The Music of Tennessee by the Oxford American

Reminiscence and reflection are complicated matters.  Over winter break, I picked up the Oxford American’s annual music issue.  The featured state is Tennessee, and the issue comes with a double disc music compilation of Tennessee music.  I was in Tennessee – where I’m from – and I was missing the hell out of it.photo

Like I said, looking at the past is complicated. In order to accurately represent the music of the South, one cannot simply discuss the musicians, their style and influences.  Music in the South, music in Tennessee, all of it is directly tied up with segregation and civil rights.  It is a matter of a few very poor, very talented folks who happened to make it big in Memphis or Nashville.  But it’s also a matter of how they made it big, who was there pushing them through, who was tripping them up, who was buying their records and who was not. Continue reading

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just kids

These are the wonderful things about this book: it jumps between the past and the present, it is episodic, it is tangential, and it is poetry.  Patti Smith is a poet and a punk rocker and an artist.  Just Kids documents her 1967 move to New York and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  The two meet and move in together.  She works at a bookstore and begins writing poetry; he creates art: mostly altars and jewelry, until he discovers photography.  Smith recounts these years between ’67 and ’73 with a level of detail and specificity that is almost unbelievable.

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