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Songs of the Unsung - CLby Horace Tapscott
Synopses & Reviews
Songs of the Unsung is the autobiography of Los Angeles jazz musician and activist Horace Tapscott (1934–1999). A pianist who ardently believed in the power of music to connect people, Tapscott was a beloved and influential character who touched many yet has remained unknown to the majority of Americans. In addition to being “his” story, Songs of the Unsung is the story of Los Angeles’s cultural and political evolution over the last half of the twentieth century, of the origins of many of the most important avant-garde musicians still on the scene today, and of a rich and varied body of music.
Tapscott’s narrative covers his early life in segregated Houston, his move to California in 1943, life as a player in the Air Force band in the early fifties, and his travels with the Lionel Hampton Band. He reflects on how the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (the “Ark”), an organization he founded in 1961 to preserve and spread African and African-American music, eventually became the Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension—a group that not only performed musically but was active in the civil rights movement, youth education, and community programs. Songs of the Unsung also includes Tapscott’s vivid descriptions of the Watts neighborhood insurrection of 1965 and the L.A. upheavals of 1992, interactions with both the Black Panthers and the L.A.P.D., his involvement in Motown’s West Coast scene, the growth of his musical reputation abroad, and stories about many of his musician-activist friends, including Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Buddy Collette, Arthur Blythe, Lawrence and Wilber Morris, Linda Hill, Elaine Brown, Stanley Crouch, and Sun Ra.
With a foreword by Steven Isoardi, a brief introduction by actor William Marshall, a full discography of Tapscott’s recordings, and many fine photographs, Songs of the Unsung is the inspiring story of one of America’s most unassuming twentieth-century heroes.
The autobiography of the jazz pianist and pioneer of the Black Arts movement in Los Angeles.
A Los Angeles jazz musician and activist, Tapscott believed in the power of music to connect people. His story covers LA's political and cultural evolution over the last half of the 20th century, and brings alive the stories of fellow avant garde musicians. Photos.
About the Author
“Songs of the Unsung—It’s about time! Horace Tapscott was one of the first guys doing it in the community. His life has been a big influence on me. He made sure younger and older people played music. He is one of the true giants of this music in the way he played it, wrote it, and lived it.”—Billy Higgins
“During those days the greatest thing happened to me. I got something I needed when I was on the radio . . . . While I was being interviewed, the telephone rang. It was a woman calling from almost her deathbed in the hospital to tell me that my music had helped to heal her, someone with a real soft voice, sobbing as she spoke, like she had been under some kind of dark cloth, saying that finally some light came in because of the sounds.
‘Thank you so very much for playing and please don’t stop.’ I never knew her name, never met her. I don’t know if she’s still alive or not. But what she said to me justified everything that I believed in. There wasn’t anything happening moneywise and sometimes you’re down in the dumps, but you have to pull your head up. When things like that happen, those little small things, well, that was the idea of the sounds in the first place.”—from Chapter Twelve
“This is a splendid book, a wonderfully accessible first person narrative by an important and unusual figure in the history of jazz and the history of Black Los Angeles. Tapscott has an important story to tell and he conveys his experiences, opinions, and philosophy clearly through an engaging and conversational style filled with rich descriptions and witty observations.”—George Lipsitz, author of Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place
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