Ted Nugent has done a lot of things over the years that people consider racist, like slandering George Floyd, threatening to kill Barack Obama, falsely blaming the Capitol insurrection on Black Lives Matter, and making seemingly pro-apartheid statements, among many other examples. However, Nugent firmly believes he isn’t racist, and he eagerly explained why in a new video uploaded to Facebook Live.
As noted by Spin, the clip, which lasts over half an hour, sees Nugent having a “campfire chat” with his wife at night. The two explain that they were just talking about George Orwell’s book 1984 (at which point they hold up a new copy of the book, as if to disprove any naysayers) and the ’60s psych-rock band Vanilla Fudge because Nugent got a call from Carmine Appice, their original drummer. As Nugent noted, Vanilla Fudge’s biggest hit was a cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. Black artists, he said, “delivered all the inspiration for all great music” back then, and those very Black artists are the same people who Nugent claims prove he isn’t racist.
According to Nugent, he was called the n-word by a member of The Funk Brothers — the iconic Detroit-based Black session band that performed on the majority of Motown songs from the late ’50s until the early ’70s — and it was one of the biggest compliments of his life. As he tells it, his band Lourds won a battle of the bands contest to open for The Supremes at Detroit’s Cobo Hall in 1963. When they were sound-checking at the venue before the gig started, Lourds caught the attention of The Funk Brothers side-stage.
“When we knew that we were going to open for The Supremes, we knew that The Funk Brothers and the Motown Orchestra, the top musical authority on earth, would be right next to us onstage… We knew to play tight and powerful,” said Nugent. “[The Funk Brothers were] watching us, kind of snickering. And the biggest, baddest, Blackest Funk Brother of all stood up and started moseying over towards us. I’m going, ‘John, Todd, look! A Funk Brother’s coming over here!’ So we’re putting our guitars away and the Funk Brother — a big, old, Black dude — comes up, puts his hand on my shoulder, and goes, ‘That was great stuff, boys. You keep playing guitar like that and you’re going to be a n****r when you grow up.’ The greatest compliment in the world: ‘You keep playing guitar like that, you’ll be a n****r when you grow up.’ That word was the perfect expression that we had soul.”
Nugent went on to say that he was tapped to MC an event for the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but he was unable to do it because he was touring abroad at the time. “This is why I’m so proud of my musical legacy,” he said in the Facebook clip. “To this day, I use it as a badge of honor.”
“Everybody who pays attention — not the ones who call me a racist, but the people who are actually honest and pay attention — knows that I have paid homage and reverence to the Black heroes of music all my life, which means I’m the anti-racist,” continued Nugent. “So if you find somebody who calls Ted Nugent a racist, you are looking at a subhuman piece of shit who lives a lie.”
Earlier this month, Tom Morello said he’s still friends with Nugent despite their opposing political beliefs because they both have “respect for Black artists who created rock ‘n’ roll.” Watching this new Facebook Live video, it’s abundantly clear that Nugent believes Black musicians earned and deserve their credit for creating the foundation of rock. It’s also painfully obvious he doesn’t know that saying the n-word, even when quoting (or singing along to) something a Black person said, is unacceptable. You can enjoy music by Black artists and still be capable of saying racist, hate-baiting, willfully ignorant things decade after decade; just look at Nugent.
The video is available to watch in full below. Be warned: Nugent’s wife interrupts him nearly every 20 seconds to ask questions, she talks louder than Nugent so it’s hard to hear him by comparison, and she routinely doesn’t understand that the people singing in bands aren’t inherently the ones playing or writing the music. In other words, this irksome video can be irksome.