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If you’ve been to the library, its webpage, or its social media presence lately, you’ve probably noticed that our Black History month theme, Celebrate Music, is in full effect throughout the library system. With so many great sounds floating around, it can be difficult to pick just one to explore, so here’s a sampler duet of music-related materials you might enjoy.
Starting at Zero, Jimi Hendrix. Alan Douglas (his producer) and filmmaker Peter Neal took it upon themselves to edit letters, interviews, random napkin scribbles, and other writings Hendrix left behind into a coherent, poetic facsimile of an autobiography. As he walks us through his early life, time in the Army, and first forays into musicianship, Hendrix reveals himself to be a thoughtful, passionate young man with a vision larger than his abilities could express. After leaving for England and becoming part of the scene there, his writing grows more confident and sure, and his dedication to his practice begins to produce the results of those wild, extraordinary visions. Reading this book will make you want to sit down and listen through the entire Hendrix catalog again (we can help you with that), and wonder what rock music would be like today if he had lived even a little longer. The book’s companion website is equally stunning, too.
Kansas City Lightning, Stanley Crouch. Turning from the Screaming Eagle, we go back through time to the man called Bird and the musical community that nurtured and influenced him. Crouch’s book, the first of a two-part biography of Charlie Parker, mingles tales from the musician’s childhood and growth to maturity with the stories of the men who became his mentors, comrades and rivals, a list that includes–but is not limited to–Lester Young, Chu Berry, Buster Smith, Jay McShann, and Walter Brown. This alone would have been terrific, but Crouch takes it a step further and a generation back to paint the entire portrait of the Kansas City jazz scene, with such luminaries as Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and Walter Page and their legendary bands. If this book doesn’t keep you hopping back and forth between the page and the library catalog–and/or YouTube–you might want to check to see if you still have a pulse, because this book swings. Hard.
It’s really difficult to pick just two musicians to talk about when your choices range from Jelly Roll Morton to Janelle Monae, but I’ve always been partial to jazz and classic rock. Luckily, other library workers throughout the Carnegie system have created a dazzling array of music-related programs, including a screening of ROCKSTEADY: The Roots of Reggae on 2/18/14, that explores your full range of choices. Which African American musical artists are you celebrating this month?