Jimmy’s Songs: Listening over James Baldwin’s Shoulder

Ed Pavlić

Abstract


Black music played a crucial role in the work and life of James Baldwin. What Baldwin heard in the music guided his sense of political reality and human possibility, his invention of character, his shifting analytical point of view, and his decisions about what to do, when, and how to do it during his life in private and career in public. The music, therefore, also offers his critics and his readers important insight and guidance in their own experience and interpretation of his work. This brief essay accounts for some of the most basic connections between Baldwin and black music; it serves here as an introduction to a list of songs, some of which offered Baldwin important guidance and some of which offer his readers access to deeper meanings in his work.

A playlist of songs, curated by Ed Pavlić and Justin A. Joyce, is
available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtSYQ5bCX-C-IZkeQ_PX7ncsbdjI32HSy


Keywords


James Baldwin, black music, language, Michael Ondaatje, speechlessness

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7227/JBR.2.10

Copyright (c) 2016 Ed Pavlić

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