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

Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus is the author of Mystery Train, Dead Elvis, and The Shape of Things to Come. With Sean Wilentz he edited The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, and with Werner Sollors, A New Literary History of America.

March 30, 2017

Track 11 – “John Henry” by John Lee Hooker

For three minutes, it’s as if Hooker has just woken up from a dream and is trying to remember it. The song as such is nothing but fragments, fragments of fragments.

September 05, 2014

An OA playlist: There are thousands of versions of the song “John Henry,” and every one, Greil Marcus argues in “Guitar Drag,” is “an affirmation of the power of a single African American to deny and defeat the white power set against him even if it costs him his life, but not his dignity, with the song rolling down the decades from the 1920s.” As a companion to the essay, Marcus offers this playlist, his choice of the versions of “John Henry” that stand out among the others.

September 01, 2014

An excerpt from The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs, this stacked review of artist Christian Marclay's video Guitar Drag and Colson Whitehead's novel John Henry Days explores a history of racial injustice through the legend of John Henry.