A Flower is a Lovesome Thing
I’m so glad you’ve visited.
This blog was initially a companion site for a bit of teaching I was doing at my son’s school, the Pacific Boychoir Academy. Despite the fact that their bread-and-butter CD was African amerucan spirituals, they did not make much effort to teach African American history in their curriculum. After failed attempts to get them to adjust their approach, I offered to come in and do a series of lectures on my own. I have no formal training in African American history, by the way; but I felt that I had a lot to share and that I could, in some small way, put things in context.
This has been a personal mision of mine for a while, since studying music at Mills and finding that the “20th Century American Music” course didn’t include Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, or John Coltrane (if it included Scott Joplin, it might have only been in reference to his influence on turn-of-the-century European composers). What about Will Marion Cook, James P. Johnson, William Grant Still? I felt that the Music Department either had to change the name of the course, or not excluded Black composers and performers. To rewrite history to exclude African American achievement is to cheat ourselves of the knowledge of who we really are, in the name of education.
Another example. Ten years ago, I took my son to his friend’s 5th birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, and watched this video interpretation of the history of rock and roll. There was not one image of Chuck Berry. No Little Richard. No Fats Domino. No Bo Diddley. They were teaching kids that Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly invented Rock and Roll – by themselves. Now, it’s likely most of the kids weren’t really watching the film anyway – there’s a lot to do at Chuck E. Cheese. But Rock and Roll was a marvelous collision of black and white, North and South (not to mention East and West), country and R&B – it was so much more than the sum of its parts, all tied to a moving train! Why not tell the truth about that? It’s baffling, this lie, because the truth is so much more beautiful, so much richer and deliciously complex. It’s like sniffing at a fake flower, when you couldbe enjoying the living, breathing thing.
My obsession with African American history through Music is that music is my way *in*, and I hope that this website becomes a place that is a resource for my son, and my friends and family, and anyone else who loves it like I do.
I plan to add an updated links page, embed more audio, and, with some help, put some more real history and context into “How I Got Over”. And certainly, as I learn more about Caribbean and South and Central American musics, more of that will be incorporated as well, since it’s becoming clear to me that we are all America (what else is the bo Diddley beat?) As I compose and perform my own music, I often find myself searching for something that reminds me of someone that sounds like a time and a place that I just have to share with someone, and I hope this blog will become that space for research, discovery and exchange.
Again, thanks for stopping in.