Interesting Tweets from an organization in France, Les Amis de la Maison James Baldwin (The Friends of the House of James Baldwin), showing off his collection of records. They are recordings of music, on vinyl. Baldwin died in 1987, when it was still possible to avoid music on compact discs.
I love our old vinyl records. They have great works of art on the covers, often, and they have real notes in a readable font. We turned to CDs when some releases stopped coming on vinyl, after 1987.
Now it’s difficult to get CDs, and the tech magazines talk about the death of medium.
But in this short series of Tweets, more photos than words, Les Amis de la Maison James Baldwin take us back into his mind and art, and give us a glimpse of what could have been a wonderful time, sitting in his home in Paris, listening to great music on his record player — stereo I presume, though there is no information on what equipment he had.
He played some of it loud.
Diana Ross, Carmen McRae, Patti Labelle, more Carmen McRae, more Diana Ross, Donna Summer. Brenda Lee, Nina Simone and more Nina Simone. The Pointer Sisters. Deborah Brown Quartet (bet you don’t have that one in your collection). Aretha Franklin, “Here Comes the Sun” by Nina Simone, and more Aretha. One of the jazz albums produced by Creed Taylor (you have some of that, certainly). “From a Whisper to a Scream;” Allen Toussaint?
It’s a great collection in that first photo. We might expect polemics from Baldwin, but the polemic comes only from the entire field of artists and material. It’s the art he collected, and that carries a deeper, more powerful message than any one song or one artist.
In the case of Aretha Franklin, “at volume” is a good thing, easily understandable. Heck, that’s true of every record in that collection.
Lou Rawls, Frank Sinatra, the Platters, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Dinah Washington. Solid stuff.
Shirley Bassey, Bill Withers, Ray Charles, Otis Redding.
James Baldwin appears not to have had a very large collection of records in his home in France. But what he had, was great. A lot of artists are missing that we may wish Baldwin could have heard, and heard often in his own home. Perhaps he was just building up.
What a firm, great foundation.
- “James Baldwin,” American Masters, PBS, 2013
- “James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction, No. 78,” Paris Review, interview of Baldwin by Jordan Elgrably, Spring 1984.
- Biographical entry on Baldwin and review of his major works, at the American Poetry Foundation
- “An open letter to my sister, Ms. Angela Davis,” James Baldwin, New York Review of Books, January 7, 1971
- The Friends of James Baldwin’s House (Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin)
- “Battling to Save James Baldwin’s Home in the South of France,” Rachel Donadio, New York Times, April 4, 2017