Originally published in our Tennessee Music Issue  There is a remarkable story tucked halfway through Bessie, Chris Albertson’s biography of the blues singer Bessie Smith, in which Smith approaches a circle of robed North Carolina Klansmen, places one hand on her hip,… by Amanda Petrusich | Nov, 2020

Playlists curated by your favorite musicians and writers. by Brittany Howard, Kiese Laymon, Rosanne Cash, Kelsey Waldon, & others | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Music Issue’s Icons Section Beyond my eye, beyond the death and decay of matters left behind and unsettled, the music ringing up above my head told a thousand stories of bounty and belonging, and it glimmered… by Danielle A. Jackson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our 2007 Music Issue  In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most… by Sam Stephenson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our North Carolina Music Issue.  I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start where… by Tiana Clark | Nov, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue The first songs that I listened to by Talibah Safiya had this soft, sweet, plaintive quality. There is something else underneath if you listen a bit closer: a little loneliness. The knowledge… by Jamey Hatley | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Greatest Hits Music Issue How does the South inform my music? How do I describe the sound that your bare feet make when they pat the cool, packed red dust under them? How do I describe… by Brittany Howard | Oct, 2020

 A Letter from the Editor, Food Issue. Quiet as it is kept, and widely as it has become forgotten, those who do the cooking and the farming know that those who only eat what is cooked for them and served… by Alice Randall | Mar, 2021

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Let me take you back to a time before algorithmic music recommendations (If you like this, you’ll definitely like this), to a time when you never rode in a friend’s car without flipping through their fat, floppy binders of CDs, heavy as an X-ray blanket in your lap, to see what they were digging. Let me take you back, in other words, to the mid-nineties.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

A problem solver, Jones would ultimately get his drums from his mother’s record collection, as her Charles Wright and Isaac Hayes albums began migrating into his room. “There wasn’t enough money for records,” he recalled. “Or I couldn’t find them. So I’d record songs on the radio off the reel-to-reel, and take the reel-to-reel to the party.” There’s a photograph of Jones deejaying the Charleston YMCA wearing pleated baggies and a fade, with a Michelob parked in front of his Akai séance machine.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Lillie’s sound is not readily identifiable as black or white but seems a merger of the two as she effortlessly blends country and blues in a haunting song about family loss. Noticeably absent is the Gullah Geechee accent, and she finds little use for vibrato. Instead, a pure, unadorned, angelic quality characterizes her soprano. Such simplicity proves effective in conveying Lillie’s innermost thoughts—her pain.

November 19, 2019

Notes on the songs from our 21st Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring South Carolina.

It is fitting that this Southern Music Issue (the Oxford American’s twenty-first) devoted to South Carolina should come in 2019, as the nation moves to better recognize the tragic anniversary of the first sale of enslaved Africans on American soil, in August of 1619. About forty percent of the enslaved people brought to America came through Charleston; today most African Americans have roots in the city (some estimates go as high as eighty percent). Or to put a finer point on it, as Joshunda Sanders writes in this issue, “No Black person has a family tree that has not been pruned by slavery.” Acknowledging, parsing, and reckoning with this history is the prominent theme of this South Carolina music issue—as is celebrating the immense wealth of cultural heritage that has sprung from this small, proud place.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

I didn’t even know if I knew how to let go of the pain of my past. It has, after all, made me the woman I am.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

We call it the Stono Rebellion because it started in a plantation district (a “general area of settlement,” in one scholar’s suitably vague phrase) known as Stono, which had taken its name from the river that ran near it, the Stono River, which had taken its name from a Native American tribe, the Stono or Stonoe or Stonowe, who when Carolina was founded in 1663 were settled close to Charles Town. By one of those dark coincidences history delights in, the Stono themselves are remembered principally (almost entirely) for having started an uprising against the colony.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Men and women—sometimes pairing off, sometimes dancing alone—cluster in the center of the club, lightly prancing just off their heels. In unison, the dancers then form a circle, shifting to the side counterclockwise from time to time, giving each other just enough space to continue moving their feet and legs. At times, they wind their bodies in place, moving unpredictably like twisting leaves in the wind. Whether they know it or not, for a moment or two, the dancers are linked back to their ancestors in coastal South Carolina in the previous century and, further back, in West Africa, also dancing—for tradition, for religious beliefs, for sheer joy. 

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Esquerita and Little Richard stayed in touch as friends, collaborators, and rivals until 1986, when Little Richard was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Esquerita died, a victim of AIDS who was buried in an unmarked grave on Hart Island, New York. Their careers had mirrored each other over rock & roll’s first thirty years, playing out the dualities of the sacred and the profane, music and money, and God and the Voola, what Esquerita called his mojo, the spirit that motivated his music. 

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Blood’s Harmolodics puts “the cry” front and center. The cry is the aural exposition of the paradoxical mode of existence that forced the musical innovations made by Africans in America. Born of forced migration, it harkens to an Africa that exists only in the minds of its long-exiled American children.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

All of Bill’s anecdotes about Diz played to this theme: here was a man, a titan of American music, whose genius helped revolutionize jazz in the forties, opening the door for its great modern period—the pre-birth of cool!—and yet who carried a “personality of warmth and openness and friendliness everywhere, with whoever he was dealing with,” Bill said. “That side of him was something that I remember as strongly as I remember his musical force and power and creativity.”

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