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The Oxford American’s 22nd Annual 
Southern Music Issue

Guest edited by
BRITTANY HOWARD

 

Order your copy today.

This year we’ve compiled our “greatest hits,” including selections of the most beloved music writing from our archive—guest edited by Brittany Howard, the Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and frontwoman of the Alabama Shakes. This jam-packed issue also includes new essays on iconic Southern artists who have changed the trajectory of American music.

Rather than including a CD this year, we’ve asked guest contributors to curate a selection of playlists that limn the bounty of Southern music across genres. These are available to stream on Spotify

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An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

If my dad’s career trajectory seemed unlikely, that paled in comparison to the odds of such a thing occurring at all in a small dry county in the Bible Belt. That so many of the most beloved soul hits of the civil rights era came from an integrated group of players just two hours north of Birmingham, where firehoses and police dogs were used against King’s marchers, is the kind of plot that’s too far-fetched for fiction and too unbelievable to be told without corresponding proof.

A poem from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

A man is a woman inside / Waiting to come home. / A man inside a woman is / A mother-of-pearl, a wading / Handmaiden, inside a man / Made prison, prism of light. 

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Great Black music is that which isn’t trying to impress or entreat or even necessarily communicate with a white audience—or any audience. Instead, great Black music works to retrieve what Rahsaan Roland Kirk called the missing Black notes: the sounds and calls and rhythms and cries that colonizing languages submerge, reconstituted of the very lexicons that would have liked them to vanish from sound and memory. 

A poem from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Driving by kudzu, under oblong leaves / of live oaks as their roots knuckle up, / past the trawlers, who dredge pretty pink shrimp / from the belly of the coral-lipped sea, / war’s on, whether we say yes to it or no.

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Charlie Daniels was, in one very real sense, hippie to the core. The Charlie Daniels Band’s first hit was a novelty song called “Long Haired Country Boy,” the opening stanza of which went like this: “People say I’m no good and crazy as a loon / ’Cause I get stoned in the morning / And get drunk in the afternoon.”

A poem from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Oh, oh, baby: the door opened making new, irregular / air, startled into the shape of Texas. Blood behind each syllable, / as if my body recognized touch & pulse before a hand / had ever laid there.

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

There was a moment in 1958 when the future of jazz took an extraordinary turn that would be imperceptible to the world for another quarter century. That’s when Ellis Marsalis Jr., freshly discharged from the U.S. Marines in Southern California, drew his mustering-out pay, loaded up his car, and decided which way to go.

Originally published in our 2001 Music Issue 

“One night we were at the house getting ready to go to a concert later that evening, and it was just pouring down with rain, and thunder was cracking,” Peebles told the Memphis Flyer in 1994. “All of a sudden I popped up and said, ‘Man, I can’t stand the rain.’ And Don looked at me and said, ‘Ooh, that’s a good song title!’”