“Accent on Youth,” by Zach Ferguson

January 1st, 2008

Zach Ferguson, a junior at Battleground High School in Battleground, WA, was the winner of the 2007 Accent on Youth Essay Contest. His passion for jazz and the challenges he faces as
a youthful fan of it is the focus of the column.

This column was originally published on September 6, 2007

*

Listen to Dinah Washington sing Accent on Youth

__________

The Versatility of Music

Photo by Lee Tanner

*

Fables of Faubus , by Charles Mingus

__________________________________________

 

 

 Plato once said, “Music is moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” By stating this, Plato struck a common chord, so to speak.

 In contemporary society, the benevolent effects of music are readily apparent. Music can act as an antidepressant, repairing your spirits in times of woe. It possesses the unexplainable ability to unite seemingly opposite people, transcending cultural, racial and socioeconomic divisions, appealing to our most complex emotions. In recently conducted studies, music has even proven to facilitate the education of mentally retarded children. Evidently, music’s potential applicability is mind-boggling. Though seeming innocent, music can even become a force for change.

 It is common knowledge that the blues arose from the squalid conditions and bigoted mandates African-Americans were subjected to during our country’s evolution. In this instance, music would make uninterrupted slave labor somewhat endurable, and the concept of perpetual serfdom, for the moment, tolerable. This folk music also was employed to clandestinely share information as to how slaves might emancipate themselves; Exemplified by “The Drinking Gourd” slaves would learn, repeat and then teach others a song which covertly instructed them to follow the North Star to a location where they eventually would be escorted to the free north by Peg Leg Joe.

 In the early 20th century, Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher who practiced in the Bronx, penned the infamous “Strange Fruit ,” a song that was later espoused by Billie Holiday and performed regularly. It is a macabre, figurative depiction of lynching, a reprehensible spectacle prevalent in the pre-1970 Southern United States. This song shed a figurative light on the deplorable pandemic that was lynching, in a time when the government was reluctant to enact legislation to prohibit it. When the song was initially performed in 1938, a total of 12 people had been lynched that year. In the following years, fewer people were condemned to this horror. By 1965, lynching had practically disappeared.

 The Civil Rights Movement was a turbulent period in American history, a period which exhibited unprecedented equalitarian progress. The contributions of jazz musicians were invaluable, with a particularly significant role played by Charles Mingus and his symbolic 1959 recording, “Fables of Faubus .” This song illustrated the 1957 integration of Little Rock Central High School, and the adamant opposition of Governor Orval Faubus to the 1954 Supreme Court decision. This decision, Brown v. Board of Education, mandated integration in American public schools. His song spread awareness of the injustices frequently committed in the South, even when the federal government had legislated against segregation.

 Today, though, music seems to assume the environmental niche of mere entertainment. While truly symbolic, substantive songs are produced occasionally, the preponderance of contemporary musical art being trite and shallow (with the exception of the artists that contributed to Instant Karma, an album that has increased awareness regarding the Darfur Conflict). Modern music needs to embrace activist messages, which could potentially mitigate the effects of Global Warming, the exceedingly prevalent international disregard of human rights and the injurious consequences of voter apathy, lest we permit these regressive tendencies to persist.

 Where are our Peg Leg Joe’s? Our contemporary Charles Mingus? Rather than producing music with the sole ambition of financial gain, I feel artists have a responsibility to incorporate altruistic messages in popular music. But we mustn’t postpone the composition of this priceless music, because these crises will inevitably escalate.

 If not us, who? If not now, when?

______________________________

 

 

 

Zach Ferguson

*

Zach Ferguson, a junior at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, WA, was the winner of the 2007 Accent on Youth Essay Contest. His passion for jazz and the challenges he faces as a youthful fan of it is the focus of the column.

 

You can contact Zach at: frydfrog@hotmail.com

To read Zach’s previous column, go to the next page

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 19 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Branford Marsalis, Joe Martin, Scott Robinson, Allison Au and Warren Vache

Poetry

In a special collection of poetry, eight poets contribute seventeen poems focused on stories about family, and honoring mothers and fathers

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob Hecht presents three very different stories; on Harlem Stride piano, Billy Strayhorn's end-of-life composition "Blood Count," and "Lester-ese," Lester Young’s creative verbal wit and wordplay.

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Homer Plessy” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #127

Before his tragic early death, this trumpeter played with Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and John Coltrane, and most famously during a 1961 Five Spot gig with Eric Dolphy (pictured). Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

Michael Cuscuna, the legendary record producer and founder of Mosaic Records, is interviewed about his life in jazz...Award-winning photographer Carol Friedman, on her career in the world of New York jazz photography

In the previous issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive