Cartoon Black History: Alvin & The Chipmunks
Yes, R&B, pop, and music in general existed before these African American trailblazers were even born. But they brought something to the people that they hadn’t experienced prior. They were more in sync than NSync could’ve dreamed. Their presence was so influential that New Kids on the Block and The Backstreet Boys had to join forces to be only 10% as good. We honor you today, Alvin & The Chipmunks.
Alvin, Simon and Theodore were a band of misfits far before they were a band. Singer/songwriter Dave Seville wasn’t prepared for the backlash that would come from all sides when adopting black brothers. Dave, to some, seemed like a racist monster the way he worked the trio. Nevertheless, he loved them and pushed them because he saw they had a spark he could mold.
The brothers had a tone and pitch in their singing voices Seville knew was unique. He made them practice everyday for hours. But being able to sing was not enough. He demanded nothing less than musical perfection. They were made to dance and learn to play a variety of instruments as well.
When Dave FINALLY felt they were ready, he signed The Chipmunks up for Amateur Night at the Apollo. They were decked out in tuxedos. They belted out an original song, which is suicidal at the Apollo, while performing intricate dance moves. They didn’t miss a note nor a step. The audience roared!
The term “boy band” was coined on that day. Not only did they win, Alvin & The Chipmunks hardly got out alive after being hounded by new fans. They were signed to a major label almost immediately. They made millions and the amount of groupies was out of control.
Boy bands became the “it” thing thanks to the triple threat. They topped the charts for years and rode the wave of the new genre. But, like with anything else that’s “in”, the boy band fad died out. Their livelihood was threatened and they weren’t sure what they would do next.
Boy bands fell out of favor, but rap was still profitable. Seville decided to change their persona. He attempted to make them thugs and have them spit bars. But, as explained to us by the prophetic Dave Chappelle, there is a point where keeping it real goes wrong.
They were reinvented as BLAST which shamefully stood for Bitches Love Alvin, Simon and Theodore. But their new name, look and rap song called “Nutz in Yo Cheekz” were seen as laughably bad. That was the first and last single for the trio as rap artists. They were smart enough to play it off as a joke, however. They lived modest lives afterward. They performed sold out reunion shows years later of their old boy band hits. They were even awarded a star on The Walk of Fame.
The rap portion may have been a mistake, but Alvin & The Chipmunks changed music. They showed how important it was to be able to sing, dance and play instruments. They inspired so many that came after them, like me. I’m glad I was allowed to put a focus on what they did for us as artists and people period. From the basement of my heart, thank you, fellas.