I had forgotten how much I loved this book until I pulled it off the shelf to read to Grey today. Of course it has lovely illustrations, but I forgot how progressive the moral of the story is. You go, little brown country bunny, showing you can achieve your dreams, even though you have 21 babies. You show those fancy white city bunnies, and those big male bunnies. They’re the ones who can go eat a carrot.
Happy Birthday, DuBose Heyward, born 31 August 1885, died 16 June 1940
Summer time an’ the livin’ is easy, Fish are jumpin’ an’ the cotton is high. Oh, yo’ daddy’s rich, and yo’ ma’ is good-lookin’, So hush, little baby, don’ yo’ cry.
Heyward was an American author, best known for his novel, Porgy, which was adapted into a 1927 play, an opera, Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by Ira Gerswhin, and a film. He wrote poetry, other novels and plays, as well as the children’s book The Country Bunnyand the Little Gold Shoes.
McDonald: When I first was exposed to “Porgy and Bess” many, many years ago, I was blown away by it — loved the music, overwhelmed by the production at the Met that I saw and thought I want to play Bess someday. But I also knew they were stereotypes that were considered racist. And lots of people, lots of African Americans and African American performers who play these roles have trouble with the stereotypical way in which these characters have been drawn. They’re called archetypes, but a lot of people call them stereotypes as well.
And in a lot of the research that I’ve done on this piece, learning about the history of it, the many different versions of it that exist and will continue to exist and will continue to morph as this piece goes on into the 21st century, I know George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward were writing this piece from a place of love and from their understanding of African American culture. But they were still outsiders in that culture, and therefore they can’t possibly have perfectly drawn fine lines for their characters, because it’s an outside culture, especially at a time when there was no race mixing to speak of. And also it was a time when it was the law in many parts of the land that, yes, black people don’t come to the theater the same day as white people come to the theater in the Jim Crow South….The original Porgy refused to play the theater in Washington, D.C., until they [admitted a mixed-race audience], and it went back and forth and back and forth, but they finally desegregated that theater for the first time.
As an addendum to yesterday’s post on Porgy & Bess: if you’re not up for the full, three-hour-plus operatic treatment but want to get a flavor of the score sung in that style, you can’t do better than this disc with Leontyne Price and William Warfield.
“It Ain’t Necessarily So”, an awesome song from George and Ira Gershwin’s and DuBose Heyward’s awesomePorgy and Bess. Interpreted awesomely by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Arranged awesomely into jazz by Russell Garcia.
Plus it just so happens to sum up what I think of religion in a nutshell.