ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

Home   ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more) 

Google
 

There is one unalterable fact that too many of our men cannot seem to face. And that is,

we “black, evil, ugly” women are a perfect and accurate reflection of you “black, evil, ugly” men.

Play hide and seek as long as you can and will, but your every rejection and abandonment of us

is only a sorry testament of how thoroughly and carefully you have been blinded and brainwashed.

 

 

CDs by Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach

We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite It’s Time  /  Straight Ahead  / A Turtle’s Dream  /  When There Is Love / You Gotta Pay The Band /

 Abbey Sings Billie  /  The Max Roach 4 Plays Charlie Parker  / Charlie Parker The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-1948

Abbey Lincoln Songbook (1994)   / Burt Korall, Drummin' Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz The Bebop Years. Oxford University Press, 2004

Over the Years / It's Me / Abbey Sings Abbey

*   *   *   *   *

Who Will Revere the Black Woman?

By Abbey Lincoln

 

Mark Twain said, in effect, that when a country enslaves a people, the first necessary job is to make the world feel that the people to be enslaved are subhuman. The next job is to make his fellow countrymen believe that man is inferior, and, then, the unkindest cut of all is to make that man believe himself inferior.

A good job has been done on the Black people in this country, as far as convincing them of their inferiority is concerned. The general white community has told us in a million different ways and in no uncertain terms that “God” and “nature” made a mistake when it came to the fashioning of us and ours. The whole society, having been thoroughly convinced of the stained, threatening, and evil nature of anything unfortunate enough to be, or to be referred to as, black, as an intended matter of courtesy refers to those of African extraction as “colored” or “Negro.”

The fact that “Negro” is the Spanish word for “black” is hardly understood, it would seem; or it would seem that the word “black” may be intimated or suggested, but never simply stated in good English.

Too many Negroes, if described or referred to as “black,” take it as an affront; and I was once told by a Canadian Irishman that I’d insulted him by referring to my person as a Black woman. He insisted that, in actuality, I was brown, not black; and I felt obliged to tell him he described himself as “white,” and that he wasn’t white either.

The fact that white people readily and proudly call themselves “white,” glorify all that is white, and whitewash all that is glorified, becomes unnatural and bigoted in its intent only when these same whites deny persons of African heritage who are Black the natural and inalienable right to readily and proudly call themselves “black,” glorify all that is black, and blackwash all that is glorified.

Yet, one is forced to conclude that this is not the case at all, that an astonishing proportion of the white population finds it discomforting that Blacks should dare to feel so much glory in being beautifully black. In the face of this kind of “reasoning,” the only conclusion one can logically come to is that there is something wrong with this society and its leadership. “The Man’s” opinion of God is sorry, to put it nicely, and his opinion of himself is simply vague and hazy.

Consider: Swearing his love and devotion to the Omnipotent One on the one hand, yet defying and cursing him with rank impudence on the other; using the crutch of his “inherently” base and callow nature on the one hand, and claiming his godhood on the other; worshipping a Jew as the Son of God on the one hand, yet persecuting all other Jews as enemies of God on the other; historically placing this same Jew on the African continent on the one hand, and describing him as a European in physical appearance on the other (still, one would suppose that it’s tacitly understood by all that “God” couldn’t be anything other than “white,” no matter where He was born); advocating that the Black man is made of inferior stuff on the one hand, yet defying him not to prove his superiority on the other; naming hurricanes for women on the one hand, yet H is for the heart as pure as gold on the other; giving her pet names such as “whore,” “slut,” “bitch,” etc., on the one hand, yet, put them all together and they spell mother, the word “that means the world to me,” on the other.

No wonder the slogan “white is right” could take a whole nation by storm. One could never accuse this society of being rational.

Still, instead of this irrational society warping my delicate little psyche, it only drove me, ultimately, to the conclusion that any Black human being able to survive the horrendous and evil circumstances in which one inevitably finds oneself trapped must be some kind of a giant with great and peculiar abilities, with an armor as resistant as steel yet made of purest gold. My mother is one of the most courageous people I have ever known, with an uncanny will to survive. When she was a young woman, the white folks were much further in the lead than they are now, and their racist rules gave her every disadvantage; yet, she proved herself a queen among women, any women, and as a result will always be one of the great legends for me.

But strange as it is, I’ve heard it echoed by too many Black full-grown males that Black womanhood is the downfall of the Black man in that she (the Black woman) is “evil,” “hard to get along with,” “domineering” “suspicious,” and “narrow-minded.” In short, a black, ugly, evil you-know what.

As time progresses I’ve learned that this description of my mothers, sisters, and partners in crime is used as the basis for the further shoving, by the Black man of his own head into the sand of oblivion. Hence, the Black mother, housewife, and all-round girl Thursday is called upon to suffer both physically and emotionally every, humiliation a woman can suffer and still function.

