Saturday Interlude

More serious stuff next week, but today it is back to the poetry of Langston Hughes with the cooperation of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Ella Fitzgerald.

If you want to know the history of a piece of music, Song Facts is a great place to visit.

Take The A Train was written by Billy Strayhorn, who played piano and wrote arrangements for Duke Ellington’s band.  Strayhorn recalled that the song that became the signature opening piece for Duke Ellington and his Orchestra came to him with very little effort.  In fact, he said that the music and lyrics for “Take the A Train,” originally recorded on February 15, 1941 by Ellington for Victor Records, came more quickly than the subject of the song itself – the New York subway line to the Sugar Hill District of Harlem. It was so easy for him, he said it was “like writing a letter to a friend.”

Once you took the A Train to its Sugar Hill destination you could see and hear the sounds that created the tribute to its lovely ladies written by Langston Hughes.  A good poet can write a good poem.  A genius can write a list and make you see, smell, and hear the sights and sounds of continents.  Langston Hughes was a genius.

Sweeties

“Harlem Sweeties”

Have you dug the spill
Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims
On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie,
Caramel treat,
Honey-gold baby
Sweet enough to eat.
Peach-skinned girlie,
Coffee and cream,
Chocolate darling
Out of a dream.
Walnut tinted
Or cocoa brown,
Pomegranate-lipped
Pride of the town.
Rich cream-colored
To plum-tinted black,
Feminine sweetness
In Harlem’s no lack.
Glow of the quince
To blush of the rose.
Persimmon bronze
To  cinnamon toes.
Blackberry cordial,
Virginia Dare wine–
All those sweet colors
Flavor Harlem of mine!
Walnut or cocoa,
Let me repeat:
Caramel, brown sugar,
A chocolate treat.
Molasses taffy,
Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove cinnamon
To a honey-brown dream.
Ginger, wine-gold,
Persimmon, blackberry,
All through the spectrum
Harlem girls vary–
So if you want to know beauty’s
Rainbow-sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

 

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About Jamie

Retired Writer Editor - Loves Books, Musical Theater, politics for a good argument, genealogy, Scotland and owls
This entry was posted in Music, Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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