Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White

Sheet music

Phases & Stages

Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White

by Tom Sancton

Other Press, 305 pp, $24.95

What kind of father encourages his white, preteen son to befriend elderly black men in barely desegregated New Orleans? With Preservation Hall serving as a backdrop for prolonged cross-cultural interaction, Tom Sancton recounts frequent trips to the French Quarter, where he learned to play clarinet under the tutelage of aging jazz masters George Lewis and Creole George Guesnon. Rather than conforming to the sheltered rut of an early-Sixties mass media blitz, the young Sancton embraced his father's interest in civil rights and a practically bygone Dixieland style to the point that he eventually become an integral member of the Olympia Brass Band. By eating meals with "the men's" and marching in funeral processions with them, gaining insight to their prideful heritage, a teenage Sancton grew up quickly with the realization that all was not right in his own home. What kind of father neglects the mother of his children? What kind of father sabotages his own successful career in journalism? And in the end, what kind of father counters his self-inflicted blundering course with an ambitious, enriching gift to his son that makes any semblance of doubt a guilt-ridden endeavor? As much a personal journey as a restoration of New Orleans music history, Song for My Fathers drenches itself in the sweat of a life spent riding the fence between patriarchal extremes.

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