A Thanksgiving Note From Director Tim Duffy

inUncategorizedon November 23, 2020

After 26 years of running the Music Maker Foundation, I have a lot to be thankful for, and most all of it comes down to the laughs and good times I’ve had with Music Maker artists in their homes, and on planes, hotels, and stages. And mostly, I remember the great sense of joy they’ve brought to everyone around them.

A long time ago, in the early days of Music Maker, a trip with Guitar Gabriel had me away from home at Thanksgiving. I remember flying into LaGuardia with him. We sat in a mostly empty airport and shared a humble little meal for the holiday. Gabe was Music Maker’s first partner artist. He was a wise man, a humble man, and a man who lived on the fringes but was always aware that there were still people less fortunate than he.

One thing Gabe used to tell me — and it’s always been true — is if you want to know anything about a town, don’t talk to anyone who has a job. Go and find the hobo under the bridge; he’ll tell you from the top to the bottom because he has nothing to lose. People with means, with money, don’t have the whole story. Over the years, as I have explored small towns in the South, I’ve followed Gabe’s philosophy, and I’ve learned countless enriching lessons along the way.

All of the artists Music Maker has partnered with over the years lived their lives on the margins of society, but they were lives filled with joy and wisdom. That joy and wisdom is what kept their families close, and it’s what brought visitors from around the world to their doorsteps, and to their performances. It’s impossible to describe the sense of pride in simply taking an elevator ride down in the morning to eat breakfast with such an artist. Across the board, their personal magnetism was intense. I could watch Captain Luke peel an apple and be in utter awe.

And when they spoke, they filled you with something you could remember for the rest of your days.

Here’s a little list of some of my favorite sayings from our Music Maker artists. Some of them make all the sense in the world from the first time you hear them; others make you just cock your head in wonder.

“If it ain’t been in a pawnshop, it can’t play the blues.” — Frank Edwards

“If you kill a chicken, save me the head!” — Algia Mae Hinton

“I have searched and I’ve searched, but I have never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse.” — Cootie Stark

“If you don’t love me baby, would you fool me good?”— Precious Bryant

“You got to have rain in your life to appreciate the sunshine.” — Essie Mae Brooks

“For the love of money this world is in a mess.” — Ironing Board Sam

“Beg your pocketbook.” — Captain Luke

“Every dollar in this world wasn’t meant for us, and money is nice to have, so when you can share with someone who might not have what you have, that’s making you feel good within you, because you’re the human being.” — Guitar Gabe

Sayings like these don’t live on just because Music Maker has preserved them: They still live on in the communities where those artists live.

It has always been our job at Music Maker to expose this wisdom, this artistry, this immense grace to the wider world. And I know in my heart that all of these artists were and are pleased with our efforts. When I think about them, I remember the old African proverb: When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground. They wanted their songs recorded. They wanted their pictures taken. They wanted people to be able to learn about them after they had passed. They wanted people in their own communities to be able to find out who they were. And, they were always my partners in that idea.

Music Maker has been doing this work for 26 years now, and I still don’t understand what Algia Mae Hinton meant about the chicken heads, but I’m grateful she said it to me.

I am thankful for everyone in our Music Maker Family — from the presenters that gave us our first shows, to the donors that have made this journey possible, and to all the Music Maker artists that have brought us together.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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