Jan 16, 2009

The Girl Can't Help It

I was not going to feel the need to actually defend Memphis against Hamilton Nolan and company. I was going to let it go the way of yesterday's news. But . . . this morning, wending my way to the train, it all came over me anew. You see, recently I've made a concerted effort to be less of a cynic. I don't think my old contempts were natural; they were a pose of youth. The opening and softening of my opinions and sensibilities has been revelatory, quite pleasant. However, even I was shocked at the "softness" of the thoughts occurring to me this A.M.: Memphians have poetical souls. Only poetically-souled people could love a dying city. The phrase "poetical souls" was a particular surprise. But there you have it.

Memphis is a tricky place. The crime rate is high, the gap between rich and poor enormous, the city government wicked and farcical. Much appears to be decaying about one, out of use, out of order, a lover struck with plague. But—partially because of, not in spite of its troubles—the place is full of human beauty and richness (if you don't trust the biased natives, just ask Jim Jarmusch or Cat Power). None of this artfulness is an accident. It is the product of the incredible highs and lows, near magical forces at work. It is the product of poetry, Memphian soulfulness. SOUL MUSIC!!!!! I may live in Brooklyn now, because it's where a young artist ought to be, but it's not for lack of love for my hometown or the glorious friends that I have there (Pillow and Alpha!). Look across this country and you will find so many places loved by poets, loved because of their inherent flaws and feats, downs and ups, loved without hope or promise. Where are you from Hamilton Nolan? What do you love? Are you one of those people who only love clean, easy, hermetically sealed places? Soulless places? Harrumph!

It would be pedantic of me to make a list of all of the great soul records made in Memphis, for there are many many many, but I will provide a snippet sampler (Otis at Monterey!):

4 comments:

Pillow said...

TESTIFY!

mr.hart said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

They don't make music like that here anymore and haven't for a long time. It's easy to post positive when yo don't live in it and were privileged when you lived here. right now, you can fly a plane over Memphis and see that MOST of it is very run down, go to all those neighborhoods and ask those people how they like living here.
It's an atro-city.
It's a great big whitewash that never gets any better, it only gets worse and bigger.

There is a difference from cynicism and ultimate reality, look it up.

Able said...

anonymous—
it's a pleasure to see someone's reading our blog. i'm sorry my post offended . . . i don't pretend expertise in just about anything. the tone of the blog as a whole is meant to play at apoloitics, a certain remove. we mean to impart big-hearted self-satire, in the vein of wodehouse or anita loos. i know that there are whole citites within the city of memphis of which i'm entirely ignorant. many thanks for your addition to our little discourse. we're a group of old old friends; our output can verge on intellectual incest.