Joe’s Jukebox – “Redbone”

Recently I’ve been digging into the catalog of the funk-rock band Redbone. If you’re not familiar with that name, you might be familiar with a joyously groovy song of theirs called “Come and Get Your Love.” It hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, it’s heard in the Marvel movies Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 and Avengers: Endgame, and it’s currently featured in a commercial for Applebee’s.

Redbone has a bunch of other great songs too, like “Maggie,” and “The Witch Queen of New Orleans,” and “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee.” Those first two tracks also appeared on the Billboard singles chart, but “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee” did not, even though it hit Number 1 in countries like Belgium and the Netherlands in 1973. That’s because the song was an unapologetic protest against the brutal treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government, particularly in light of a siege earlier that year in the Oglala Lakota village of Wounded Knee in South Dakota– the very same site of the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. It was an especially meaningful topic for Redbone, since their core members were proud Native Americans themselves. And while the band’s record company was happy to release, and profit from, Redbone’s more upbeat music, they were reluctant to promote a rebellious, anti-government protest song in the wake of the Wounded Knee conflict.

Cover of the graphic novel about Redbone, a drawing of the band members dressed in Native American clothing with a guitar and American flag

That’s just one of the many fascinating things I learned from the new graphic novel Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band, written by Christian Staebler & Sonia Paoloni, with art by Thibault Balahy. It was also created in cooperation with Pat Vegas, who founded Redbone with his late brother Lolly back in the late 1960s. This book is a vivid portrait of an underappreciated band, including their interactions with rock legends Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. But it also chronicles some important yet often-neglected chapters of American history from an Indigenous perspective. 

Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band is, of course, part of our print collection here at the Livingston Public Library, and if our copy’s currently unavailable you can also request one from a number of other BCCLS libraries. It’s also available as an ebook on Hoopla Digital— where you can also stream or temporarily download some of Redbone’s most popular songs

And if you’re looking for more great graphic novels about stellar musicians, here at the Livingston Public Library we also have titles like Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California; Fab 4 Mania: A Beatles Obsession and the Concert of a Lifetime; and one of my personal favorites, Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns, and Moonage Daydreams.

That’s all for this edition of Joe’s Jukebox, so until next time, remember: find it, find it, go on and love it if you like it…

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