This picture just turned up on an NPR blogpost about the contemporary guise of the “hipster” as opposed to “hep cat” and people who were genuinely “hip.” I have my own — perhaps acerbic — thoughts on the current phenomenon of hipsterdom as practiced by comfortably affluent urban young men, but I will not inflict them on you. (Here is the original post.)
Rather, I offer this portrait of someone I admire: Mister Strong, surrounded by fans, presumably after playing a set at Chicago’s Blue Note in 1948 (photograph by Edward S. Kitch for the Associated Press):
My first reaction to this photo was, “Goodness, he looks furious,” but I was wrong.
What I see here now is the absolute intent focus on a task — in this case, making sure that he is in touch with the people who have come to see and hear him create music. “Playing for the people” didn’t stop with the final notes of WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH; these fans must be honored. And those last notes have sounded so close to this picture that he still has trumpet and handkerchief at the ready — no time to go back to the dressing room.
The fans are equally intent: what is this, for them, but approaching a deity at close range and going home with something he has touched? In 1948, young men and women still dressed to go out; perhaps they are all too young to have suits, but they know something about “dressing up,” and their clothing is anything but ironic.
And, although I am in a wholly life-enhancing relationship, I would like to time-travel back to 1948 — not only to hear the music, but to ask the diminutive young woman who is peering in at the scene if she will go with me for an ice-cream soda sometime. Or to a movie.
Louis, COME BACK! This world needs you so.
Thoughts on a snowy New York morning.
May your happiness increase!