Her head is more regularly beaten than any other woman’s, and by her own man; she’s the scapegoat for Mr. Charlie; she is forced to stark realism and chided if caught dreaming; her aspirations for her and hers are, for sanity’s sake, stunted; her physical image has been criminally maligned, assaulted, and negated; she’s the first to be called ugly and never yet beautiful, and as a consequence is forced to see her man (an exact copy of her, emotionally and physically), brainwashed and wallowing in self-loathing, pick for his own the physical antithesis of her (the white woman and incubator of his heretofore arch enemy the white man). Then, to add guilt to insult and injury, she (the Black woman) stands accused as the emasculator of the only thing she has ever cared for, her Black man. She is the scapegoat for what white America has made of the “Negro personality.”

Raped and denied the right to cry out in her pain, she has been named the culprit and called “loose,” “hot-blooded,” “wanton,” “sultry,” and “amoral.” She has been used as the white man’s sexual outhouse, and shamefully encouraged by her own ego-less man to persist in this function. Wanting, too, to be carried away by her “Prince Charming,” she must, in all honesty, admit that he has been robbed of his crown by the very assaulter and assassin who has raped her. Still, she looks upon her man as God’s gift to Black womanhood and is further diminished and humiliated and outraged when the feeling is not mutual.

When a white man “likes colored girls,” his woman (the white woman) is the last one he wants to know about it. Yet, seemingly, when a Negro “likes white girls,” his woman (the Black woman) is the first he wants to know about it. White female rejects and social misfits are flagrantly flaunted in our faces as the ultimate in feminine pulchritude. Our women are encouraged by our own men to strive to look and act as much like the white female image as possible, and only those who approach that “goal” in physical appearance and social behavior are acceptable. At best, we are made to feel that we are poor imitations and excuses for white women.

Evil? Evil, you say? The Black woman is hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, resentful, frightened and evil! Who in this hell dares suggest that she should be otherwise? These attitudes only point up her perception of the situation and her healthy rejection of same.

Maybe if our women get evil enough and angry enough, they’ll be moved to some action that will bring our men to their senses. There is one unalterable fact that too many of our men cannot seem to face. And that is, we “black, evil, ugly” women are a perfect and accurate reflection of you “black, evil, ugly” men. Play hide and seek as long as you can and will, but your every rejection and abandonment of us is only a sorry testament of how thoroughly and carefully you have been blinded and brainwashed. And let it further be understood that when we refer to you we mean, ultimately, us. For you are us, and vice versa.

We are the women who were kidnapped and brought to this continent as slaves. We are the women who were raped, are still being raped, and our bastard children snatched from our breasts and scattered to the winds to be lynched, castrated, de-egoed, robbed, burned, and deceived.

We are the women whose strong and beautiful Black bodies were—and are—still being used as a cheap labor force for Miss Anne’s kitchen and Mr. Charlie’s bed, whose rich, black, and warm milk nurtured—and still nurtures—the heir to the racist and evil slavemaster.

We are the women who dwell in the hell-hole ghettos all over the land. We are the women whose bodies are sacrificed, as living cadavers, to experimental surgery in the white man’s hospitals for the sake of white medicine. We are the women who are invisible on the television and movie screens, on the Broadway stage.  We are the women who are lusted after, sneered at, leered at, hissed at, yelled at, grabbed at, tracked down by white degenerates in our own pitiable, poverty-stricken, and prideless neighborhoods.

We are the women whose hair is compulsively fried, whose skin is bleached, whose nose is “too big,” whose mouth is “too big and loud,” whose behind is “too big and broad,” whose feet are “too big and flat,” whose face is “too black and shiny,” and whose suffering and patience is too long and enduring to be believed.

Who’re just too damned much for everybody.

We are the women whose bars and recreation halls are invaded by flagrantly disrespectful, bigoted, simpering, amoral, emotionally unstable, outcast, maladjusted, nymphomaniacal, condescending white women . . . in desperate and untiring search of the “frothing-at-the-mouth-for-a white-woman, strong backed, sixty-minute hot black.” Our men.

We are the women who, upon protesting this invasion of our privacy and sanctity and sanity, are called “jealous,” and “evil,” and “small-minded,” and “prejudiced.” We are the women whose husbands and fathers and brothers and sons have been plagiarized, imitated, denied, and robbed of the fruits of their genius, and who consequently we see emasculated, jailed, lynched, driven mad, deprived, enraged, and made suicidal. We are the women whom nobody, seemingly, cares about, who are made to feel inadequate, stupid and backward, and who inevitably have the most colossal inferiority complexes to be found.

And who is spreading the propaganda that “the only free people in this country are the white man and the Black woman?” If this be freedom, then Heaven is Hell.

Who will revere the Black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for Black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protection, and keeping, and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?

Source: HenriettaVintonDavis / first appeared in Negro Digest, September 1966 / from the bookThe Black Woman: An Anthology, by Toni Cade Bambara and Eleanor W. Traylor, Washington Square Press, 1970, 2005, pgs. 95-101.

