Fresh off the heels of our JuneTeenth reading lists (Part One and Part Two) , I’m back with another celebration of black culture; Black Music Month. “Created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, this month celebrates the African American musical influences that comprise an essential part of our nation’s treasured cultural heritage.” Black people have had a hand in basically every genre of music created, we are a very rhythmic people. This reading list focuses on the roots of southern Black music and the life of some great Black musicians from North Carolina.
BY NADINE COHODAS
Born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone (1933-2003) began her musical life playing classical piano. A child prodigy, she wanted a career on the concert stage, but when the Curtis Institute of Music rejected her, the devastating disappointment compelled her to change direction. She turned to popular music and jazz but never abandoned her classical roots or her intense ambition. By the age of twenty six, Simone had sung at New York City’s venerable Town Hall and was on her way. Tapping into newly unearthed material on Simone’s family and career, Nadine Cohodas paints a luminous portrait of the singer, highlighting her tumultuous life, her innovative compositions, and the prodigious talent that matched her ambition.
BY SARAH BRYAN, BEVERLY PATTERSON AND MICHELLE LANIER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY TITUS BROOKS HEAGINS AND CEDRIC N. CHATTERLEY
Distributed for the North Carolina Arts Council
Thelonius Monk, Billy Taylor, and Maceo Parker–famous jazz artists who have shared the unique sounds of North Carolina with the world–are but a few of the dynamic African American artists from eastern North Carolina featured in The African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina. This first-of-its-kind travel guide will take you on a fascinating journey to music venues, events, and museums that illuminate the lives of the musicians and reveal the deep ties between music and community. Interviews with more than 90 artists open doors to a world of music, especially jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, gospel and church music, blues, rap, marching band music, and beach music. New and historical photographs enliven the narrative, and maps and travel information help you plan your trip. Included is a CD with 17 recordings performed by some of the region’s outstanding artists.
BY WILLIAM FERRIS
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, folklorist William Ferris toured his home state of Mississippi, documenting the voices of African Americans as they spoke about and performed the diverse musical traditions that form the authentic roots of the blues. Now, Give My Poor Heart Ease puts front and center a searing selection of the artistically and emotionally rich voices from this invaluable documentary record. Illustrated with Ferris’s photographs of the musicians and their communities and including a CD of original music, the book features more than twenty interviews relating frank, dramatic, and engaging narratives about black life and blues music in the heart of the American South.
BY REGINA BRADLEY
This vibrant book pulses with the beats of a new American South, probing the ways music, literature, and film have remixed southern identities for a post–civil rights generation. For scholar and critic Regina N. Bradley, Outkast’s work is the touchstone, a blend of funk, gospel, and hip-hop developed in conjunction with the work of other culture creators—including T.I., Kiese Laymon, and Jesmyn Ward. This work, Bradley argues, helps define new cultural possibilities for black southerners who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s and have used hip-hop culture to buffer themselves from the historical narratives and expectations of the civil rights era. André 3000, Big Boi, and a wider community of creators emerge as founding theoreticians of the hip-hop South, framing a larger question of how the region fits into not only hip-hop culture but also contemporary American society as a whole.
BY B. BRIAN FOSTER
How do you love and not like the same thing at the same time? This was the riddle that met Mississippi writer B. Brian Foster when he returned to his home state to learn about Black culture and found himself hearing about the blues. One moment, Black Mississippians would say they knew and appreciated the blues. The next, they would say they didn’t like it. For five years, Foster listened and asked: “How?” “Why not?” “Will it ever change?” This is the story of the answers to his questions.