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TED2006

Stew: "Black Men Ski"

March 3, 2006

What happens when a black man visits Aspen? Singer/songwriter Stew and his band are about to let you know.

Stew - Singer/songwriter
Singer-songwriter Stew spins improvisatory songs drawn from his seemingly endless stable of stories and ideas. His musical Passing Strange won a Tony for Best Book in 2008. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Has anyone ever been to Aspen, Colorado?
00:28
It's not a joke yet;
00:31
those aren't the jokes.
00:32
Is this thing off?
00:35
I went to Aspen recently
00:42
and stumbled into this song.
00:45
♫ Black men go to Aspen ♫
00:54
♫ and rent colorful chalets. ♫
00:56
♫ Giggle at the questions ♫
01:05
♫ their mere presence seems to raise. ♫
01:07
♫ Get taken for men ♫
01:17
♫ we don't resemble in the least. ♫
01:19
"Are you ... ?"
01:24
"No."
01:26
♫ It's a winter wonderland ♫
01:28
♫ in the belly of the beast. ♫
01:31
♫ And black men ski. ♫
01:34
♫ Black men ski. ♫
01:40
♫ Black men send back sushi ♫
01:46
♫ with a scorned Yakuza's flair. ♫
01:48
♫ We make postmodern art ♫
01:57
♫ with bacon grease ♫
01:59
♫ and hot combed hair. ♫
02:01
♫ We secretly play Beethoven ♫
02:09
♫ inside our bassmobiles. ♫
02:12
♫ We can tell you how cool looks ♫
02:20
♫ but cannot show you how it feels ♫
02:23
♫ when black men ski. ♫
02:26
♫ When black men ski. ♫
02:30
♫ Black men now are students ♫
02:38
♫ of gay sensibility. ♫
02:40
♫ We wear ironic T-shirts ♫
02:43
♫ drenched in code unknown to thee. ♫
02:46
♫ We get baptized in Walden Pond ♫
02:49
♫ amongst a searing mob ♫
02:52
♫ because the cleansing blood of Jesus ♫
02:54
♫ could not do a thorough job. ♫
02:57
♫ Black men ski. ♫
03:00
♫ Black men ski. ♫
03:06
♫ Chinese guys can jump real high ♫
03:11
♫ and Germans cook soul food. ♫
03:14
♫ White boys rap and hippies nap ♫
03:17
♫ their dreads up to look rude. ♫
03:20
♫ Jazz is now suburban ♫
03:22
♫ it's Marsalisly clean. ♫
03:25
♫ And now we've got Viagra ♫
03:28
♫ everyone's a sex machine. ♫
03:31
♫ So black men ski. ♫
03:33
What else can we do?
03:38
♫ Black men ski. ♫
03:39
♫ Black men ski. ♫
03:45
♫ Black men ski. ♫
03:50
♫ Some kids I'll describe as friends ♫
03:56
♫ say I am race-obsessed. ♫
03:59
♫ The luxury of your opinion ♫
04:02
♫ shows that you are blessed. ♫
04:04
♫ See, I have poems about sunsets ♫
04:07
♫ flowers and the rain. ♫
04:10
♫ I've read them to policemen ♫
04:13
♫ but it was all in vain. ♫
04:16
♫ So black men ski. ♫
04:18
♫ Black men ski ... ♫
04:24
elegantly.
04:28
♫ Black men ski. ♫
04:29
♫ Black men ski. ♫
04:35

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Stew - Singer/songwriter
Singer-songwriter Stew spins improvisatory songs drawn from his seemingly endless stable of stories and ideas. His musical Passing Strange won a Tony for Best Book in 2008.

Why you should listen

Singer/raconteur Stew combines elements of cabaret, soul and subversive pop to create a unique style he's dubbed "Afro-baroque." Frequently likened to Cole Porter and Burt Bacharach, Stew spins songs with hook-filled melodies and taut poetic narratives: "Sophisticated songs that are not likely to be heard on the radio," writes the New Yorker.

He may be underplayed, but he's far from undiscovered. Entertainment Weekly twice awarded him "Album of the Year," and he and his collaborator Heidi Rodewald have been artists-in-residence two years running at the Sundance Theater Lab, developing their musical, Passing Strange, commissioned by New York's Public Theater; the show had an award-winning preview at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2006 and played at the Public in 2007 before beginning its current Tony Award-winning Broadway run.

The original video is available on TED.com
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