*   *   *   *   *

Abbey Lincoln: Throw It Away / Abbey Lincoln—Down Here Below (1995)

*   *   *   *   *

Throw It Away

                  By Abbey Lincoln


I think about the life I live
A figure made of clay
And think about the things I lost
The things I gave away

And when I'm in a certain mood
I search the house and look
One night I found these magic words
In a magic book

Throw it away
Throw it away
Give your love, live your life
Each and every day

And keep your hand wide open
Let the sun shine through
'Cause you can never lose a thing
If it belongs to you

There's a hand to rock the cradle
And a hand to help us stand
With a gentle kind of motion
As it moves across the land

And the hand's unclenched and open
Gifts of life and love it brings
So keep your hand wide open
If you're needing anything

Throw it away
Throw it away
Give your love, live your life
Each and every day

And keep your hand wide open
Let the sun shine through
'Cause you can never lose a thing
If it belongs to you

Throw it away
Throw it away
Give your love, live your life
Each and every day

And keep your hand wide open
Let the sun shine through
'Cause you can never lose a thing
If it belongs to you

'Cause you can never lose a thing
If it belongs to you
You can never ever lose a thing
If it belongs to you

You can never ever lose a thing
If it belongs to you
You can never ever lose a thing
If it belongs to you

Down Here Below lyrics
Down here below
The winds of change are blowing
Through the weary night
I prayed my soul will find me
Shining in the morning light
Down here below

Down here below
It's not so easy, just to be
Sometimes I'm really all at sea
You made me when the world was new
And skies were blue
And I am here because there's you

They say I'll never see your face
And we're out [Incomprehensible] from your grace
The one you fashioned with your hand
And scattered all across the land

But I am happy just to know
That you will go, where I must go
For there are wounds and scars to show
Living here, down here below

Down here below
The setting sun is shining
On the melancholy mood
I hear the distant thunder
And the crying of the blue

Down here below
I'm yours alone
The only one to call my own
The only one I've ever known
Sometimes I see you standing there
Sometimes I'm free and you are here

Down here with me
You made me just the way [Incomprehensible]
Or [Incomprehensible] less feeling, eyes to see
A strong embrace, a simple hand
A spirit free that says, "I can"

And I'm happy just to know
That you will go, where I must go
For you will send me this I know
Living here, down here below
Living here, down here below
Living here, down here below

*   *   *   *   *

Down Here Below

                       By Abbey Lincoln


Down here below
The winds of change are blowing
Through the weary night
I prayed my soul will find me
Shining in the morning light
Down here below

Down here below
It's not so easy, just to be
Sometimes I'm really all at sea
You made me when the world was new
And skies were blue
And I am here because there's you

They say I'll never see your face
And we're out [Incomprehensible] from your grace
The one you fashioned with your hand
And scattered all across the land

But I am happy just to know
That you will go, where I must go
For there are wounds and scars to show
Living here, down here below

Down here below
The setting sun is shining
On the melancholy mood
I hear the distant thunder
And the crying of the blue

Down here below
I'm yours alone
The only one to call my own
The only one I've ever known
Sometimes I see you standing there
Sometimes I'm free and you are here

Down here with me
You made me just the way [Incomprehensible]
Or [Incomprehensible] less feeling, eyes to see
A strong embrace, a simple hand
A spirit free that says, "I can"

And I'm happy just to know
That you will go, where I must go
For you will send me this I know
Living here, down here below
Living here, down here below
Living here, down here below

 *   *   *   *   *

Another World

              By Abbey Lincoln


Within some walls of stone
Another world is waiting for it's own
Another time, another world, another world

The magic that is shown
Is or for another world
Dimensions still unknown
Beyond the pale, horizoned veil
A world unknown

A technologic sphere
With tones and music's chords to hear
For conversations far away
With ships that fly and lights that play

The years that come and go
Are bringing us another world to know
Maybe a laugh, perhaps a frown
A way to go, a common ground, another world

Another time has come
Another world is here to meet the sun
A digit here, a circle there, a life to share

Another time is here
Another dawn that whispers in my ears
A different sound, a point of view, a shade of blue

The strangest thing to see
Are things with you and me
Lost somewhere in the night
A song of love, the guiding light

A time has come and gone
Some memories are captured in a song
Some stories told, an artist's hand
Something to find among the sand
Something to hold, remembering
Another world, another world, another world

*   *   *   *   *

Story of My Father

                    By Abbey Lincoln

Do we kill ourselves on purpose?
Is destruction all our own?
Are we dying for a reason?
Is our misery all our own?
Are the people suicidal?
Did we come this far to die?
Of ourselves are we to perish?
For this useless, worthless lie?

My father had a kingdom
My father wore a crown
They said he was an awful man
He tried to live it down
My father built us houses
And he kept his folks inside
His images were stolen
And his beauty was denied.

My brothers are unhappy
And my sisters they are too
And my mother cries for glory
And my father stands accused.

My father, yes my father
Was a brave and skillful man
And he led and served his people
With the magic of his hand.

My father, yes my father
His soul was sorely tried
‘Cause his images were stolen
And his beauty was denied.

Sometimes the river’s calling
And sometimes the shadows fall
That’s when he’s like a mountain
That is in master over all.

This story of my father
Is the one I tell and give
It’s the power and the glory
Of the life I make and live

My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
And he lives within the people
And the lives he handed down
My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
And through the spirit of my mother, Lord
The crown was handed down.
(musical interlude)

Well sometimes the rivers callin’
And sometimes the shadows fall
That’s when he’s like a mountain
That’s a master over all.

