Sunday, February 27, 2011

Runes & Tunes: Hughes & Hill

Everything is Everything

 Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
                    - Langston Hughes

What relationships do you see or feel between these two stellar pieces? 
For one thing:  Their creators have the same initials.  Coincidence?  I think not.  

The Poet: Langston Hughes. Jazz poet of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the most famous African American writers ever, so I'm sure you know his work, esp. "Harlem" ("What happens to a dream deferred?") and "Theme for English B"; "I, Too, Sing America" and "The Negro Speaks of Rivers".  "Mother to Son"s a tad unusual - he doesn't always write in dialect, to my knowledge - but its poignancy's enriched and the mother's character refined by this language-register tactic, in my view.  It's hard to go wrong with his work, so start at this link and just keep following wherever the trail leads you...

The Musician: Lauryn Hill.  Again, she's quite well known as a contemporary musician, with her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, winning five Grammy's, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year.  "Everything Is Everything" is the third single released off that album.  Hill's early career with the Fugees morphed into solo stardom at the turn of the 21st century, and today she's a working mom of five kids - a producer, actress, and humanitarian too.  And guess what?  Her mom was an English teacher!

Please support the poets and musicians who change us with their art.


p.s. And - although I put this pairing together weeks ago - somehow I feel these pieces speak to our ongoing conversation...


llevinso said...

Ahhh, love Lauryn Hill! I must've played that CD 100 times when I was younger. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Isn't she coming back out with something? Or am I just making that up?

Jackie said...

LOVE this pairing!

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