Artist Spotlight: Essie Mae Brooks
inTheir Musicon December 16, 2019
With our 25th anniversary upon us, we reflect on some of the musicians that have been with us since the beginning. Essie Mae Brooks has been a Music Maker partner artist since 1995. Her original, soul-filled gospel music was born out of an agrarian life deep in Central Georgia in the town of Perry, right next to one of America’s greatest musical epicenters, Macon (the birthplace of Little Richard and the Allman Brothers, among others). When most people gather at church on Sundays, they sing from the canon of gospel songs familiar to most, but not Essie. She writes her own gospel songs.
Music Maker founder Tim Duffy first met Essie while traveling on the same path as the great folklorist George Mitchell. When Tim rode into Perry, Georgia he was introduced to James Davis (Essie’s brother), John Lee Zeigler, and Rufus McKenzie all in the same day. Tim immediately identified the remarkable nuance of Essie’s music as poetry.
Music Maker has provided support to Essie through the Sustenance Program for 24 years, almost as long as the organization has been in existence. When asked about providing aid to a partner artist for such a long time, Tim answers, “Essie gave her life to this music, to stand by her is the least that we can do. That’s been Music Maker’s mission from the beginning.”
As an agricultural worker Essie was greatly impacted by the The Social Security Act of 1935. This Act excluded 65% of African Americans from benefits, leaving her with very little to live on in her older years and making Music Maker’s monthly support critical for Essie to meet her basic needs. Through the years, Music Maker booked several European tours and many domestic shows for Essie as well as provided her with emergency aid for much needed housing repairs.
When Music Maker partners with an artist we consider it a lifelong relationship. While some of our musicians can’t get out and play anymore, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be acknowledged. Through your support, musicians like Essie Mae Brooks are recognized for their immense cultural contributions. Please donate today!