Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'd Rather Go Blind

I was a naive smalltown boy drafted into the service of my country. In basic training I met William Alexander. He was inner city black. We became friends when he announced that every white man he'd ever met was a gutless worm. So, in the name of advancing racial relations, we beat the hell out of each other until we couldn't stand up. Respect. While I was in school I discovered jazz, bluegrass, and any other obscure music that college freshman had decided was cool that year. I didn't dislike soul music. It wasn't on my radar. It wasn't on AM radio or network television. I did not know it existed. Alexander was stunned in his disbelief. He took me by my musical hand and did what he could to educate me. He sat on the bunk across from me with his guitar and sang James Brown, Ray Charles, the current soul music of the time, and also his own songs. I'd never met anyone who actually wrote songs. He showed me blues forms and chord structures, discussed blues, soul and gospel. I listened hard and nodded politely, although I understood very little of it. At least he opened the door for me to walk in.

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