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Brandy Smith


Dr. Kelley

August 6, 2009

DeCarava and Hughes Captures the Idea that Music Brings People Together

Between the years of 1949 and 1955, Langston Hughes and Roy DeCarva wrote and

published The Sweet Flypaper of Life. It is a context made of the life of a Black community in

the United States. The book describes a number of activities and normal attributes that one might

run across when he or she is with a typical Black family. Along with these descriptions there are

numerous photos taken to give you a visual of what it being described. Throughout the book the

family has a number of activities that they do by themselves and also together as one. There are a

number of activities that involve the use of jazz music or be-bop. “He never moves fast—not

even to reach out his hand for a dollar—except when he's dancing. And crazy about music. Can

tell you every horn that ever blowed on every juke-box record in the neighborhood” (DeCarava

and Hughes 13). The main character that is talked about is Rodney and the book talks about how

he is with music. It says how Rodney does things while jazz music is playing. Then they go as

far as to say what he does not do when the music is off. This statement also recognizes his

knowledge. Being able to tell you every horn that was blowing on the jukebox is a true skill.

Everyone is not going to be able to do that, but he, the Black, has this skill. There are many great

pictures in the book; two are going to be mention. There is one picture that shows a black man

and woman singing together in what seems to be a kitchen. They are not alone; it is a gathering.

There are other people here. They have all come together as a family and they chose to add

music to the activity. The next picture is just a picture of an older gentleman who appears to also

be singing. He has his eyes closed and his hands out. One might believe that he is really feeling

the music. This would be believed due to the fact that he has this body movement going on.

Music plays a big part in black peoples’ lives and can be used to bring people together.
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In the book The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes, the main character, Simple, has a

whole story about how music affects his life and people in that life. “That program needed some

music to keep folks awake….With a jazz band, they could work integration in ten minutes….

Jazz makes people get into action, move” (“Jazz, Jive, and Jam” 243)! This was said by simple

during one of the stories. The story was about Simple going to hear a lecture and he is giving his

opinion on the lecture. To him the lecture did not work. He believed that if music was in the

picture it would have been much better. He is sure that the music would have kept people

tentative and in tuned to what the lecture was about. Simple himself was not these things. The

music would have brought the people together to talk on the topic. The lecture was held to get

people to all think one way. He knows that the music would have had everyone thinking the

same and acting the same. An example that he brings is that the music will have everyone

dancing the same and being together as one. The lecture was on race relations and coming

together on solving the problems. The music would bring everyone together and together they

would be willing to solve the problem because with the music they would have all ready been

acting as one. This will, therefore, make them more willing to work together. This can really be

shown in the first picture on page 22. There is a family in the kitchen together. Some are standing

and some are sitting down. The two that are standing are singing together and everyone else is

looking at them and joining in. One would be able to tell right away that the others were

partaking in the singing and paying attention. Clues are simply the eye contact, shows that they

are looking and listening; the closing of the eyes, some people tend to close their eyes to feel the

music and; the holding their hands up, they are joining in with the two people singing because

they are doing the same exact thing. In the other picture with the man that is singing the man is

doing the same thing with his hands also. This is a prime example in how music can get people

into thinking and acting alike, especially with their reactions.

Not only has music brought the Black community together with each other but brought it

into the White community. Before there started to be a positive relationship, it was separated in
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every way possible. They did nothing together that benefitted both sides. When music started to

come into play it started to bring them closer. It may have started with the Black community and

the White community being on separate sides but it was just a start. They were both brought

together to that one thing and that’s what music does. They started to listen to the same music

and soon they started to really listen to it at the same time and together without separation. This

music was a way for Blacks to gain recognition. That was the recognition that they only

imagined and never had before.

In the same time frame of the book being published, there was an article in the New York

Times that showed recognition to a Black musician. The title is “BUNK JOHNSON, 69,

TRUMPET PLAYER—Jazz Stylist Who Began in New Orleans Dies—Featured at 2 Town Hall

Concerts.” Had it not been for the fact that he had been a musician then this would have never

occurred. Black people did not have very much power in the public eye before. The article talks

about his whole life involving jazz. With his jazz came his power. It brought the people to him.

Most of the people that would have normally segregated from were on his side and listening to

his music that he played. These times were not all bad but they were getting better and his music

was a way for it to do just that. Music was changing things.

Also in the same time frame, there was another article that established how music has

changed a community. The article “Our Changing City: Harlem Now on the Upswing” talks

about how the wars and other current events have affected the city of Harlem. Its gives statistics

on the community as a whole with things like the number of people the city holds and then they

split it up by race. It also talks about how riots have changed and affected the community. Then it

finally goes on to talk about jazz’s affects on Harlem. “As years went on by, Harlem became the

national focal point for Negro creative talent” (Robinson). The Negroes in Harlem are starting to

get recognition for something that they can do creatively. It is not just the recognition of family,

friends and people they already knew personally. This is an article that reached a large number of

people publically. Negroes did not have this at all at first. Music was their way in. Music brought
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all of this upon them. These are not the only articles about Negroes and music. There are plenty

more. Music is one of the main reasons that Negroes get in the paper.

The pictures and the newspaper articles have some likes and some differences. Both

sources have the idea of getting attention when music is being involved. When the people are

singing in the kitchen, everyone is giving their attention and recognition for singing. The paper

gives who ever that paper is about the attention to everyone that reads that paper. The pictures

show that music can make one feel good about what he or she is doing. When people are singing

music they may be singing it to have fun and such but they are feeling the music. One can tell by

the gestures that are being made while they are singing. Along the lines, everyone wants

recognition. If a paper gives someone some type of recognition, they are going to think and know

that they are doing something good and right.

Work Cited

"BUNK JOHNSON, 69, 'TRUMPET PLAYER Jazz Stylist Who Began in New] Orleans' Dies
—Featured at 2 Town Hall Concerts." New York Times 9 Jul 1949, ProQuest. Web. 5
Aug. 2009.

DeCarava, Roy, and Langston Hughes. The Sweet Flypaper of Life. 1955.

Hughes, Langston. “Jazz, Jive, and Jam.” The Best of Simple. 1961. New York: Hill and Wang,
1992. 239-245.
ROBINSON JR, LAYHMOND. "Our Changing City: Harlem Now on the Upswing: Turbulent
Area, Still Beset by Grave Problems, Sees a New Dawn for Itself. " New York Times 8
Jul 1955 ProQuest. Web. 5 Aug. 2009.