“When I left Danville, I had no idea what image I projected. There I was, a child sitting in tails at the piano and singing ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and ‘In My Solitude’ in a high, squeaky voice in astonishing keys. The lyrics meant nothing to me, and they must have sounded strange to other people coming out of a child’s mouth. So I changed and sang things like ‘Shoe Shine Boy’ and ‘It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.’ But I could not find it within me to believe that I was a child. And I didn’t like being a child, because I couldn’t stand the patronization connected with childhood. Moreover, it was never in me to be the best colored singer or the best colored student. I simply wanted to be the best singer and the best student. But I have a respect for my race that might surprise some of the people who discovered just six months ago that they are black. I was brought up in such a way that doesn’t allow any head-hanging.”

—Bobby Short, in “The Human Sound,” by Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker (26 December 1970)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (
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