Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lush Life

I don't remember the first time I heard Johnny Hartman, but I suspect it was over my dad's girlfriend's house. My parents separated when I was a youngin, and one of few benefits of the situation was that when I was with my dad I had the luxury of having him all to myself. But that changed when he met C. He was over her house all the time (or at least it seemed that way) and dragged me along for the ride. C had a bossy streak that ran afoul of my Taurus stubborness, so at times we clashed. She had a son of her own, so she wasn't trying to be my mama, but she was definitely from the "children-are-seen-but-not-heard" school. Our most memorable disagreement was about whether or not it was necessary for one to stir the butter into ones grits (Note: hell naw you ain't got to stir them grits!).

Grits aside, C was undeniably smart and cool--just like the Johnny Hartman album she kept on heavy rotation in her apartment. I remember his voice, butter-smooth or lion grizzled, mingling with the sandalwood incense my father loved so much.
Hartman never got the props he deserved (familiar story), but he did record a classic album with John Coltrane that everyone should own. Frank Sinatra couldn't fake the kind of cool that Hartman embodied.

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