AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
Please forgive me for nitpicking in the midst of tributes to A.W., but I don't think the man who had spent days in the library rather than the classroom would have ever said "The Ground On Which I Stand On." How did that happen?
Each play was written out of its own moment in time and its own necessity. Wilson's language was as sorrowful as a blues guitar but but expressed a reasonable amount of joy in every moment.
Right on Bob. Your comments are always meaningful and much appreciated.
Corrections: My 89-year-old memory betrayed me. August Wilson saw six Japanese men having breakfast in a bus station restaurant and imagined how different six black men would have acted. . But the important correction is that Wilson told Bill Moyers that he collected used 78 rpm records. Among them was Bessie Smith singing a racy tune, which he played over and over. In his decade-by-decade plays, he listened to the music of each period for help in crafting his themes. Check Google for the Moyers interview.
August Wilson's plays reveal his strong awareness of how vital the blues and jazz have been to the African-American experience. The version I heard was that the sound of a Bessie Smith record coming from a place on the Hill spurred him to search for cheap records of this music. Among the highlights of my life are 1) the opportunity to see several of his dramas and 2) to meet him and speak with him after he had given a talk in Pittsburgh the early '80s. In an interview with Bill Moyers, August Wilson compared the conversation and actions of a group of Japanese having breakfast in a diner with how a group of black men would have spoken and behaved. Not only does it capture his marvelous gifts for observation and language, but it is one of the most hilarious pieces that I've ever read.
Pittsburgh is on the map of humanity because of August Wilson. He will reign forever as a brilliant man of vision. Thank you, Mr. WILSON
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