James Baldwin's Record Collection Is Now a 478-Track Spotify Playlist
By Jake Rossen
A novelist, essayist, and playwright, James Baldwin was one of the more influential voices of the 20th century. His 1953 semiautobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, helped establish Baldwin as a provocative figure in topics ranging from civil rights to sexual identity.
To get a feel for what moved Baldwin musically, Open Culture reports that Hammer Museum curator Ikechúkwú Onyewuenyi has compiled what he’s dubbed Chez Baldwin, a Spotify playlist that assembles records Baldwin owned into a 478-track, 32-hour celebration of what the author enjoyed listening to while living in St Paulde-Vence, France.
Baldwin’s collection was full of Gloria Lynne, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Shirley Bassey, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder, among others. Sometimes Baldwin wouldn’t necessarily have to settle for a recording, as both Simone and Wonder were among the guests he entertained.
The significance of music on Baldwin’s work is well-documented. He once said singer Bessie Smith influenced Go Tell It on the Mountain, which helped transport him to Harlem even though the novel was written while Baldwin was in the Alps.
Onyewuenkyi was able to find all but two records on Spotify: When the Night Comes by Lou Rawls (1983) and Sweet and Sour Tears by Ray Charles (1964). At 32 hours, the playlist should still provide plenty of inspiration.
[h/t Open Culture]