Little Known, Well Loved
What do you love that no one’s ever heard about? I’m sure there’s something.
I have my own list. There’s a talented guitarist named Doug Smith. You would recognize one or two of his songs; they use them in TV and radio commercials. But very few of you are likely to have heard his name. How about George Winston, the pianist? He’s great too, but if you know him, it’s not through major media outlets.
I love a line of Japanese skincare products sold by a company called DHC. They are fantastic, but few of my friends even knew they existed before I badgered them into knowledge.
How about Elizabeth Gaskell – have you heard of her? If you’re a reader, you may have. She was a contemporary (and friend) of Charlotte Brontë who wrote some wonderful pieces of literature like North and South and Wives and Daughters. But I didn’t hear about her during all my years of school. I only discovered her as an adult when my love for literature sent me searching.
But what’s at the top of my little-known, well-loved favorites list? The musical PURLIE!
PURLIE was a musical production of the play, Purlie Victorious, written by Ossie Davis. Set during the Civil Rights era, the story centers around an activist preacher who returns home to confront the southern plantation owner who holds Purlie’s sharecropping relatives in virtual slavery.
I guess I’ve been thinking about PURLIE today because it’s my dad’s 73rd birthday (happy birthday, Dad!) and he’s the one who introduced me to this amazing musical. But I’ve rarely come across anyone who is familiar with it. One of the greatest ways my sisters and I bonded with Dad was through our mutual appreciation of music. Everything he loved – Evita, La Boheme, Les Miserables; Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Don McLean, Robert Flack – he shared with us, almost commanding our enthusiasm. Most of the time, it really wasn’t that hard.
Sometime during the early 80s, when we lived in the Bay Area, San Francisco’s PBS station (KQED) aired PURLIE as part of its pledge drive’s special programming. The emmy-nominated production was filmed in 1981 and starred Robert Guillame as Purlie and Melba Moore as Luttiebelle. (Yes. Luttiebelle.) The talented cast also included Rhetta Hughes as Aunt Missy and Sherman Hemsley as Uncle Gitlow.
I wish I could tell you to run out and rent PURLIE, but I can’t. Last year, I tried to find a copy on DVD to give to Dad as a gift. None are available. I even communicated with the son of PURLIE’s original producer, who said his father would be thrilled at my interest, but even he only had a DVD copied from their original VHS – a gift he commissioned for his own father.
I did track down a great blog called Rare Musical Gems, at http://raremusicalgems.blogspot.com/, where certain scenes from PURLIE are available to view. Attached is my favorite, with Melba Moore showing unbelievable talent and lung power in “I Got Love.”
When I think about PURLIE and the other things on my little-known, well-loved list, I can’t help reflecting on the relative unimportance of fame or popularity. That thought is comforting to me as I head into my fifth month of sales for my debut novel, DREAM OF ME, (http://www.amazon.com/Dream-of-Me-ebook/dp/B005NK19ZW). As an indie book, it’s doing quite well and my reviews, though few, are very good. But it’s hard not to think in terms of numbers as I tackle a new marketing angle each day. It’s hard not to equate sales with value.
So I remind myself that Maxfield Parrish is no less an amazing artist just because he’s unknown to most; and that Angela Morgan is a marvelous poet, even if you don’t know her name.
A lack of relative fame does not imply a lesser degree of talent in an artist, artisan or even an entrepreneur. I hope as you strive to write, draw, compose, create, develop, you will be comforted by these things too.
So what’s on your list of little-known, well-loved list of comforts? A favorite restaurant? A food that you have to special order? A book? A song? A sculptor?
I’d really like to know!