For some unknown reason, this seemed like a very good day to highlight the song Classified by James Booker, the man none other than Dr. John described as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”
Known as the “Piano Prince of New Orleans,” the eye-patch-wearing, flamboyantly dressed entertainer who walked with a limp from a childhood injury was among the most colorful characters in the Crescent City during his lifetime. At the age of ten, Booker was given morphine after being struck by a speeding ambulance and from then on suffered from mental health disorders and drug addictions. The life of one of the city’s most gifted musicians ended tragically early when he passsed away at age forty-three.
A child prodigy, he was the son of a piano-playing Baptist minister and had extensive classical training, mastering works by Frédéric Chopin and Johann Sebastian Bach in his early teens. No recordings of his “straight” classical interpretations have surfaced, but Booker’s adaptations of Chopin (“Black Minute Waltz”) and Ernesto Lecuona (“Malaguena” and “Gitanerias”) still circulate.
Not exactly sure why this seems so appropriate at the end of this crazy week…but enjoy, nonetheless.
More to come…
A dear friend and former colleague sent the following note after seeing this:
David, always so good to hear from you, and you are so sweet to think of me! This definitely brightened my day. If you haven’t seen it, I think you’d enjoy this documentary about James Booker (but you probably have, you’re always ahead of me when it comes to music!):
Check it out!
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