03.05.12 James Baldwin

by Big B

I just finished James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues and couldn't help but think of Ben Harper.

First, the obvious - the folks outside the narrator's house singing If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray Again. Mr. Harper sand that song on his Grammy-winning album There Will Be A Light.

Then, the narrator talks about the ice in his belly while describing his brother Sonny's fire inside - "Fire & Ice" - the great Ben Harper song.

Then, of course, Sonny plays the blues at the club and speaks and listens - communicates - through his music.

Last, and most important, Mr. Baldwin's work is obviously in the African-American literary cannon. One of the most significant common threads throughout these works is the idea of "double-consciousness" - or what Dunbar calls the mask, or what is referred to as the veil. Mr. Harper has obviously tapped into this same brilliance with his work - Glory & Consequence, Pleasure & Pain, Both Sides of the Gun, and many if his other songs.

If these facts don't lend any credence to the argument that Mr. Harper is one of the all-time greats, I don't know what does.

I just wonder if these are conscious decisions on Mr. Harper's part, or if they are subconscious or unconscious decisions based off these classic works and so many others.

I'd love to interview him and find out.

Brian Wright


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