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Andy Zax

Andy Zax  (@andyzax) is a Grammy-nominated music producer. His writing--under his own name and the pseudonym @Discographies--has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Oxford American and elsewhere. The Village Voice hailed him as its music critic of the year in 2010, and he received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 2014. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is at work on a book about Beverly Hills in the 1980s.

"'She Comes To Me Softly With Crackers And Beer': The Creeptastic MOR Misogyny Of Bobby Goldsboro"
Sexism has always been the soft white underbelly of mid-20th century pop music. For every ode to freedom, discovery and expanded possibility voiced by a male artist, there is, lurking beneath the surface, an unfortunate corollary: ”but not for you, little lady,"

Most discussions of musical misogyny focus on songs and artists that are considered “important”: the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, etc. But this blurs and confuses the issue, forcing us into endless sidebar discussions and uses of the word “problematic.” If we want to see sexist attitudes in pop clearly and without the need for equivocation or allowance-making, we are far better off examining music for which no obfuscating claim to anything resembling greatness exists. Bobby Goldsboro is a perfect case in point.

Between 1963 and 1973, Goldsboro scored eleven US top 40 hits, and released nearly two dozen other singles that grazed the lower reaches of the charts. Today, he is almost entirely forgotten. This is not because his work was ahead of its time, or because its edgy innovations doomed him to cult status; rather, it is because Goldsboro’s mawkish mid-tempo sentimentality, lachrymose arrangements and drippy lyrics are quintessentially mediocre. His work’s sole virtue, for our present purposes, is its rigidly consistent and relentlessly foregrounded view of the gender binary: men are creatures of pure id and agency; women stay home, make dinner, bear children, remain chastely by the door waiting for non-monogamous partners to return, and die under mysterious circumstances. These aren’t the aggressive putdowns of an “Under My Thumb,” but the soft-spoken credo of the Silent Majority. (It’s no coincidence that Goldsboro’s biggest hit was in 1968.)

There is nothing exceptional about the Goldsborovian worldview—most other male artists of the era, with or without countercultural street-cred, espoused similar values—but his work’s acute absence of redeeming qualities makes him an ideal lens through which we can isolate and understand the attitudes of the period. I’ll be unpacking these attitudes in detail, while also making some illustrative connections between Goldsboro, his contemporaries, and his successors.