Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Beauty, Race, and the Death of Amede Ardoin

On Facebook, I have written briefly about the beautiful book of poetry, If you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook, by former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque, but I have not said much about the man honored by the book, Amédé Ardoin.

Ardoin was a black man who is considered to be the father of Zydeco/Creole/Cajun music by many in Louisiana. At the very least, he was a singer/songwriter and "accordion virtuoso." Sometime around 1940, the story goes, Ardoin was assaulted by a group of angry white men and later died.

While playing at an event before a white crowd, the singer asked for a towel to wipe the sweat from his brow. A white woman handed him her handkerchief. This gesture angered some white men who may or may not have been from Louisiana, and they followed Ardoin home, beat him, and ran over him with a car or carriage, crushing his vocal cords.

Unable to sing again, he fell into a deep depression. He died in an asylum later and was buried in an unmarked grave. I can't help think but of Zora Neale Hurston now who died in a home for the indigent and was also buried in an unmarked grave until Alice Walker resurrected Hurston's legacy.

The video below tells more about this gifted man, Ardoin, whose life was brutally shortened.

You can listen Bourque's interview with Susan Larson on WWNO at this link and hear him read some of his work from his Ardoin chapbook and other collections. I love to hear him read and talk.

Profits from If You Abandon Me go toward creating a memorial of some sort for Ardoin.

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