Black Voices In Nerd Culture: Scatman Corthers and Buster Jones

A professional microphone in a recording studio

Here’s something you might hear every day – your voice matters. But what does that mean? If we’re talking about politics, we would say that your voice is your vote, and it is literally counted. If we’re talking social media, your voice is but one in a million, looking for a place to land in the mind of others. But rarely do we talk about the voices behind the characters we see on screen. These are the voices that breathe life into the animated/digital creations we see on screen. We recognize the voice of Goku and what it means when he begins to growl and yell – a power-up is coming. But more than life, the right person can provide representation and acceptance. When you’re a young kid, and you’re one of the only people watching Transformers, hearing the voice of Scatman Crothers or Buster Jones is a comforting experience. Here’s a pair of robots that speak similar to those around you. Their delivery and diction resonate with you more profoundly than Optimus Prime ever could. It’s this familiarity that brings you closer to the show. You’re not just watching. You’re becoming an active participant because you can hear yourself in the show.

It’s essential to pay homage to the black voices behind the characters we love. Today, we give props to Scatman Crothers and Buster Jones. Scatman, who played Jazz, was an actor and musician. From Blackplotation to teaching little kids about The Shining, Scatman was a working entertainer for most of his life. He became the voice of everyone’s favorite Porsche later in his career as he served as the voice from 1984 -1987 and the animated movie in 1986. But he wasn’t just the voice of Jazz; he was also the voice of Hong Kong Phooey, a cartoon about a dog that’s a crime fighter disguised as a simple janitor.

Buster Jones was the voice behind Blaster, the Autobot version of Soundwave. But Buster played more than an Autobot, he was also the voice of Winston in The Real Ghostbusters and Doc in G.I. Joe. And years before we would get John Stewart in the Justice League, Buster was the voice of Black Vulcan, our black superhero that fought alongside the original founding members.