ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Downtown he played at Lou and Charlie’s / or uptown at the Maple Leaf. I’d go
across town to hear him. / There’s something free about driving alone
James Booker Albums
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Books by Lee Meitzen Grue
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Booker: Black Night Keeps on Falling
By Lee Meitzen Grue
Something stupid must have been a comment,
came out like a Liberace tune.
What James Booker played
was here like my mama when I needed it.
He wasn’t a young man like Robert Johnson
or somebody I don’t get to hear much like Blue Lu Barker.
Downtown he played at Lou and Charlie’s
or uptown at the Maple Leaf. I’d go
across town to hear him.
There’s something free about driving alone
at night, going into a bar
not to drink much or talk,
but to listenanonymous
a kind of emptiness filled like a belly
with dirty rice. Sometimes,
moving down St. Claude Avenue or St. Charles,
I’d ask myself, What’s on your mind?
You’re not black. You’re a well-fed white woman living
in the richest country in the world.
I see too much.
Booker and headache powders
at Jimmy’s corner store
work for anybody. Blues
feel and fall
all over you into the gaps.
They don’t care who you are
because sorrow’s common as dirt,
nothing’s certainpeople go.
Source: In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh by Lee Meitzen Grue
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Reviving James Booker The ‘Piano Prince Of New Orleans’Gwen Thompkins31 March 2012Every day in New Orleans, Lily Keber rolls out of bed and walks to a flat, minor office building to meet her muse. Keber makes a cup of coffee with chicory, hooks up her computer and waits for what sounds like a dozen spiders to crawl across a piano. Keber is making Bayou Maharajah, a documentary about the black, gay, one-eyed junkie, James Booker, the “Piano Prince of New Orleans.” Booker, who tutored Dr. John and Harry Connick Jr., was the first to call his fingers “spiders on the keys.”
“James Booker was one of our country’s greatest piano players,” Keber says. “You can find musicians who are good at classical, and you can find musicians who are good at street music. But it’s a special breed who can master both.” A classical-music prodigy as a child, Booker grew up to originate a style of piano playing that few can emulate. Everything from his delivery of Chopin‘s “Minute Waltz” to his rendition of “Black Night” highlighted his talent: spiders on the keys, heart on his sleeve. But in a town where soul queen Irma Thomas stands next to you at the dry cleaner and Dr. John turns up at the grocery store, people often take their musical legends for granted.
Sometimes it takes an outsider like Lily Keber to remind everyone that genius is rare. Keber was born in North Carolina and schooled in Georgia. She moved to New Orleans just a few years ago. “I knew Dr. John, I knew Irma Thomas, I knew The Meters. I knew the big names. And I didn’t know James Booker at all. I had never heard the name,” Keber says. “So when it eventually started to dawn on me that he was a real guy and he really did play this amazing music that’s coming out of the jukebox, that sort of floored me. . . .
Booker was also a sideman for Aretha Franklin, The Doobie Brothers, Ringo Starr and Lloyd Price. But apart from some childhood recordings, he released only three albums in his lifetime. His addictionsheroin, cocaine, alcoholgot the better of him. “Booker wanted to be famous, but he didn’t behave like someone who really wants to be well known,” Keber says. “He didn’t show up for gigs. And if he did show up, would he be in the mood to play? He really was frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t make it, but he didn’t do himself any favors.”
David Torkanowsky, a jazz pianist and bandleader, says Booker’s habits were extreme. “I remember there was a regular Tuesday night Booker solo at Tipitina’s. Finally, the lights dim and Booker walks out to the middle microphone on stage. He was wearing nothing but a huge diaper with a huge gold pin holding up the diaper,” Torkanowsky says, “and from behind the diaper he pulls out a .357 magnum, puts it to his own head and announces to the audience, ‘If somebody doesn’t give me some [expletive] cocaine right now, I’m going to [expletive] pull the trigger. It went from ‘Can’t wait to hear him play’ to ‘Oh my God.'”npr
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James Carroll Booker III (December 17, 1939 – November 8, 1983) was a
New Orleans rhythm and blues musician born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Booker’s unique style combined rhythm and blues with jazz standards. Booker was the son and grandson of Baptist ministers, both of whom played the piano. He spent most of his childhood on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where his father pastored a church. Booker received a saxophone as a gift from his mother, but he demonstrated a stronger interest in the keyboard. He first played organ in his father’s churches.
After returning to New Orleans in his early
adolescence, Booker attended the Xavier Academy Preparatory School. He learned some elements of his keyboard style from Tuts Washington and Edward Frank. Booker was highly skilled in classical music and played Bach and Chopin, among other composers. He also mastered and memorized solos by Erroll Garner, and Liberace. His thorough background in piano literature may have enabled his original and virtuosic interpretations of jazz and other popular music. These performances combined elements of stride, blues, gospel and Latin piano styles.