My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
And he lives within the people
And the lives he handed down
My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
Through the spirit of my mother, Lord
The crown was handed down
Through the spirit of my mother
The crown was handed down
Through the spirit of my mother, Lord
The crown was handed down!

*   *   *   *   *

Being Me

                        By Abbey Lincoln


All along away there were things to do
Always some other, someone I could be
All the things to know, all the ways to go
To fly a spirit for to stage the show

It wasn?t always easy learning to be me
Sometimes my head and heart would disagree
Times I walked away, all the times I'd stay
To see the glamor of my life play

Being me again to be myself alone
Sometimes I love the things they said
Some things were cold as stone, it was lonely
Sometimes, sometimes it was blue and the lights were brilliant

Sometimes, sometimes there was you
Being me [Incomprehensible] see now and then
So many things have changed and yet somehow
There will always be a stage, a song for me
Hold a curtain or been it’s time to take a bow

*   *   *   *   *

Not To Worry

                  By Abbey Lincoln

Not to worry, never mind
Life will fix it every time
Give a balance, fill a need
Bring a flower from the sea

Hold your head up, raise your chin
It was a new invented sin
Shake your shoulders, do the dance
Never mind a sad romance

A time is come, a corner turned
It's clearer now, the lesson's learn
And time will tell
And fires burn

Not to worry, fill your head
Think above the things instead
Not to worry, skies are blue
And everything imagined is you

A time is come, a corner turned
It's clearer now, lesson's learn
And time will tell
And fires burn

Not to worry, wear a smile
There'll be changes after a while
Now to worry dreams, come true
?Cause everything imagined is you
Everything imagined is you

*   *   *   *   *

Abbey Lincoln has left the house. Believed to be the first to sport an Afro hairdo, she was with Max Roach part of a 1960s jazz celebrity-civil rights-black consciousness duo on the order of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Though I knew nothing of the parting of Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, I later had the privilege of knowing them both for a while in separate venues and found them to be very genuine individuals and a combination of the qualities in a couple that may sometimes simply be too good to last.—Nathan Hare

We shall never forget Abbey visiting when I lived on Fillmore Street during the 70s.It was a down period in her life but she was an honored guest for she was a shero of mine as a sassy, arrogant, uncompromising soul sista, the kind we need today. When she entered my apartment, I remember giving her a long, hard hug for all she meant to me and our people. Peace and love, Abbey!—Marvin X

*   *   *   *   *

As with her hero Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln always means the lyrics she sings. A dramatic performer whose interpretations are full of truth and insight, Lincoln actually began her career as a fairly lightweight supper-club singer. She went through several name changes (including Anna Marie, Gaby Lee, and Gaby Woolridge) before settling on Abbey Lincoln. She recorded with Benny Carter in 1956 and performed a number in the 1957 Hollywood film The Girl Can't Help It. Lincoln's first of three albums for Riverside (1957-59) had Max Roach on drums and he was a major influence on her; she began to be choosy about the songs she sang and to give words the proper emotional intensity. . . .

She was quite memorable on Roach's Freedom Now Suite showing some very uninhibited emotions. Lincoln's Candid date Straight Ahead (1961) had among its players Roach, Booker Little, Eric Dolphy, and Coleman Hawkins, and she made some important appearances on Roach's Impulse! album Percussion Bitter Suite.

Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach were married in 1962, an association that lasted until 1970. They worked together for a while but Lincoln (who found it harder to get work in jazz due to the political nature of some of her music) became involved in acting and did not record as a leader during 1962-1972. She finally recorded for Inner City in 1973 and gradually became more active in jazz. Her two Billie Holiday tribute albums for Enja (1987) showed listeners that the singer was still in her prime, and she recorded several excellent sets for Verve in the 1990s. In the following years, she released a handful of recordings including Over the Years in 2000, It's Me in 2003, and Abbey Sings Abbey in 2007. Because she puts so much thought into each of her recordings, it is not an understatement to say that every Abbey Lincoln set is well worth owning.—Scott Yanow / Answers

*   *   *   *   *

Born Anna Marie Wooldridge on August 6, 1930, in Chicago, IL; performed variously under names Anna Marie, Gaby Lee, and Aminata Moseka; changed name to Abbey Lincoln, 1956; married Max Roach, 1962; divorced, 1970. Education: Studied music with prominent vocal and dramatic coaches, Hollywood, CA, early 1950s.

Worked as a maid, 1949-50; won amateur singing contest, 1950; moved to California to perform in nightclubs, 1951; performed as resident singer in a club in Honolulu, HI, 1952-54; returned to Hollywood to perform as a singer at various clubs, 1954-57; began recording career, 1956; sang as a soloist and with a group led by Max Roach, late 1950s-1960s; recorded and toured as a soloist, including tours of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Far East, 1970-; assistant professor of African-American Theatre and Pan-African Studies, California State University, 1974; released seven albums on Verve Records, 1990-2000; made guest appearances on television shows, including Flip Wilson, Marcus Welby, M.D., Mission Impossible, and All in the Family; performed in music and dance productions and in theater productions; directed and produced play A Pig in a Poke, 1975; appeared as lead or supporting actress in films, including The Girl Can’t Help It, 1956, Nothing But a Man, 1964, For the Love of Ivy, 1968, A Short Walk to Daylight, 1972, and Mo’ Better Blues, 1990.

