Monday, October 3

August Wilson and Ma Rainy's Musical Legacy

Much respect and pride today for the cultural legacy of playwright extraordinairre August Wilson, who at 60, succumbed to liver cancer yesterday in Seattle. His landmark 1984 play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, was the first in a ten-works vision chronicling the the Black experience in America.

Wilson successfully fulfilled his dream, with the last play in the series, Radio Golf, opening to rave reviews last Spring at Yale Repertory Theater.
Click to for reviews and more about August Wilson's book Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Set in a Chicago recording studio in 1927, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom tells the story of a recording session with blues legend Ma Rainey, her band members, and the white producer and agent who made themselves wealthy through Rainey’s recordings. The play explores race relations in 1920s America and the complexities of living the African American part of that equation.

Of particular note, Wilson’s character, Levee, embodies the aspirations and disappointments of Black males during that era and, arguably, today. Wilson pit Levee against Ma Rainey, the band members, and the whites, examining various stripes of inter- and intra-racial conflict.

Wilson loved music and once said this: "Take jazz or blues; you can't disregard that part of the African-American experience, or even try to transcend it. They are affirmations and celebrations of the value and worth of the African-American spirit. And young people would do well to understand them as the roots of today's rap, rather than some antique to be tossed away."

Well, he can rest assured that his and "Levee's" perspective is well represented and maturing. Multi-platinum artist Nasir Jones and his dad, jazz trumpeter
Olu Dara, fairly recently hit it big with the blues-heavy track Bridging the Gap. Now, His Ye-Ness has churned out Gold Digger, a song also rooted in Ma Rainy's tradition, communicating aspects of the vast African American male story as powerfully as Wilson had.

To honor his numerous achievements, Broadway's Virginia Theater will be renamed the August Wilson Theater. The new marquee will be unveiled Oct. 17.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like


Anonymous j.f. foster said...

the loss of august wilson is a huge loss for the American cultural scene. he was much more than a great black playwright, he was one of the most successful in modern times, regardless of race.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a sad day with the loss of August Wilson. When I saw Ma Rainey, I laughed, cried, got angry, and every other emotion in between. He was a major figure and will be greatly missed.

9:15 PM  

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