Colour was the real deal; they proved it by opening for acts Guns 'N' Roses and The Rolling Stones.

"Open Letter (To a Landlord)" was one of my favorite songs from the group's LP Vivid. At the time, I was still in high school and really didn't understand the landlord vs. tenement argument as much as I do today. However, I did get that the words of the song were socially aware and that the lyrics expressed the plight of those being forced out of their homes. In New York, rent control had made it tough for some to move out of their tenements, so some unscrupulous landlords took the step of hiring
hoodlums to rob the tenants. In some cases, they had the hoods burn the houses (mentioned in the lines of the song) so that people had to leave. Then, the tenements were razed for new and more expensive units.

From the opening guitar riff to the final "fight for your neighbor," vocalist (and occasional actor) Corey Glover told it like it was for a group of people living in New York at the time. He's backed up by a solid guitar attack and some of the finest music on what may be one of my favorite 1980s hard rock albums. While many focused on the group's race, their message has remained just as true today as it was than. That isn't something you can say about all of the era's rock acts.

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