Monday, October 27, 2008


Listen to YOU BETTER MIND by Bessie Jones and Group.

From "Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage," by Bessie Jones & Bess Lomax Hawes.

"Mrs. Bessie Jones was born in Dawson, Georgia -- a small black farming community -- and grew up like thousands of other girls of her time in the rural South. She started to work when she was still a child, helping out her big family; she chopped cotton, planted potatoes, watched out for her littler children, took her schooling when her family could spare her and as it was offered.

Balanced on the edge of real poverty all her life, she learned how to amuse and entertain herself and others. Music -- especially singing -- is not only one of the least expensive art forms; it is also one in which you can participate while you are doing something else.

I remember a hundred games, I suppose; I would say a hundred because there are so many of them. We had all kinds of plays; we had house plays, we had outdoor plays. Some of the plays have songs, some have just plays -- you know, just acts or whatnot . . . in my time coming up, the parents they would have quiltings and they would have songs they would sing while they were quilting and we would listen at those songs. And we would have egg crackings and taffy pullings and we would hear all those things -- riddleses and stories and different things. That's why I'm so loaded. . . . And then I has a great remembrance of those things, that's another thing about it.
Bessie Jones, "loaded" as she was with games and songs and her own particular and irrepresible joy in living, got married and moved to her husband's home, St. Simon's Island, one of the long strong of coastal islands that edge the Eastern shoreline of North America. There she met the Georgia Sea Island Singers. . . . The Singers, dedicated to the preservation of the old musical ways of their forebears, were so impressed with Mrs. Jones's buoyant personality, extensive repertoire, and experienced singing style that they invited her to join their group; she became one of the only mainlanders so honored. Mrs. Jones, in her turn, felt at home with the Singers' dignity and with their pride in their African and Afro-American heritage -- the same kind of dignity and pride that had been so carefully taught her by her own parents and grandparents."

Photo: Martin's guest appearance (1).