Wednesday, February 8, 2023

the last book I ever read (A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, excerpt eight)

from A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib:

Sun Ra said it was a halo of light that appeared around him in 1936. Or maybe it was 1937. He was living in Chicago, or maybe he wasn’t. There are no tactile details to the story that remain consistent. Just that there was certainly a light that consumed the body of Herman Poole Blount, who was from Birmingham, Alabama, and who was named after a vaudeville stage magician his mother loved named Black Herman. Black Herman died onstage in 1934 of a heart attack, but because one of his main acts was a “buried alive” trick, no one in the audience believed he was dead. His assistant, wanting to cash in on the act, charged admission for people to view Black Herman’s corpse in the funeral home. The world is not done with you even when you are done with it. And Herman Poole Blount was not yet Sun Ra in 1937, but he was so done with the world that he embraced the strange light that drank him in and flew on up to a whole other planet. It was one he identified as Saturn. He was granted an audience with aliens who had one antenna over each eye and one on each ear. The aliens told him that he should drop out of college. That the world was dissolving into complete chaos, and they needed him to speak through music.

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