View Full Version : Miller Rock 'n' Roll promotion stirs racial controversy

08-16-2004, 04:37 PM
Beverage World (http://www.beverageworld.com/beverageworld/headlines/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000612800)

AUGUST 16, 2004

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

MILWAUKEE -- A Miller Brewing Co. promotion celebrating the "50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll" has Rolling Stone cover shots of Elvis Presley, Blondie and others on eight commemorative beer cans. What's missing is a black artist.

Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, said the absence is "beyond conspicuous" since black artists often are credited with inventing rock 'n' roll.

"It would be like doing a set of cans of six great Impressionist painters and not including any French people on it," he said. "It leaves out an enormous amount."

The brewer and the magazine issued the cans this summer, depicting Elvis Presley, Blondie, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Willie Nelson, as well as two guitars.

Gary Armstrong, chief marketing officer for Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media, said race wasn't a consideration when choosing the artists.

"We didn't even consciously think pro or con, the same way that the only woman on there is Blondie. We just went with the people that we thought were appropriate," he said. "We went through (the covers) and said these people we don't think are appropriate, or wouldn't appeal to Miller drinkers."

Armstrong noted Rolling Stone wasn't around for the birth of rock 'n' roll - it was first published in 1967 - when many formative black artists of the genre emerged. And many artists who appeared on covers balked at being associated with a promotion involving alcohol, he said.
Jimi Hendrix's estate, for instance, is protective of his image, Armstrong said. "Again I think it might have had something to do with the beer."

Miller spokesman Scott Bussen said the company started with a broad wish list.

"I'm sure that our objective was to get as diverse a representation of musical acts as well as diversity," he said, but the company's choices were limited to Rolling Stone covers.

Miller spokeswoman Molly Reilly said other artists were considered, but "these are the artists that gave us approval to use their images on the beer cans."

Six of the initial 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1986 were black, including Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles and Little Richard. The Hall of Fame, which is throwing a summer concert series sponsored by Miller Lite, declined to comment on the cans.

Todd Mesek, the hall of fame's senior marketing director, said "African heritage is critical" to rock's development.

"Arguably all rock and roll came from, or at least was greatly influenced by, African culture," Mesek said. "Rock and roll came from R&B, jazz, folk. All those genres before rock and roll came together to birth rock and roll."

William McKeen, chairman of the University of Florida journalism department and editor of the book "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay," called the list strange.

"I look at rock 'n' roll in racial terms. Rock and roll is black America meeting white America," McKeen said. "It's about the merger of white people's music, country, with black people's music, rural blues.

"I mean, sure, you can argue that Elvis opened the door, but then Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Bo Didley came through," McKeen said.

Armstrong said each of the artists represents developments in rock history. For instance, Willie Nelson represents Americana and rock's roots, while Alice Cooper is "stadium rock and shock."

The artists weren't paid to appear on the cans, although some received perks such as free beer or magazine subscriptions, Armstrong said.

He said he hasn't heard anything negative about the promotion, which is running in conjunction with three Rolling Stone special editions: rock immortals, moments and photos. In its immortals edition, 20 of the 50 rockers are black.

Thompson said everyone has an opinion when it comes to rock, and the cans may have been designed to generate buzz more than anything else.

"My guess is a lot of people will have a lot to say about this list," he said. "Oftentimes that's the point."

08-16-2004, 06:47 PM
Warning... Jesse Jackson will blackmail Miller Brewing... you saw it here first...

T Park Num 9
08-16-2004, 07:33 PM
Dont these groups have better things to do......

08-16-2004, 07:50 PM
I'm not so much offended by the lack of racial diversity as I am by the utter idiocy of not including any black musicians. Surely some of the black rock legends would have allowed their images to be used. Ray Charles? Chuck Berry? Stevie Wonder? Little Richard?

It's like Budweiser doing rap themed bottles and only featuring Eminem, Vanilla Ice, 3rd Bass, and Snow.

Ed Helicopter Jones
08-16-2004, 11:41 PM
Willie Nelson? Blondie? Def Leopard?

If your short-list is only going to be six artists I doubt any of those would be on my 50th Anniversary of Rock list!

They're either targeting a specific demographic with that group or someone pulled out his old cassette tapes from 1985!

I wonder what artists would be featured in a series featured on Colt 45 bottles?

Guru of Nothing
08-17-2004, 09:27 PM
I wonder what artists would be featured in a series featured on Colt 45 bottles?

Barry White immediately crossed my mind. Isaac Hayes, maybe.