Friday, October 15, 2004

The Artists We Cherish Most

"The artists we cherish most give the most. We love Shakespeare or Van Gogh or Walt Whitman because they pour it all out, heart and soul. They mirror the ambitions of our heart; they sing the songs we wish we could sing. In music, the manic artists--Mozart, Maria Callas, Charlie Parker--defy the gods of reason and, in doing so, thrill us through and through. They risk their lives for the sake of art, and we reward them with immortality. In black music, as developed in these troubled United States, the risk is even higher. Categories are constructed like cages. Venture out and risk rebuke.

"Yet the great gift cannot be contained. The gifted go where they will, following a muse that recognizes neither restriction nor fear. The great gift transcends the gifted and, like its mysterious source, lives as an offering of unlimited love. Thinking of those who possess the gift, we get happy in a hurry. Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Mahalia Jackson, Thelonious Monk, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye--brave hearts who broke through barriers and, in doing so, came to symbolize freedom."

--David Ritz, in "The Greatest Gift," liner notes for Raymond Myles' A Taste of Heaven: The Sound of New Orleans

Whose music makes you "get happy in a hurry?"

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