Fishbone is likely the greatest musical group to never win a major music award (Grammy or AMA) and better than many of the groups that have won. Their musical stylings do not fit neatly into any single category and therefore their musical genius is often overlooked by the mainstream. This is unfortunate as Fishbone’s sound (a unique blend of punk, funk, ska, soul—serious amounts of soul, like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke kind of soul, rock (more of the metal type), reggae, and the use of a theremin (click the link to “play” a theremin, it’s pretty sweet)), provides music aficionados with a listening experience that elicits reactions ranging from awe and disbelief to complete stupification. Upon hearing Fishbone for the first time, people realize that their life just got infinitely better because they have experienced the sound (for lack of a better term, it’s eargasmic).
The group is from various neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area and came of age in the late ’70s, when punk and ska were taking over parts of the L.A. music scene. They were influenced by George Clinton and the P-Funk and numerous other groups, many that were stretching the bounds of musicality. As the cacophony of musical genres grew into a style they could call their own, Fishbone began to have significant influence on the likes of Perry Farrell, Ice T, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, Sublime, and No Doubt, to name just a few. Though the group never achieved the commercial success of the aforementioned artists, without this crew of ridiculously talented Gentlemen, our musical options would be much more standard, or worse, or way worse.
Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson, along with members of the band (past and present) created a documentary about the Fishbone story. Everyday Sunshine (2010) provides a glimpse into the lives of Norwood, Angelo, “Fish“, Kendall, Chris & “Dirty” Walt, the original Family, and a few of the new members. The film was nominated three times for best documentary (Los Angeles Film Festival (2010), Guam International Film Festival (2011), & Washington D.C. Independent Film Festival (2011) where it claimed the Grand Jury Award. So while they haven’t yet gotten the kind of recognition they deserve (I’m talking to you, voting members of the Academy) from the Kingmakers of the music Industry, they have earned some well deserved props for the documentary.
History only allows for analysis, observation, and study, and therefore we can’t change the trajectory of events that have long since passed. That said, people in positions of power could initiate a new category at the AMA & Grammy Awards nights—The Fishbone Award. The guidelines for inclusion (garnering a nomination) would require that only bands who do not conform to one musical style/genre and generally defy singular labels that attempt to keep them “in the box“ would be eligible. It’s a thought; maybe one of the Grammy voters who is reading this will give it serious consideration, maybe not. Either way, providing new artists (who don’t conform to the “rules” of the industry) with recognition that their unique sound need not be changed in order to be appreciated on a grander stage could spawn a whole new generation of sound that will help change our world for the better.
Sunless Saturday – Live from Bordeaux