For reasons both convoluted and fuzzy, I found myself in the East Village of Manhattan, in the area known as Alphabet City, on an early morning in July, 2003. I was there to find and take a photo of the tenement where former childhood actor Bobby Driscoll was found dead in 1968. Why I was asked to take the photo is the convoluted part. Whether or not I was hired to take it, even though I’m not a photographer and don’t remember getting paid, is the fuzzy part. I also don’t remember why I was in New York City (if there was a blurry part, that would be it). I found the building, took the photo and sent it off where it needed to go. But along the way, I took another photo, which is the one you see accompanying this newsletter.
While walking from the Noho area to the East Village, I came across a makeshift memorial, attached to a chainlink fence, honoring the international superstar and Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz. She had died a few days earlier and people all over the world were in mourning. Her death hit particularly hard in those communities in the United States with strong Cuban-American ties, such as many areas of New York City, Union City, New Jersey and southern Florida. I’m not sure why I took the photo. I had no personal connection to Cruz, am not of Hispanic or Cuban descent and was not that familair with her music. I knew her voice and who she was, but something about the outpouring of emotion and collective sorrow of the neighborhood struck me. The memorial consisted of a few newspaper clippings, the cover of the Spanish-language El Diario, hand-written wishes, a couple of doodled music notes and a sad silk-flower, wire wreath. Underneath it, the word “Azúcar” — “sugar” in Spanish, her trademark phrase — tiled with colorful banners.
I forgot I even took the photo until perusing this month’s music programming offerings. Stay up late, or set your DVR, to watch Voces: Celia the Queen, on Monday September 14 at 11:00 p.m. It’s the premiere episode of the new season of Voces, a showcase of outstanding documentaries celebrating the rich diversity of Latino life. Celia the Queen is a loving look at the amazing life and legacy of the woman whose voice symbolized the soul of a nation and captured the hearts of fans worldwide. A woman who broke down barriers of racism and sexism, and whose music and life I should be a little more familiar with.
Austin City Limits encores its Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, September 26, 2009 with Emmylou Harris, the legendary Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby and 300,000 music fans at Golden Gate Park. Fall Out Boy is on Soundstage; Renee Fleming is Live from Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic; and Susan Tedeschi is on Legends and Lyrics.
It’s another great month of music programming on NPT.
Read the Rest of the NPT Music Monthly September 2009 on the wnpt.net news page. It’s the complete listing of all the music programming coming to NPT this month, including all the above mentioned artists, plus John Mayer, Jackson Browne, the documentary Awake My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp, Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan, Duffy., Charlie Daniels, Phil Vassar and plenty more. Subscribe for free at wnpt.net. Tell your friends!