Sunday

Anthem, Elegy



The incomparable Whitney Houston has left the stage.  After reading this news this morning I went to put on her classic same-named album but I could not find it.

(A member of my household most irresponsibly and improperly re-jackets and replaces albums.  I won't name names but I will say it was not Teddy the Cat as his conduct is totally beyond reproach in every respect.  And Katy does not particularly care for music other than finding album covers a fine and fitting place on which to take a nap.  Obviously this leaves David as the most likely suspect.  I leave you to draw your own conclusions.)

That said, I had no desire to listen to another voice but I did want to hear a piece of music.  Primed as I was to do so.  And whoever it was it had to be remarkable.  It had to be genius.   Moving through the rows of records I came across Sidney Bechet and thought oh yes that would do. That would more than do.

During the second play of his instrumental version of Summertime I thought, and not for the first time, that this piece of music is truly the anthem of the South.  New York has Sinatra doubling it up.  San Francisco's lovely song holds all the hearts of the world.  Tony Bennett made sure of that whether you've been there or not.  And Paris....well, all art, music included, returns to the source eventually.  


Gershwin's Summertime, written on my beloved Folly Beach, has everything the South is in its truest sense.  Equally so with or without the vocals, lovely as they are.  It is a woman in a French Quarter room taking off her clothes for her lover.  It is that same lover, many years later, remembering the heat of that love-filled sultry afternoon.  A lullaby for the child they may have begun that day whether born or not.  It has the heat that has driven us all mad in one moment and the cool walk out of the same.  It is our true anthem.

Whitney, she expressed what could be revealed of this same sensual phenomena but in public. I suppose that's part of why they call it pop.  You can listen to it with the clearest memory of a certain kind of afternoon but not be subjected to the desire itself in the way someone like Bechet could and can, still yet, do.  She let you live with it without having to do something about it.  Her voice carried, in one sense of the word, a true elegy.  And in the end, the only one she herself needs.  The only one, in the end, that can truly rise to the occasion.