All Pimps Look Alike to Me

Unbleached Ernest Hogan
Unbleached Ernest Hogan (1865-1909) has the dubious distinction of being the man who wrote the first, or at least the most influential, of what were to be called coon songs. In a Chicago tavern in 1896 he heard and wrote down a song he called "All Coons Look Alike to Me." It became a national sensation. Though his hit provided Hogan with financial security for the rest of his life, he was not unaware of the stereotype it popularized (even more in the vicious sheet music cover illustrations than in the ridiculous lyrics), and he is said to have wished on his deathbed that he had never written it. Interestingly, in the song as he first heard it, the piano player's girlfriend opined, "all pimps look alike to me." And Hogan had simply tried to use a gentler blackface animal simile in order to tone down the lyric's negativity. From 101 Pop!

From Unbleached Ernest Hogan was a black man from Bowling Green, Kentucky. He took "All Pimps" and made it "All Coons"; he died in 1909 and was never recorded, but Arthur Collins (1864-1933) recorded the tune in 1899 and it's considered by some to be the First Rock 'n' Roll Record (Listen). Dave Wondrich describes it thus: "'All Coons' is a thoroughly modern record — so modern, in fact, that the first six notes of the chorus riff are rhythmically identical to the verse from "Satisfaction." And like "Satisfaction," the tempo is fast but not too fast to stomp. And it's short — in and out in two minutes and four seconds. As for the sound-the state of the art a hundred years ago was a process similar to the two-juice-cans-and-a-string we all played with in the days before kids had beepers and cell phones."

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