Booker made his
recording debut in 1954 on the Imperial label, with “Doin’ the Hambone” and “Thinkin’ ‘Bout My Baby.” This led to some session work with Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, and Lloyd Price. In 1958, Arthur Rubinstein gave a concert in New Orleans. Afterwards, eighteen-year-old Booker was introduced to the concert pianist and played several tunes for him. Rubinstein was astonished, saying “I could never play that . . . never at that tempo.” (The Times-Picayune, 1958) Booker also became known for his flamboyant personality amongst his peers.After recording a few other singles, he enrolled as an undergraduate in Southern University‘s music department. In 1960, Booker’s “Gonzo” reached number 43 on the U.S. Billboard chart, and number 3 on the R&B chart. This was followed by some moderately successful singles. In the 1960s, he turned to drugs, and in 1970 served a brief sentence in Angola Prison for possession. . . .
At the end of October, 1983, film-maker Jim Gabour captured Booker’s final concert performance. The footage from the
Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans was broadcast on Cox Cable and a six-and-a-half-minute improvisation, “Seagram’s Jam,” featured on Gabour’s filmAll Alone with the Blues. Booker died ten days later, on November 8, 1983, while seated in a wheelchair, waiting to be seen at the emergency room at New Orleans Charity Hospital. The cause of death was renal failure. (Orleans Parish Coroner’s Death Certificate). His death was mourned by music lovers, but was unsurprising to those who were aware of his life-long history of serious drug abuse and chronic alcoholism.Wikipedia
James Booker on youTube
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By Lee Meitzen Grue
Lee Grue is arguably one of the finest practitioners of poetry in New Orleans’ storied history. These superb writs are equal to the upwelling of jazz itself: from Tremé street corners, to the wayward French Quarter, to the carefree vibes of Bywater, all the way to back o’ town; this astonishing collection speaks from a mythic pantheon off yowls & beats as timeless as the Crescent City herself. “If you’re missing New Orleans, and you know what that means, you need to read Grue’s book front to back, place by place, time by time, name by name, everything that breaks your broken heart and asks it to sing. A generous, loving tribute to poetry and to New Orleans”Dara Wier
“Lee Grue’s work is one of the majestic pylons that keeps New Orleans above water, a pylon woven thickly and subtly from the city’s history. Her poetry weaves her personal history to the five centuries of the city’s own, a fabric stronger than the dreams of engineers. Lee Grue holds us all on the warm open hand of her music; she emanates the love that raises the soul levees”Andrei Codrescu
Lee Meitzen Grue was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a small town upriver. New Orleans has been home for most of her life. She began reading her poetry at The Quorum Club during the early sixties. There she met musicians Eluard Burt and Maurice Martinez (bandleader Marty Most). Burt had just come back to New Orleans from San Francisco, where he had been influenced by the Beats. Eluard Burt and Lee Grue continued to work together over many years. Burt and his photographer wife, Kichea Burt, came home to New Orleans from California again in the nineties, where the three collaborated on a CD, Live! on Frenchmen Street. Eluard Burt passed in 2007.
Kichea Burt contributed some of the photographs in Grue’s book DOWNTOWN. During the intervening years Grue reared children, directed The New Orleans Poetry Forum workshop, and NEA poetry readings in the Backyard Poetry Theater. In 1982 she began editing New Laurel Review, an independent international literary journal which is still published today. She has lived downtown in the Bywater for thirty-five years. After the flood of 2005 she began teaching fiction and poetry at the Alvar Library, which is three blocks from her house. Her other books are: Trains and Other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems, In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh, and Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud, short fiction.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Matthew Wasniewski
Black Americans in Congress, 18702007 beautifully prepared volumeis a comprehensive history of the more than 120 African Americans who have served in the United States Congress. Written for a general audience, this book contains a profile of each African-American Member, including notables such as Hiram Revels, Joseph Rainey, Oscar De Priest, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Gus Hawkins, and Barbara Jordan. Individual profiles are introduced by contextual essays that explain major events in congressional and U.S. history. Part I provides four chronologically organized chapters under the heading “Former Black Members of Congress.” Each chapter provides a lengthy biographical sketch of the members who served during the period addressed, along with a narrative historical account of the era and tables of information about the Congress during that time. Part II provides similar information about current African-American members. There are 10 appendixes providing tabular information of a variety of sorts about the service of Black members, including such things as a summary list, service on committees and in party leadership posts, familial connections, and so forth. The entire volume is 803 large folio pages in length and there are many illustrations. The book should be part of every library and research collection, and congressional scholars may well wish to obtain it for their personal libraries.Picturesincluding rarely seen historical imagesof each African American who has served in CongressBibliographies and references to manuscript collections for each MemberStatistical graphs and charts
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By Derrick Bell
In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly / Derrick Bell Law Rights Advocate Dies at 80
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Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperityand What We Can Do About It
By Les Leopold
How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions: Why did Americans let the gap between workers’ wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives’ pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America’s new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street’s exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by “innovative” products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They’ll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 5 April 2012
Related files: James Booker Bio