Awards: Federation of Italian Filmmakers, Best Actress, 1965; First World Festival of Negro Arts, Best Actress for Nothing But a Man, 1966; All American Press Association, Most Prominent Screen Person Award for For the Love of Ivy, 1969; induction, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 1975.—Answers

*   *   *   *   *

Abbey Lincoln "is a culture bearer," jazz singer Cassandra Wilson told John Leland in Newsweek. "There’s certain people inside the African-American experience that act as griots, bearers of the culture, and they help to carry on the traditions and transmit knowledge and understanding of our heritage. Paul Robeson was something like that. And so is she." For four decades Lincoln’s life has been a constant transformation of experience, of awakenings into growth, of the communication of what she has witnessed. She has grown through many stages: a naive young lounge singer; a movie and jazz club sex kitten; a vocal African-American with a deepened cultural awareness; a sensitive actress contradicting cultural perceptions; an artistic and cultural exile; a poetic jazz sage. She has gone by many names, finding and then defining herself individually, culturally, and humanistically. Lincoln’s music, which at first served as an escape from the life around her, grew into a means of expression, understanding, and communication with others.—Answers

 *   *   *   *   *

Abbey Lincoln's first album for the Riverside label was called That's Him. Her new CD is titled It's Me. The irony, though unintentional, is not lost on her. She notes, "When I came to the stage, the women sang about a man and the men sang about a woman . . . that was the extent of the offering. Then I came to a stage (in my development) and I finally learned to become social, because I have something to say about life other than my love interests and sexual habits . . . I find that disgusting. There's so much [else] to talk about. It's Me is an admission of life, That's Him is just a romantic notion." 

The singer credits her former husband Max Roach with inspiring the change in her approach to music. "When I had met Max Roach, he was with Clifford Brown and that was the first time I ever heard an artist. Years later I was in New York, miserable because I was working supper clubs and I wasn't expressing myself and I saw him again, and he told me that I didn't have to do things like that. He made me an honest woman on the stage. And I have been performing in that tradition ever since. I feel that I'm a serious performer now, whereas before I wanted to be but I didn't know how.”

Lincoln's first collaboration with Roach, the classic We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, with her powerful interpretations of Oscar Brown, Jr.'s incendiary lyrics, particularly the screaming centerpiece of “Triptych: Prayer, Protest, Peace,” heralded her place as black music's most socially conscious singer since her idol Billie Holiday's recording the anti-lynching anthem “Strange Fruit.” Later appearances on the drummer's Impulse recordings, Percussion Bittersweet and It's Time confirmed the commitment to the revolutionary role she would take with her own music.

The characteristically honest Lincoln also gratefully acknowledges the indirect role Roach played in helping her realize her talent as a composer. "I wrote a lyric to Thelonious Monk's “Blue Monk.” I was recording a record called Straight Ahead," she remembers, "and Max Roach was the A&R man and he asked Thelonious to come to the session and listen to the lyric to see if we could use it. Later, Thelonious said to me [in Max Roach's liner notes], that Abbey Lincoln is not only a great singer and a great actress; she's a great composer. And finally I figured it out. . . . I figured that even though I had never written a composition that I had the intelligence, that I didn't have to write lyrics to other people's compositions, that I could hear my own just like everybody else. . . . and I started to find the melodies and added lyrics to the melody or melodies to lyrics.” 

Despite the artistic and critical success of Straight Ahead, Lincoln would not make another record as a leader until 1973 (after a hiatus of more than a dozen years) when she recorded People in Me. The Japanese recording, which was later reissued by Verve in the U.S., created renewed interest in the nearly forgotten vocalist. The album's title track (her own original autobiographical composition) and a powerful rendition of John Coltrane's "Africa," with personal lyrics by the singer recounting her trip to that continent (at the behest of singer Miriam Makeba), reaffirmed her resolve to continue on the trail she had blazed years before, but despite a memorable concert at the Beacon Theatre, she rarely appeared in public and did not record again that decade. 

The 1980 collaboration with Archie Shepp, Golden Lady, featuring another arresting original ”Caged Bird”, marked her true return to the jazz spotlight and successive appearances at the Village Vanguard, Sweet Basil, and Green Street in New York and a series of recordings for the German record label Enja (Talking to the Sun, and her two volume tribute to Billie Holiday Abbey Sings Billie) brought her acclaim commensurate with her rediscovered art.—All About Jazz

 *   *   *   *   *

Blue Monk

        By Abbey Lincoln (1961)

Goin' alone, life is your own,
But sometimes the cost is dear.
Being complete, knowing defeat,
Keeping on from year to year.
It takes some doing.
Monkery's the blues you hear,
Keeping on from year to year.

Life is a school, 'less you're a fool,
But the learning brings you pain.
Knowing at once you're just a dunce,
Trial and error, loss and gain.
It takes some doing -
Monkery's a slow, slow train,
Trial and error, loss and gain.

