General Platt on American IdolAs you probably know, American Idol is back for its 9th season, and every year the show loves to showcase auditioning performers who have absolutely no chance of making into the competition, but who are incredibly entertaining nonetheless (think William Hung). This year’s leading candidate for top prize in that category seems to be General Larry Platt, the 62-year-old spoken-word performer (you can’t really call him a singer or rapper), who had the AI judges falling out last night with his original composition “Pants on the Ground.” It was evident from the outset that this one would go down in AI history as one of the most memorable auditions. Top judge Simon Cowell even remarked, “I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit.” And, as might be expected, Platt has created quite the stir on Twitter, YouTube, and other social networks. (Check out a “remix” version of the tune below.)

Yeah, General Platt’s outrageous performance made for excellent comedy, but before you write the guy off as just one more American Idol audtion-phase buffoon, you need to know the guy’s back story. According to USA Today, Platt is a community activist with a heroic history. He participated in some of the landmark moments of the civil rights movement, organizing sit-ins in the South as part of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Georgia. He was beaten during the Bloody Sunday march — led by Rev. Hosea Williams and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. In fact, he got his nickname, “General,” from Williams because of his courageous work in the movement. The man is a true hero.

But why, you may ask, would such a distinguished activist sully his reputation with a goofy appearance on American Idol? Well, there may be a method to his madness. Those who were able to listen beyond the sillliness of Platt’s song to hear its lyrics know that “Pants on the Ground” was a scathing commentary on the thuggish and socially counterproductive behavior of young urban men in today’s society. It’s as if the General were saying, “I marched and got my butt kicked for this?”

We salute you, General, for the candor of your message. Here’s hoping that you’re able to parlay that 15 minutes of AI fame into something that will challenge the hearts and minds of our young people.

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