Decades ago, a magazine – I think it was the New Yorker – ran a cover showing a map of the United States with New York City on the east coast and L.A. on the west coast with nothing in between. The arrogance of that point of view has always been something that I as an upstate New York resident have wanted to distance myself from just as I distance myself as a music journalist from racial prejudice. Blues music knows no color other than its name.
The state of Florida has now declared they will not let anyone from New York City enter the state without going through a 24-day quarantine, and I’ve heard from (unreliable and unconfirmed) sources that they may extend that quarantine to anyone from anywhere in the state. I do a lot of work with the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Arkansas and love the people I work with there who have none of the damn Yankee prejudices I expected to find when I first worked with them. But as New York continues to be the hornet’s nest of this pandemic, I’m wondering if I’m going to become a leper to people in the south.
I have a friend who was told he was out of work at a supermarket here in New York State because he was 70 years old. He got the job back a day later because his boss had misinterpreted what that boss thought was a law against anyone 70 or older working because we (I’m 76) are more likely to die from the coronavirus. My friend said he felt like his short-lived dismissal was the contemporary equivalent to being Jewish in Germany and having to wear a star.
I’m in a category now that potentially limits my prospects in life. I’m old and I’m from New York. I think this pandemic will result in a new order that floats all boats, but right now I have a new understanding and empathy for what African American artists have always gone through navigating the music business.
*For more articles from Keeping the Blues Alive Award-winning writer Don Wilcock, click HERE.
**Feature image David Wilcock