Frye is a writer in residence at the University of South Alabama. He has written extensively on southern race relations politics and culture.
I had the distinct pleasure of being in his presence and listening to him closely as he told of the events in our world in the decade of 1960’s. This man is deep in his thoughts and ideas of life in those times as he lived in those times (just as I did). I had no idea what to expect as I drove to The Listening Room last night. It seemed odd, the concept of a show without music. I was intrigued but a little doubtful that I would be entertained at his book reading and discussion.
The book title is “A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility and Innocence Lost.
This book has received awards, I listed two of them:
It is the WINNER of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Literary Prize
Governor’s Arts award, Alabama State Council on the Arts
Below I listed only a few of many Quotes on this book:
NPR Great Read of 2018
“Masterful…Gaillard writes with determination to make the events of the 1960s relevant. He is a gifted storyteller, and I’m giving copies of this book to my sons and daughter to help them understand how we got to now.”…Timothy J. McNulty, The Chicago Tribune
…”smart, readable…at once personal and universal…An illuminating you-are-there view of events on the ground in the turbulent 1960s.” KIRKUS
“Older readers will find this a sobering retrospective, and for those who didn’t live through the 60s, its an enlightening picture of America at a historic juncture” Publisher’s Weekly
Also available is A Hard Rain Reader Soundtrack. We can listen, on Spotify, to the songs discussed in the book (A compilation by Justine Burbank and Frye Gaillard).
The talk Frye gave last night was riveting to me. I began as a teen and turned into a young adult in the 60s. I was very familiar with the injustice and racial inequaiity in everyday life. I saw it first hand with a young lady (my age) who worked in the company cafeteria and who I befriended. She was wonderful, but not making much money. I suggested to one of my supervisors that she would be great as an operator. My supervisor seemed shocked at me, he said, “She is a Nigger!”…”They can only work in janitorial or the cafeteria.”
Being young and still a bit naive, I asked “Why”
The response blew my mind, “We cannot have them sitting next to white girls working, they would be a bad influence and an insult to the workers.” That was over 50 years ago, but I never forgot it. I cried in bed that night as I tried to fall asleep in a world where people were only judged by the color of their skin….I must say it was a jolting experience and I sure understood what Dr. Martin Luther King was talking about after that.
I already knew about these things before last night, as I had seen it and lived in it. But I never really gave much thought to how music played a big part in this world of extreme inequality. They spoke out through music. They knew how to work as musicians with fellow musicians of any color. They saw each other as equals and family, skin color was not an issue.
Frye stated last night that after doing music sessions in Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals, Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge; were asked how it worked out with mostly white backup musicians, both replied “It was great, we were like family”…neither side saw color.
This takes the whole thing to another level to me as, over the years I have spent many hours in the presence of musicians. Musicians at many levels of success, are open, welcoming and happy to jam with, record with, play with fellow musicians and they could not care less about their skin color. A good musician is a good musician….the sound is the sound. Who cares what color fingers are plucking the guitar or pushing down on the piano keys. Who cares what color the skin is on the person who is singing with such depth and clarity it brings you chills.
There are those in our midst who do care, even today. Musicians are not amongst them…they love and respect their fellow musicians…black, white, yellow, brown…means nothing to them.
Bravo to the musicians nationwide (probably worldwide). You see people as people. You have the wisdom and the fortitude to see hearts, to feel souls and make that MUSIC the best it can be!
In this blog, I haven’t done justice to Frye’s wonderful, fascinating book. After I got home I began reading it….it is huge…(almost like “War and Peace”), so I did not get very deep in it…and I woke up in the middle of the night with my glasses on my chest and the book laying on a pillow next to me.
To hear Frye’s words about the 60s, a time of unbelievable volatility in our world, and to be a person who lived in those times, was daunting. The memories of it all returned and slapped me in the face. I remember vividly, the nightly news …the assassinations of our president-John F Kennedy and his brother, the attorney general, Robert Kennedy, and the activist Dr. Martin Luther King…meanwhile there was a war raging in Vietnam that took my brother and many school friends away. I lost dozens of friends, including my boyfriend (I still have his letters in a shoe box)…and the news of the death of someone I knew well, was a regular occurrence. So many innocent young men were killed before they ever had a chance to really LIVE their lives. To make things worse, for the first time in my life, I saw protesters were everywhere at airports where the returning troops landed…our battered, tired young men were screamed at and spat on…when all they did was what they had to do….this broke my heart.
I questioned “what has happened to my world?” “How could this take place in America?”
Yes, for me, the 1960s was a decade of Hope, Possibility, and Innocence Lost.
If you get a chance to catch one of Frye Gaillard’s talks…Don’t hesitate. He is magnificent!
Google fryegaillard.com for his information and his tour schedule.
Thank you Frye Gaillard for shining a bright light on the 60s, where so much can be learned
Thank you Jim Pennington and The Listening Room for bringing another great idea to The Listening Room of Mobile.