Finding your one place in the sun
Doesn't come the easy way
Shallow and deep, nothing is cheap
Measured by the dues you pay
It takes some doin',
Monkery's a blue highway
Measured by the dues you pay

 *   *   *   *   *

“Monk started me to seeing myself as a composer. He told these people once, ‘Abbey Lincoln is not only a great singer and a great actress, but a great composer.’ And I hadn’t composed anything then. But I would. The first song I composed and wrote the lyrics was ‘People in Me’ [on 1973’s People in Me, Inner City].”

She certainly would; her compositions and lyrics are one aspect of the unique musical artist that Abbey Lincoln is. Since her complete embrace of the most advanced musical forms, the poetic impact of the lyrics—hers and others—is an indelible power that keeps the whole song, voice, words, arrangement and composition spinning in your head. Always from the stance of singer as musician, instrument, poet, actress, philosopher.

Still, for all her talent, Abbey has had to take her share of knocks for her highly personal creativity and her highly public aesthetic, cultural and social-political self-portraits. Big for-instances are the sizzling records she made with Max Roach, whom she married in 1962. The daunting aesthetic departure of the great We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite (Candid, 1960) and It's Time  (Impulse!, 1962) were clearly inspired by the whole context of the real world in which everyone lives—even though it pays to claim it doesn’t even exist. The “screaming” that one anonymous ignoramus laid at Abbey’s feet is, in fact, if said sad person was babbling about “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace,” indeed the center piece of Abbey doing exactly what Mao asked artists to do: create works that are “aesthetically powerful and politically revolutionary,” where the vocal narrative reaches the force of unstoppable rising collective human passion.

It is a common topic of conversation among the various diggers how Abbey and Max had to pay for their commitment to “The Movement.” The very same crocodiles who might skin and grin in their presence would advance almost a boycott of these two internationally acclaimed artists, as payback for them daring to use their art in the service of democracy and the people. But self-determination is anathema to the corpses, even if packaged only as an aesthetic and located exclusively in the world of art.

Coming out of the expressive discussion on what things have shaped her, Abbey volunteered a somewhat stunning raison d’être, I guess booted by the mention of the Motherland. “I’m an African woman. Really. I’m not a monogamist,” she offers, seeking to clear up whatever questions she thought she could acknowledge vibing in my knot, that she felt, perhaps, would not be asked but needed to be laid out.

“People don’t understand. Max was not a womanizer. He wasn’t running around. But I don’t want to have to answer where I was last night! I don’t want him to divorce his first wife if he can’t have me. I don’t want my sister to be without. I would never do that again.” A high-spangled laugh, “But at my age, I’m not gonna do any of that anymore, anyway.

“But the whole thing—I never had any rights [to Max]. What rights have you? Unless you can kill him. The African women could do that!” She pauses to reflect, however deeply, “What was wrong with Roach and me was the approach to marriage.” And with that I withdraw before the water creeps over my head. “The only way I survive is to keep running my mouth. That’s how I keep from being wiped out, to keep expressing myself!”

On her way to Los Angeles to perform at the Masonic Hall and the Jazz Bakery, we are discussing the various trends and camps she is checking, bouncing them around for verification. “Best thing I ever did for myself is practice the arts.” She confirms with delight the wisdom of her own choices: “I was a singer, a painter, actress, a playwright, a composer. I wrote a thesis on Africa and Egypt. I don’t want to do an autobiography because of the ugly spirit in this place. They take your stuff and twist it.

“And I’m tired of them talking about ‘women in the music’, like it’s new. Women always been in this music. But the men have been at the front of it. The men have a hard time keeping a standard that individual. If the work is to be seen it has to be original. Otherwise you can kick his booty butt off the stage.

“I haven’t changed, I’m just better at expressing myself. When I listen to the early things. I write songs about my life. It’s not an unhappy life. Because I run my mouth. You know. Express myself: Straight ahead!” She says it like some say “Later!” Smiling, her conversational tone glittering briefly into the first lines of one of her classics: “Straight ahead the road keeps winding…”—Amiri Baraka, JazzT imes 

*   *   *   *   *

Abbey Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation—By Nate Chinen—May 20, 2007— Abbey Sings Abbey, which is out on Tuesday, captures the depth of her art with majestic serenity and bittersweet clarity. As the title suggests, it looks back on her original songs, the first time Ms. Lincoln has dedicated a full album to her own work. Another first: It surrounds her richly textured voice with acoustic and pedal steel guitars, accordion and mandolin, in an American roots-music style. “For some reason,” she said, “it’s better than anything I’ve done before.” . . . Ms. Lincoln exudes a powerful authority throughout the album, whether striking a quietly wistful note on “Should’ve Been” or appealing to a distant creator in “Down Here Below.” Her flickering alto sounds ratified by age; her phrasing is subtle and sure.

“I’ve got about 15 years on some of the songs, so it’s supposed to be a little different,” she said. “If I was imitating myself, that would be pitiful.”

Many more singers are likely to mine Ms. Lincoln’s songs, given that Abbey Sings Abbey presents them so clearly, and with so few adornments. Earlier this year the jazz vocalist Kendra Shank released Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook (Challenge).

