May 16 is the Birthdate of Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) and Betty Carter (1929-1998)

Adult Black Culture is Betty Carter singing ‘Moonlight in Vermont’

betty-carter1

Adult black culture: You need a password to get in. Then you need to practice it—a long time. Not about melody. Diddle, liddle, dlay, lo-do, dlay, laydle-lay-lo-lo. Not about      words or hearing or seeing but sounds, listening, and witnessing.

i.

The challenges that make adult black culture keep coming back: picking cotton, suckling a newborn, and ducking the lash all at the same time.

ii.

With parents at the Howard Theater to see Miles after Kind of Blue. A historic treat. Betty Carter was on that show too. The ‘warm-up’ act, you might say (Miles did not like ‘chicks’ up in front singing). Don’t remember Miles but I do remember ‘Miss Bee Bop’ in knee length fitted satin dress—left side aqua, right side lime—with corresponding shoes and straps that would not stay on her shoulders. Scatting, addressing the microphone, and pulling up her straps—simultaneously. Passwords, practice, melody, and words accentuated and wrung to listening and witnessing. Diddle, liddle, dlay, lo-do, dlay, laydle-lay-lo-lo. Whatever mistakes her dressmaker made with those straps in 1959 did not deter her from performing the live ‘theater of music.’

iii.

All those ballads extolling heterosexuality: ‘I don’t know where my man is . . .’ ‘His lips are so sweet . . .’ don’t mean a thing—diddle, liddle, lo-do, dlay, laydle-lo-lo.

iv.

You can stash all your girlfriends into hotel rooms for after the late show—diddle, liddle, lo-do, dlay, laydle-lo-lo—over private stock cognac in the towns you are performing the theater of music—diddle, liddle, lo-do, dlay, laydle-lo-lo.

Still her rendition of ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ in 1955 is quintessential adult black culture like no one before or since.

‘ I-cee

feen-ger

waves,’

yes.

 


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