THREE FOR A DIME: BEN SOLLEE

NATIVE-TONGUE-BEN-SOLLEE

In collaboration with Maxine Payne and contributor Phillip March Jones, Alabama Chanin has invited a number of artists, writers, musicians, chefs, and creatives to offer up their own interpretation of the Massengill photographs in a series of posts for our Journal.  The posts give voice to the images of the sometimes anonymous figures that appear in the photographs. On the heels of John T. Edge’s essay, “My Life in Mobile Homes”, and Blair Hobbs’ poems, “Train-Track Hopscotch” and “Sweetheart”, musician Ben Sollee was inspired to compose a song in response to the “Three for a Dime” photographs.

From Ben:

We all have our chosen mentors: people who we look up to that influence us, for better or worse. They are cool-handed and know how to order drinks. From them, we learn things that are often too uncomfortable to learn from our parents. This song is dedicated to the language they speak.

“Native Tongue” by Ben Sollee

O sister, o sister
You’ve so much to learn

The girl that you are
The women you will be
The world from a far
Get’s closer than you think

There’s a language you were born with
There’s a look in your eyes
If only teach you one thing
Remember this advice

You gotta walk like you have it
You gotta move like you own this place
You gotta walk like you have it
You gotta use your native tongue

O brother, o brother
You’ve so much to learn

The heroes of youth
Fight the villains of pride
Then you learn how to kiss
Then you learn how to fight

There’s a language you were born with
There’s a look in your eyes
If only teach you one thing
Remember this advice

You gotta walk like you have it
You gotta move like you own this place
You gotta walk like you have it
You gotta use your native tongue

Ben Sollee is a cellist, singer-songwriter, composer, and activist. A native of Kentucky, Sollee’s grandfather, Elvis Henry Cornelius, was a traditional fiddler, and his father, Robert, was a rhythm and blues guitarist. Genetic predisposition and unparalleled openness has allowed Ben to create a dynamic sound that seamlessly combines folk, bluegrass, jazz, classical and R&B elements. Sollee’s music frequently addresses issues of social justice, and he is especially passionate about poverty, environmental issues, and mountaintop removal in coal mining. He often plays benefit concerts for the organizations like Kentuckians For the Commonwealth and Oxfam America, and has made several US tours on his bicycle, stopping in smaller towns between his headlining performances.

–Contributed by Phillip March Jones. Photos courtesy of Maxine Payne.

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