Her advice to any artist would be “to sing your own song,” Ms. Lincoln said. “Don’t look to me, look to yourself.” Still, she noted with evident satisfaction a report she had received: a couple of nights earlier, a singer in a club had been pressured by an audience member into singing “Throw It Away,” one of her signature songs. . . .

That includes the tougher moments, of which Ms. Lincoln has lately had a few. Sitting on her couch, surrounded by the totems of her life, she repeatedly admitted to a lingering fatigue. “I didn’t come here to stay forever, I know that,” she said.

“So if they want to bring me home, I’ll be glad to go. It’s easy for me to say it, but I mean it too.” She has vague plans to bequeath her apartment to the community as an arts center: Moseka House, after the name she was given 35 years ago by an official in Zaire.

Of course her greatest legacy will be her music, which she isn’t ready to relinquish. “They’re my songs, and I sang ’em and I’ll sing ’em,” she said. “It’s not the last time I’ll sing ’em, either.” In August she will headline both days of the 15th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, which takes place in Harlem and the East Village.“All along the way there were things to do/always some other someone I could be,” Ms. Lincoln said, citing lines from “Being Me,” which closes the album with a rumination on her lifelong search for an honest self. Abbey Sings Abbey is the manifestation of that search, a study in gravity and wisdom that could only have come, one suspects, at this point in her career.

“I should be excellent by now,” Ms. Lincoln said. “Otherwise, when is it going to be?” She drew herself up into a regal posture, grinning mischievously. “I’m baaaaaad.” NYTimes

*   *   *   *   *

An Appreciation of Abbey Lincoln—By Martin Johnson—August 15, 2010—The jazz singer and songwriter was one of a kind—and that was always her goal. Going to a jazz show is usually about hearing this piano player or that saxophonist, but attending a performance by vocalist Abbey Lincoln was about performing a pilgrimage: It was about the confirmation of shared truths and a glimpse of the potential of those ideas. She died Saturday at age 80 in New York.

Lincoln could make large concert halls seem intimate, and she made small jazz clubs feel like a living room. At her best, she held her audience rapt; there was a bright flame that burned inside her, and if you paid close enough attention, she would share it. Abbey Lincoln found her inner flame early in life, and it burned brightly until the end. . . .

Although she discarded the Hollywood version of glamour, Lincoln remained a style icon.  She became well-known for her array of hats, and she often wore dark ensembles highlighted by a superb use of colorful accessories. Her offstage demeanor was just as no-nonsense as it was onstage. Eighteen years ago we sat down for an interview over lunch for a Vogue piece about her and Carter, which ran in February '93 under the headline, "Presidents Carter and Lincoln."

She was eager to talk about her songwriting influences and her new recordings, but most memorably, she summed up her roller coaster of a career. "I made my life mine; that's what you're supposed to do," she said. "Too many people lead their lives to the tune of other people's ideas; I made my life mine." The Root

*   *   *   *   *

Max Roach—Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace

Abbey Lincoln—Driva' Man/Protest   / Soesja Citroen—Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln—People in Me Abbey LincolnDown here Below

Max Roach—All Africa / Abbey Lincoln—Where Are The African Gods?

Jazz Profiles from NPR Abbey Lincoln  /  Max Roach—Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln—Spread the Word  / Abbey Lincoln: Throw It Away  / Abbey Lincoln—Down Here Below (1995)

*   *   *   *   *

It's Time by Max Roach

It is easy to underestimate Max Roach, but nearly impossible to overestimate his work. He came out of the bop era, but was on the cutting edge of jazz into the 1990s. Here, Max takes the Civil Rights themes of "Bitter Sweet" and applies a choir to them, giving his musical and political thrust an almost godly urgency. Donald Byrd was also working with choirs at the time with equal effectiveness, but here, the musical and the political are impossible to separate. Choirs were common in music in 1962-Mitch Miller, Bing Crosby-but Roach uses these pretty voices to provoke and discomfort us. There is a lot going on musically too: blues tinge but with lots of substitutions and Dolphy-esqe inversions. The fact that Roach could apply a vocal section to this and make it work only shows you how smart his arranging was. Great artifact and great music in 2008. A must buy.—William Nicholas

*   *   *   *   *

The Black Woman: An Anthology

By Toni Cade Bambara and Eleanor W. Traylor

Washington Square Press, 1970, 2005

A collection of early, emerging works from some of today's most celebrated African American female writers. When it was first published in 1970, The Black Woman introduced readers to an astonishing new wave of voices that demanded to be heard. In this groundbreaking volume of original essays, poems, and stories, a chorus of outspoken women—many who would become leaders in their fields: bestselling novelist Alice Walker, poets Audre Lorde and Nikki Giovanni, writer Paule Marshall, activist Grace Lee Boggs, and musician Abbey Lincoln among them—tackled issues surrounding race and sex, body image, the economy, politics, labor, and much more. Their words still resonate with truth, relevance, and insight today.— Washington Square Press 2005

