“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 Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation,, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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