Thursday, May 29, 2014

Langston Hughes The Dream Keeper & other poems of Langston Hughes Folkways Records 1955 CAT# FC7104

Langston Hughes is one of the most important Kansans both historically and socially.  He was born in Joplin, Missouri and at a young age after the separation of his parents, he was moved to Lawrence, Kansas to be raised by his grandmother.  Most of his childhood was spent in Lawrence, until the passing of his grandmother at which point he spent the remainder of his late-teens in various homes' of relatives.

He would travel to New York and become a crewman traveling on his ship across the globe.  He'd work various jobs thereafter and obtained a degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  In 1921, his first poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" was published.  In 1926, the same poem would be published in his first book, The Weary Blues.  As an accomplished author, he took up residence in Harlem, NY.  His work would become pivotal and some of the most influential work of the Harlem Renaissance.  He would work with other artists such as Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, and Aaron Douglas, to push, explore, and promote African-American artists.

He was an interesting individual and it is often stated that he was homosexual.  Not that sexuality matters, what does matter is his devotion to African American culture.  While colleges teach the works of W.E.B. Dubois now-a-days (Hughes is taught in Academia as well), the Hughes' camp was criticizing Dubois for being to apologetic for white European culture.  He wanted to record black life in America, the working class, and he wanted to record the American Experience.  He accomplishe it in all his writing.  His simple, jazz poetry catches it best.  He was brought up by activist parents who fought for equality long before a popularized movement.  In Lawrence, he was given the pride of his culture.  Fitting that the seed was planted in Kansas-The Freestate.

This record was produced in 1955 by Folkways Records.  It features Langston Hughes reading poems from his book, The Dream Keeper.  The Dream Keeper is a great collection, but it's certainly fit for a spoken word album as it was intended for young adults as an introduction to his poetry.  It's a very interesting recording as Hughes introduces his poems at every interval.  He briefly explains either where the poem is from, how it came to be, where he wrote it, or who it is about.  His simple wording and rhythmic delivery let you understand the term jazz poetry, especially true on his "blues" poems.  Despite that I will rarely listen to this, since you get to hear one of the most famous and influential American poets read his poems, it's easily one of my favorite finds.

I, Too

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