A conversation with Marcus Kenney.
I love to tell the story of my elderly Cajun grandmother in Louisiana. Once I found her in the garden spray-painting a camellia bush in bright silver enamel. I warned her that she would kill the bush, to which she replied, “Yes, but it will be beautiful!”
During Sweet Auburn’s heyday, a brotherhood of gifted guitar-playing soul singers, though largely unknown by a wide audience today, formed a loose collective. They wrote songs together, recorded them, encouraged one another, and competed fiercely, each believing in a coming personal glory that never came.
Bessie Jones nurtured a prodigious repertoire of songs—hundreds of them, for work, play, worship, instruction—as both a rite and as a vocation. Her vision was one of radical egalitarianism, inspired by the enduring collective, expressive folk traditions—occupational, recreational, spiritual—of the black rural South and her ardent faith in a kind of ecstatic liberation theology, which found activist application in the civil rights movement.