The band, still the most successful Native American rock group of all time, is now the subject of a new graphic-novel biography.
Redbone, the quartet that gave the world the 1974 top five sing-along hit “Come and Get Your Love,” is the subject of a new biography. But instead of a traditional narrative, the book is a graphic novel/comic book — which might strike some as odd. After all, this is Redbone, not the Avengers.
But, in some eyes, the guys in Redbone, still the most successful Native American rock band this country has produced, are indeed superheroes. So the format of “Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band” by Christian Staebler, Sonia Paoloni and Thibault Balahy — telling the story of two Fresno, Calif. brothers of Shoshone, Yaqui and Mexican descent, Pat and Lolly Vegas, who became noted L.A. session players and songwriters before moving on to plumb their roots with Redbone — is appropriate. Not all heroes wear capes, and some wear buckskin.
Photo of Redbone circa 1970Photo: Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Stringer
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when guitarist Lolly and bassist Pat started, pop music that included “Indian” elements was mostly made by whites in a context that made it either gimmicky (The Electric Indian’s “Keem-O-Sabe”), stereotypical (Cher’s “Half Breed”) or well-meaning but inaccurate (Don Fardon’s “Indian Reservation” which became an even bigger hit for the Raiders.) It’s not that there hadn’t been Native American performers making pop music — guitarist Link Wray (who made the classic 1958 instrumental “Rumble”) and folk singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie had been active since the ‘50s and ‘60s respectively — but they didn’t enjoy the widespread exposure of their non-Native counterparts.
REDBONE PLAYLIST: For a curated Spotify playlist of Redbone tracks, go to https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3NMOD4cwWs6eu5XLtaWlxA?si=d2oh_Vg9RDy8URzFSRa8wg
Redbone, which also included guitarist/dancer Tony Bellamy (real name Robert Anthony Avila) and original drummer Peter DePoe, changed all that. Before Robbie Robertson got acclaim for his Native-influenced rock with the “Contact from the Underworld of Redboy” and “Music for the Native Americans” albums in the ‘90s, Redbone brought an identifiable Native American consciousness into America’s living rooms in the ‘70s on such TV shows as “Midnight Special” and “American Bandstand” and into the world’s rock venues by sharing bills with Marvin Gaye, Kiss, Steely Dan and Parliament-Funkadelic among others. Indeed, “Come and Get Your Love” not only was a pop hit but crossed over to the R&B charts and even had the kids on “Soul Train” dancing.
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