Living Colour: Keeping The Music Alive

One of the most recognizable guitar riffs recorded in America belongs to Living Colour. The band's 1988 hit "Cult of Personality" regularly makes "100 Greatest Songs Ever Written" lists and won the group Grammy Awards. But what made Living Colour unique was that all of its members were black in a genre — hard rock — dominated by white musicians.

Hear The Music

Behind the Sun

3 min 41 sec
 

Not Tomorrow

3 min 1 sec
 
Living Colour i i

For Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid (far right), if the music isn't the centerpiece, everything falls away. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist
Living Colour

For Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid (far right), if the music isn't the centerpiece, everything falls away.

courtesy of the artist

For a time, the band broke up, but it regrouped in 2000. Spearheaded by guitarist Vernon Reid and vocalist Corey Glover, Living Colour's latest album, The Chair in the Doorway, is an unapologetic homage to American hard rock, with a bluesy twist.

In an interview, NPR's Guy Raz wonders if "Cult of Personality" was a mixed blessing. Written in one session and performed at CBGB just a night later, Vernon Reid says the song has had an amazing life.

"Many artists have a rueful feeling towards their most popular song," Reid says. "I actually still love the song, 'Cult of Personality.' It's really so much more relevant now then it was then."

Living Colour doesn't sell out arenas anymore. The band plays small clubs and sells fewer records. But, compared to the literal mobs of attention in those early days, Glover says he welcomes the change.

"What I'm doing and how it's going right now is so much better for me, because there is no pressure," Glover says. "There is no fishbowl experience."

The years have also given the band wisdom. With age, Reid says "the music becomes even more crucial as a motivating factor." For Reid, if the music isn't the center, it falls away — he says he's seen it happen with many older musicians.

In this interview, Glover talks about the surreal experience of recording "Not Tomorrow," a song about his dying mother. The band also weighs in on being an all-black hard-rock group in a white-dominated genre.

"It didn't start with us," Reid says. "It won't end with us."

Purchase Featured Music

Chair in the Doorway

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Chair in the Doorway
Artist
Living Colour
Label
Mri
Released
2009

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.