Keats writes the blues

“The blues is truth, truth the blues.”

Keats_PortraitMy near-relative Arnold – he’s my late great-aunt Charlotte’s brother, sent a bunch of us three blues songs he posted on his website:

Insomnia Blues
Cigarette Blues
Statistician’s Blues

One of the recipients was his nephew Jonny Rosen, he of the band Annie and the Hedonists; Jonny is married to Annie. Got to see them perform their “eclectic mix of acoustic blues, vintage jazz and swing, and folk roots Americana.” Check ’em out if they come to your neighborhood. Here they are performing You Don’t Know.

Arnold wrote: “Truth is in the blues and the blues will set you free. Speaking of truth through the blues. wasn’t it Keats who wrote in Ode On A Grecian Urn:
‘The blues is truth, truth the blues,’ – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. The Mississippi Delta blues singers well understood that.” See, for example, here.

B is for the Bermans

The photo portrait of Rosa Parks that hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery was taken by IdaBerman BEFORE Rosa refused to yield her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955.

Charlotte (Berman) Yates, Gertrude (Yates) Williams, Trudy (Williams) Green, Roger Green- 13 Maple St, Binghamton, NY

When Charlotte Berman married Ernest Yates in 1937, it was a pretty radical event at the time. Charlotte was from a family of Jews from eastern Europe, and Ernie was black.

But let’s back up a bit. “Pinches Barosin, a teacher in the small town of Warklian, Latvia, and his wife, Slatte” had five children, the youngest of which, Isaac, was born in 1886. In the US, Barosin became Berman; Isaac married Sara Schmuelowitsch in 1910. They had eight children: Ida, Benjamin, Charlotte, Frances, Jacob, Mary, Samuel, and Arnold, most of whom I got to know to various degrees. Isaac, a trucking company executive, died before I was born, but Sara lived until 1971 and died in my hometown of Binghamton, so I did meet her.

Of the children, I’ll take Charlotte (1914-2003), the third child, out of order, because she’s the link to me. Ernie Yates, who she married, was the brother of my maternal grandmother, Gert. Ernie and Charlotte’s kids were my mother’s first cousins. And until Ernie died, shortly after I was born, they lived in Binghamton. Even after they moved to St. Albans, Queens in New York City, we saw Charlotte, her kids, and eventually her grandkids all the time. The photo is of Charlotte (I think Ernie is just out of the frame), my grandmother, my mother and me, at my grandmother’s house.

Ida (1911-2009) was the Berman, other than Charlotte, I was closest to. She was an accomplished photographer. The photo portrait of Rosa Parks that hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery was taken by Ida BEFORE Rosa refused to yield her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955. Never married, she seemed to have adopted me and would take me to art galleries whenever I saw her in NYC.

Ben (1912-1989) I knew not well, but like his siblings, I would see at him at the weddings of Charlotte’s children and other events.

Fran (1916-2011) married Professor Irwin Corey, the comedian, c 1940, and it was exciting to see him on Ed Sullivan or some other TV variety show. For some reason, Charlotte once took us to Fran and Irwin’s house when they weren’t there. I saw Fran and Irwin at a couple of birthday parties for Charlotte in 1994 (her 80th) and 2002 (her 88th, and last).

The kids of Jack (1918-2001) and Berta, known as Chicha, grew up in Binghamton; they were born between 1948 and 1957, around my time. Didn’t know them well, and was unclear to me at the time of their relationship to me.

Mary (1922-2006), who married Sam Rosen, I don’t really recall; she wasn’t living in New York State, though she probably showed up at some family events too. But her youngest son, Jonny Rosen, is one of the leaders of the Albany area band Annie & the Hedonists, “an eclectic mix of acoustic blues, vintage jazz and swing, and folk roots Americana.” They are, BTW, really good. (n.b., Sharp Little Pencil – I think you’d like them). I just saw them play this past Mother’s Day.

Charlotte always referred to her two younger brothers collectively as “the boys,” even when they were adults. Sam (b. 1923), who is still alive, and married to Vivian, was a folk singer. I wonder if he influenced my father somehow?

Arnold (b. 1924), a widower (Miriam), is not only alive; he put together this extensive website on the Barosin/Berman family. He also recalls a trip Charlotte and my sister Leslie took to Mexico in the summer of 1972: “[His wife] Miriam and I visited while [Charlotte] was there. I know that Ida was there at the time. My most striking memory in that visit was Leslie, that beautiful, tall Black girl who attracted so much attention from the local short Mexicans as we traveled by bus through the small villages.” Leslie got a kick out of THAT.

There are some gaps on the website – Charlotte’s youngest, Robert isn’t represented, e,g. – but it is filled with fascinating stuff. There are photos, many taken by Ida, and videos. I highly recommend that you check it out.

ABC Wednesday – Round 13