King’s X; victims of racial stereotyping?

I’ve recently been listening to a lot of King’s X. Though I’d heard their stuff a while back just right now they’ve really hit the spot with me. If you go through the youtube videos of their music one particular comment comes out strong. “Most underrated band ever.” And I agree. For their time they were at the very forefront of rock. Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam reputedly said that King’s X invented grunge. Billy Sheehan the virtuoso bassist in this video says that King’s X should have been bigger than U2. Rock bands like Extreme, Mr. Big and later bands like RATM all seem to have got some inspiration from King’s X when you listen to their music chronologically.

Yet why are they so underrated? It can be said that many bands fall foul of the music industry but these guys worked very hard with the industry itself and yet they never hit the big time. I could be wrong but I think it’s because they are a mixed race band. We have to remember that in the early 80s MTV were still not showing many black artists including Michael Jackson. Significant numbers of Americans still think that mixed race marriage should be banned. I think in that kind environment marketing a band like King’s X would have to really rise above racial stereotyping. How many black frontmen are there in rock/heavy rock/metal bands? Not that many and I think those that are around are probably from more recent acts than King’s X was. So as with a lot of things it was a huge marketing issue. Racial prejudice would’ve dampened King’s X obvious rise to the top.

Obviously it’s sad. They are an astonishing band combining sounds that even today very few bands can authentically do. Yet they live on in the memories of their hardcore fan base. Long live King’s X.


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