*   *   *   *   *

Black Nationalism in Jazz

The Forerunners Resist Establishment Repression, 1958-1963

By Frank Kofsky  

Recounts efforts of four Black jazz musicians (Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Abbey Lincoln) to take and hold positions on the political and social role of Black people and Black artists that went beyond what was politically acceptable to the jazz Establishment and "Down Beat" magazine. Describes attempts to discredit these artists. (Author/GC)

*   *   *   *   *

Frank Kofsky's Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970) compares Coltrane and Malcolm X time and time again in their depth of influence on African-American culture and, more important, as men who shared a desire to revolt against racial and social oppression. Kofsky spends much time discussing "Malcolm's great symbolic significance for the new generation of black musicians and his own evident identification with the black jazz artist." Yet when Kofsky interviewed the musician he "worshipped as a saint or even a god" in 1966, Coltrane focused on his music and the creative act, resisting Kofsky's tendentiously political questions.FindArticles

*   *   *   *   *

Freedomways Reader: Prophets in Their Own Country
By Constance Pohl  and Esther Cooper Jackson

A collection of over 50 articles originally published in Freedomways, one of the premier African-American intellectual periodicals during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Until now, these documents, which show the depth and breadth of the struggle for democracy, had been lost to the public. The publication of the Freedomways Reader restores this lost treasury. It contains what amounts to an oral history of the liberation movements of the 1960s through the 1980s. Through the reports of the Freedom Riders, the early articles against the Vietnam War and South African apartheid, the short stories and poems of Alice Walker, and the memoirs of black organizers in the Jim Crow south of the Thirties, one can walk in the footsteps of these pioneers. When it was created in 1961, the goal of the publication Freedomways was "to serve as a vehicle of communication, which will mirror developments in the diversified many-sided struggles of the Negro people."

By the time of its demise in 1986, it had tracked the peril and promise of the civil rights era and the bewildering decade of the 1970s. This informative reader, compiled by the magazine's cofounder Esther Cooper Jackson, covers the full scope of Freedomways' history. In addition to contributions by W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and James Baldwin, the magazine boasted three Nobel Prize winners in Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Neruda, and Derek Walcott. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee graced its pages, along with then-rising stars Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and Jesse Jackson. Covering topics as diverse as politics, culture, jazz, the antiwar movement, Pan-Africanism, prison, and education, Freedomways Reader is an excellent diary of late-20th-century African American life.—Eugene Holley Jr

Jackson was the original editor of Freedomways, a quarterly magazine published between 1961 and 1986, chronicling the struggle for racial justice in the U.S. The magazine featured contributions by many of the luminaries of black literature, art, and politics, including three Nobel Prize laureates: Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Neruda, and Derek Wolcott. Other contributors included Alice Walker, James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Jomo Kenyatta, C. L. R. James, and common black folk. The collection features poetry, essays, speeches, articles. There are memoirs of a Birmingham coal miner, tributes to Paul Robeson, and reflections of black feminists, labor organizers, and prisoners. The anthology begins with articles actually written in the 1940s and 1950s, which provide historical context for the journal itself, followed by the pieces, organized topically, e.g., the Southern movement, international solidarity, the movement in the North, and art and activism. This comprehensive collection reflects the global nature of the struggle for equality and the longing for racial justice over an important 25-year period.—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

Guarding the Flame of Life / Strange Fruit Lynching Report

The State of African Education (April 2000) / Attack On Africans Writing Their Own History Part 1 of 7

Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.

Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.

Part 2 of 7  /  Part 3 of 7  / Part 4 of 7  / Part 5 of 7 / Part 6 of 7  /  Part 7 of 7

John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk

*   *   *   *   *

AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011
 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

From Civil Rights to Human Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice

By Thomas F. Jackson

King's early leadership reached beyond southern desegregation and voting rights. As the freedom movement of the 1950s and early 1960s confronted poverty and economic reprisals, King championed trade union rights, equal job opportunities, metropolitan integration, and full employment. When the civil rights and antipoverty policies of the Johnson administration failed to deliver on the movement's goals of economic freedom for all, King demanded that the federal government guarantee jobs, income, and local power for poor people. When the Vietnam War stalled domestic liberalism, King called on the nation to abandon imperialism and become a global force for multiracial democracy and economic justice.Drawing widely on published and unpublished archival sources, Jackson explains the contexts and meanings of King's increasingly open call for "a radical redistribution of political and economic power" in American cities, the nation, and the world. The mid-1960s ghetto uprisings were in fact revolts against unemployment, powerlessness, police violence, and institutionalized racism, King argued. His final dream, a Poor People's March on Washington, aimed to mobilize Americans across racial and class lines to reverse a national cycle of urban conflict, political backlash, and policy retrenchment. King's vision of economic democracy and international human rights remains a powerful inspiration for those committed to ending racism and poverty in our time.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

 

 

 

 

 

posted 16 August 2010 

 

 

 

Home   Tributes Obituaries Remembrances  Music and Musicians

Related files:       Anarcha's Story   J Marion Sims   Medical Apartheid    Fighting the Sickle Cell Anemia Stigma     Mildred Loving  RAPE: A Radical Analysis   Bebop Modernism and Change  Clifford Brown: You Get Used to It  

Mildred Loving    Revolutionary Black Music: Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln