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Sonny’s Blues

on February 17, 2012

Please write an entry where you take the topic that you looked up and presented to class and show how it is related to the story. Please do not be general with your answer. Look deeply into the story and write about your interpretation of the influence you think is there and why.  300 words! At the same time you can give some thoughts on the story.


39 responses to “Sonny’s Blues

  1. Lynching in South America

    James Baldwin, author of “Sonny’s Blues”, features in his work a number of issues that are relate to the treatment that was given to black people at the time of the World War II. One of them is the lynching, which is the execution, without trial, by a mob to a suspect or a prisoner. It can also occur for reasons of racism, religion, or politics, among others. This means that the lynching not only involves the action of killing a person, but also involves the action of condemning a person for his/her condition regardless of the race. Now, most of the time lynching occurred in South America after the Civil War, when slavery was abolished, against African Americans. It was at that time when the governments and authorities began to separate people through their social classes, separating rich people from poor people. In the case of blacks, they were localized in remote areas from whites, such as Harlem. Also, they were separated from common public life and facilities not allowing them, in any way, to enter places where the entry to blacks was prohibited. This not only happened with black people but also with withes.

    Now, in “Sonny’s Blues” the author presents many of these issues occurred to black people, approximately in the 1950’s, presenting the problem through characters and introducing the term lynching, not as the action of killing someone but as the action of discriminating against someone because of the race. In other words, the author presents the racism that society had toward blacks and the meaning of the term lynching. This can be seen through flashbacks that Sonny’s brother had and the life he leads.

    As a first important point, lynching occurs in the “Sonny’s Blues” at the moment when Sonny’s brother remembers his childhood, which were raised with his family in a poor neighborhood in Harlem, where they were separated from the society through the government that ruled at that time (in here the racism toward blacks can be seen). It is also presented, at the moment after the death of Sonny’s father’s brother by a white racist North, that Sonny’s father wanted to give his family better life in a better place than Harlem to be safe from those bad and racist people.

    Another important point in the author’s work is the escape from reality. It looks like the brothers want to escape from the cruelty, the discrimination, and the killing that was going on Harlem, going to war. But when they return to Harlem they had to live in the same conditions as before. It looks like Sonny’s brother, despite the progress of his career as a teacher, was still living in the same condition as when he was barely a teenager. Also it can be seen the differences of classes with the same brothers: Sonny represents the social class to which nobody wants or nobody accepts in society (to this one can attribute the use of drugs of Sonny); and his brother represents the middle class which is accept by society and which wants a better life. Here it can be also seen the discrimination toward people of lower classes.

    I consider this last point as the most important of all. This is the fact that even though Sonny was a drug addict who went to jail, and that the family of Sonny’s brother’s wife considers that the fact that Sonny wanted to became a musician would not be appropriate to him, Sonny never left his interest in music and through it he showed that despite all, following his dream he did become a better person.

    Now, I consider that the author uses a range of issues to demonstrate us the reality of what was happening at that time, how classes were divided, and how racism affected many societies. That’s why the term lynching is constantly seen in several aspects of his work, because at that time, racism toward black people was well marked in society.

    • eparguera says:

      You have brought up many important points related to this story. You have written almost an entire essay on this!

  2. karinacancel says:

    During the period of 1880s to 1940, anti-black violence prevailed in the United States. Once the Civil War was over and slavery was “abolished,” blacks were eager to search for a job and earn a living among their white counterparts. However, lower class, white Southern citizens who had the same economic positions as blacks feared Black economic and social advancement. Therefore, they turned to lynching as a method of controlling and terrorizing the black population, and to maintain white supremacy. Lynching consisted in hanging, burning at the stake, shooting, castration, and dismemberment. Although offenses included robbery, attempted rape, and felonious assault, these were just excuses to conceal their race prejudice sentiments.
    Sonny’s Blues was written in 1957, a period in which the African-American Civil Rights Movement was just beginning. Although lynching is never referred to directly in the story, this had contributed to create a tense atmosphere of racial hatred and fear between blacks and white mobs. Sonny’s Blues takes place in an era in which Blacks struggle with Harlem’s deterioration, drug addiction, and post-World War II America. Lynching is the historical context that gradually sets the rigid atmosphere of the story. Sonny has to struggle with all of this; for a kid growing up in Harlem during this time, it’s pretty tough. He learns to move away from the depression society itself has submitted him to through music. James Baldwin uses the character of Sonny to demonstrate the experience of being a black man in America during the Civil Rights Movement and how young, Negro boys learned to cope with the pressures imposed on them by a discriminating society.

  3. saedcruz says:

    The Harlem Renaissance and Sonny’s Blues, resemblance?

    Here we have the Harlem image of a cruel and corrupted world, where kids already has lost hope and there seems to be no reason for living vs. a movement where black people had a cultural boom and hope began flourishing. Of course, the boom came right after the thought of expressing the great problem inside Harlem itself. Drugs, racism, violence, hopelessness and a lack of education, these were some of the mayor themes many writers, artists and musicians were expressing throughout their works at this time. James Baldwin, the author of Sonny’s Blues, was not a writer from the Harlem Renaissance, but we can see in his works many aspects from it. He deliberately criticized the drug problem, racism, violence and many other aspects from Harlem from what he had to live in Harlem. Also, we can observe that the kind of music he wrote about were from some of those great Jazz players from the Harlem Renaissance. Simply put, one of the backgrounds affecting Sonny’s Blues was the Harlem Renaissance, which helps us understand the importance of Sonny being a piano player. Before the time of the Harlem Renaissance, jazz did not use the piano as a regular instrument. So here the piano symbolizes this sort of coming of age, which expresses the hope of many people realizing their dreams and having a better chance at their lives. Here, we can observe that the author was not trying to give us a feeling of complete hopelessness through his writing, but one of even though many bad things may happen in life; there is always a chance for things to get better. Finally, Sonny’s Blues is the image of the hope that many people had, and only few were able to attain.

    • eparguera says:

      Yes, I think that the relationship between Harlem Renaissance and Sonny’s renewed sense of hope are related. Jazz and the piano were the new ways of looking at the world.

  4. paolamrivera says:

    A Story of Growing Up

    James Baldwin, in his story “Sonny’s Blues”, details through Sonny’s brother the reality of how people used to categorize jazz musicians as “good-time people”, as if they were out there, enjoying life without contributing positively to a better world.

    “’I want to play Jazz,’ he said” (Baldwin, 134).

    “I suggested, helpfully: ‘You mean – like Louis Armstrong?’” (Baldwin, 134).

    “His face closed as though I’d struck him. ‘No, I’m not talking about none of that old-time, down home crap’” (Baldwin, 134).

    “’Name somebody – you know, a jazz musician you admire” (Baldwin, 135).

    “Bird” (Baldwin, 135).

    “Who?” (Baldwin, 135).

    “Bird! Charlie Parker!” (Baldwin, 135).

    This conversation between Sonny and his brother caught my attention without a doubt. Sonny’s way of indirectly comparing Armstrong and Parker, two similar yet contrasting jazz musicians, reflects his young (careless, perhaps) vision of life. We can see this in the way he refers to Armstrong’s music as “old-time” and “down home crap” (Baldwin, 134) versus the great admiration he has for Parker.

    At the presentation we had in class, my group and I talked about Louis Armstrong, the American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans. Among the things we said about Armstrong, we mentioned that he had an amazing stage personality. He also used to vocalize using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics, transforming vocal tradition. Stanton Peele writes for the website Psychology Today, that Armstrong massively consumed marijuana throughout his life. Peele mentions that he consumed it as “three cigar-sized joints a day.” In spite of his addiction, Armstrong was classy: by the ’50s, he was an icon to musicians and lovers of jazz. He died closely to his 70 years, due to heart failure.

    On the other hand, Charlie Parker was an American saxophonist and jazz composer from Kansas City. He was considered one of the best jazz musicians of all time. He had a big dependency on heroin. It is said that many musicians imitated his drug addiction behavior believing that their performance would be improved. He died at age 34 due to cardiovascular collapse.

    Analyzing their history, both Armstrong and Parker were amazing musicians but had a great dependency on drugs. In my opinion, Sonny could be unconsciously associating each musician’s personality with the drug they consumed. Marijuana is not as strong a drug as heroin, which would abstractly put Armstrong as an older, classy musician, and Parker as a younger, free-spirited saxophonist.

    In the story, Sonny tells his brother about how he felt when he used heroin.

    “…her voice reminded me for a minute of what heroin feels like sometimes […] It makes you feel sort of warm and cool at the same time. And distant – and sure” (Baldwin, 142)

    This fact could explain why Sonny admired Charlie Parker that much. Perhaps he was seeing some sort of relation or connection between Parker’s life and his own.

    This is a story of growing up for both Sonny and his brother. From my point of view, Sonny grew up from having a “Parker” point of view of life to an “Armstrong” perspective. He matured. His brother realized the importance of family and how much Sonny loved music.

    Something really inspiring that needs to be said is that, even though he used drugs, Sonny moved on. He stayed in the game and fought for what he truly enjoyed doing. He wanted to be a musician and he got there. He played the piano. “Sonny’s fingers filled the air with life, his life” (Baldwin, 148). I think he understood, as the very own Baldwin says, that “…being in water and drowning were not the same thing…” (Baldwin, 146).

    • eparguera says:

      I loved the way you analyzed and pulled out aspects from the story to prove your point. Your point is clear and well taken.

  5. qocb says:

    Ricardo A. Sánchez Rivera
    Relation between Blues vs. Jazz and ‘’Sonny’s Blues’’
    Finding information about Blues and Jazz I could see a resemblance of those types of music in “Sonny’s Blues”. Blues is considered to be a sad type of music, where one can express their inner emotions through music, where most of those emotions come from sad memories or experiences. You mostly just keep playing the guitar while you sing with the rhythm. On the other hand we can see a big difference when it comes to Jazz. Here you can see a variety of rhythms and the style of the music that takes it to a different approach towards people. It’s not a style that comes from depression and sad thought, but it actually is a really positive and rather enjoyable style, where there are different types of instruments, and you can easily notice the difference.
    Now, taking in consideration the story of Sonny’s Blues, we can easily see that even on the title we can see the relation between this topic and the story. From what I explained, the title has ‘’Blues’’ on it, so it means that the whole story is supposed to be or at least have very sad parts. We can actually see many experiences in the story that Sonny goes through where it is considered very sad, and very hard experiences, so it is a ‘’Blues’’ type of experiences. For example, when she is on drugs; a very sad experience where she went through a lot and has many things to talk about that. Lastly, when it comes to Jazz, we can see that the story takes on a lot of experiences and things that Sonny did. In my opinion, since Jazz is a fast and improvised style, I can actually make relation of that in the story. From what I can see, the story is more of an unexpected one, where many things happen, and they happen fast, without any warning, making it similar to what Jazz is.

  6. luisemillan says:

    Luis E. Millan Martinez
    James Baldwin had a rough life since he was just a kid. During childhood he had to take care of his brother that can be compared in his story “Sonny’s Blues” to Sonny. He had to defend him from everything even from the Police that beat them up one day. Another topic compared to Baldwin life is the use of drugs. Their father was a drug addict and drugs were the principal reason for their parents to break up, in consequence they had to move to Harlem. Later on her mother married a priest named David Baldwin who appears in his stories as his father. David died when James was 19. In the story the setting is in Harlem, and the main character was trying to take care of his brother that was getting out of jail for the use of drugs. He took care of him even give him shelter in his home and send him to school. But instead of going to school Sonny’s go with his friends to play jazz that it is his passion. He was happy that in the house of Isabel was a piano so he could play all he wanted. Its seem that in this story Baldwin had a particular conflict with the law enforcement. It is also shown his expression for the lynch when in the story he mentioned that their father was killed rand over by a car conducted by white kids. Baldwin seems to dislike the place the move when they where young, Harlem because he implement the desire in Sonny to get out of Harlem so he could get out of drugs. Baldwin is a very expressionistic person and in my personal opinion the story Sonny’s Blues it is a small mirror of his life.

    • eparguera says:

      Maybe the last sentence you wrote should have gone to the beginning of the paragraph because I had a hard time understanding what you were trying to say until the end.

  7. Sonny’s Blues & Charlie Parker
    Sonny’s Blues story resemblance to Charlie Parker because of the life of Sonny and him. Sonny was a young boy whose life was no easy. His father abuse of her mother, his mother died when he was young and his brother took care of him. This style of life took effect on him because he started to skip classes and to use drugs, especially heroin just like Charlie Parker. Using drugs caused him to go to jail and get his brother mad at him. When Sonny got out of jail and he got he lived with his brother and his brother’s wife. Sonny started to play the piano at the house. He felt that the only person who made him happy and listened to him was Isabel, the brother’s wife. That’s when he decided he wants to be a jazz player. Sonny begins to skip classes and go to Greenwich Village to hang out with musicians. He joins a band and starts to play. Soon he is playing at a club just like Charlie Parker and became a great musician. Sonny starts playing Blues because that is his ways of expressing his feelings and emotions through the music. The way he was comfortable.

  8. rociogarcia2 says:

    The Harlem Renaissance can also be known as the beginning of the development of African Americans in society. During this time there was a lot of racism occuring. The african americans wanted to show themselves and have equal rights as the White people had. It occured during the 1920’s and 1930’s in New York City but also influenced through Europe. Sonny’s Blues can be compared to what is called the Harlem Renaissance because Sonny wanted to be a jazz player and wanted to show himself to the world and become famous like many artists did through the period of the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem was known at first as a known exclusive suburb for White middle and upper class people but then was abandoned and became an african-american neighborhood. Sonny’s Blues is a story that its setting is during this period and is influenced because of the occurences of it. Sonny’s depression of life can be compared to the music that was famous in the Harlem Renaissance. Although Sonny was “blue” he still had that chance of keeping up in life like every other artist in Harlem. The vision that these African Americans consisted was definitely one of going further and bursting out on society and making their critized culture one that is respected and admired.

    • eparguera says:

      Yeah, I would agree with that. there was a kind of bursting out that took place in the Harlem Renaissance!

  9. Tania Candelaria Caraballo says:

    Death and New Chances
    When sometimes bad things happen those things open to us chances to fix things that were messed up a long time ago. In the short story Sonny’s Blue, that happened to the main character. This character was the narrator of the story, when someone in his family passed away and he was in front of that bad moment he decides to reestablish the family bonds with his brother Sonny. That story about death and reconciliation do not sound like the story in the Bible about Jesus Christ death reestablishing the relation between humans and God? Sonny’s Blue definitely has a lot in common with what happened in the Bible in themes like death, forgiveness and new opportunities.

    In the short story by James Baldwin the person that die was the narrator little daughter that died from polio when she was two years old. In Sonny’s Blues when this happened the main character decide to write a letter to his younger brother Sonny that was in jail because of drugs, in that moment did not existed a relationship between them since long time. In the Bible Jesus die for all the humanity sins, in that moment the veil in the temple broke. Other theme that appears is forgiveness because when this happened Sonny and his brother forgave themselves because in the past they had a lot of problems. In the other hand, the Bible teaches us that when the veil of the temple broke that was the symbol that God forgot the sins of the humanity and now we have direct connection with Him. Finally I am going to talk about new opportunities, Sonny and his brother got a new opportunity to start fresh and we the humanity won the opportunity to eternal life if we accept Christ in our heart as our Savior.

    In conclusion maybe we can said that James Baldwin get inspire by the Bible to write that part of his story but never the two situation can be describe as the same, because Christ sacrifice do not have comparison. For me there are not better thing to get inspiration to do something, not necessary to write a short story, that God and the thing that He does for us.

  10. Adrian Marchena says:

    Sonny’s vs. Narrator

    In Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin portrayed us two totally different characters and in their differences they teach each other. The two of them are brothers, one of them is called sonny and his brother that is the narrator. Sonny’s is sent to prison and later too a rehab place for his addiction in heroin. When he gets out he goes to live at his brothers house. There we see how sonny learns what a big brother is and this is seen in his brother and what good father he is also. All this is portrayed by the narrator that is the big brother of sonny and a family father. In the other hand we can see sonny teaching the narrator that no matter what difficult the situation is of getting out of there is always a solution. We can see this as how sonny’s fights against his addiction throw music. He finds in music, an inspirations and a filling like no other that let him to success and this teaches the narrator that music for his brother meant the same thing that his family to him. In other words we can see in sonny a fighter, a person the doesn’t quit and thrust his heart until the end. While in the narrator we see a father that will give everything for his family even his brother and feels guilt if he doesn’t meet his obligations. To Conclude, if one of them should be pick as the character to follow it will be Sonny, because he teaches us one of the biggest lessons of this world, follow what your heart tells you not what other people tell you as what happen to him that his brother didn’t want him to be a musician because he thought that that was selfish.

  11. Jean Burset says:

    Charlie Parker and Sonny’s Blues.

    As one reads Sonny’s blues, it is impossible not to notice the high resemblance between the character Sonny and the famous musician Charlie Parker. Although Charlie was from Kansas, he considered New York to be his true home. Sonny grew up in New York, and much of the hardship he faces throughout his youth is due to his poor surroundings. Both of them used music as an outlet to cope or escape from their haunting problems, which were many. It is stated that Sonny had a rough relationship with his father, that they clashed heads many times because his father was always worried about him. Charlie’s father was absent most of the time. They both put music over everything because it was the only way that they could find peace. Music made them feel useful and alive, and so they both practiced diligently. It gave them a reason not to let themselves be crushed by all the terrible problems that appeared before them. This love for music, however, did not come without a prize. Sonny started to ignore his responsibilities in school because he would be too busy experimenting with drugs or going out with other musicians he cherished. Charlie had a strong heroin addiction throughout his life. He was also a heavy drinker and suffered from cirrhosis. Both Sonny and Charlie looked for distractions as a way to survive all the hardships. Music, in this case, specifically jazz, was the only positive distraction for them. It helped them with their loneliness. Jazz was also the perfect way for them to express their emotions, their anger as well as their happiness; Jazz made them feel free. In both we see a desire to live, although often shown in a self-destructive way, a willingness to try to find purity through the playing of instruments.

  12. Jazz vs. Blues in Sonny’s Blues story
    The story Sonny’s Blues is the story of a black boy, in which his family was separated and practically he grow up alone, and has the dream of becoming a Jazz pianist. This young boy suffered too much in his early life, his father abuses him, and his mother dies. His brothers were supposed to take care of him but they didn’t look so interested in him. So when he was young where a drug addicted (to heroine), and because of that police lock him up. When Sonny was released from jail, one of his brothers to care of him, and send him school. Sonny, quit school and dedicated to what he dreamed about, a jazz pianist.
    Jazz was originated by black communities in the American South. It combines many a variety of musical traditions from Africans and Europeans; also Jazz was inspired by Blues. The Blues was the music of the Afro-American people in the United States it delivers with it a depressed mood, and was rooted in the hardships of slavery.
    The Story Sonny’s Blues setting was by the beginning and middle of the 20th century, where the lynching and slavery was the black people worst nightmare. As the Jazz and Blues music the story is the narration of a boy who suffered a lot in his early life. My point of view about the relation the wanting of Sonny about being a Jazz pianist is because all what he suffered in his life. He wants to express himself and the playing Jazz music is the way he does it. Many of the Jazz and Blues musicians suffered a lot in their lives, and as Sonny they liberated all that suffering by the music they played. I think it is not just because he like Jazz music, I reaffirm is because he wants to unburden himself.

  13. James Baldwin
    Baldwin faced many problems and sufferings. When he was an infant his mother divorced his father for drug abuse and they move to Harlem where his mother married a man named David Baldwin. James uses to call him his own father. David Baldwin died when James was 19 years old. Baldwin’s family was very poor and he has to take care of his young brothers and sisters. They see James as a father who can do anything for them. In “Sonny’s Blues” the setting is Harlem and we also can see Sonny’s feelings for his brother. He sees him as his own father because he takes care of Sonny when he is out of jail. We can compare Baldwin with the narrator of the story because they use to take care of his young brothers. The narrator sends Sonny to the school but instead of going to school Sonny went to play jazz, he had a passion for music. James Baldwin is more like the narrator in “Sonny’s Blues” and we can see his live reflected in the story.

  14. kimberlyvega says:

    James Baldwin’s life submitted within “Sonny’s Blues”

    Life isn’t as easy as some people might think. We all go through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and senior year. Unfortunately, the only thing we have assured in life is death. Personal, family, society and any other type of problems are circumstances that are mostly unavoidable throughout our lives. These types of negative events can be manipulated to make it somehow beneficial toward our future living.

    James Baldwin can be classified as a good example of this because during his childhood he didn’t have it too easy. Thanks to those events he can someway be identified in his story “Sonny’s Blues”. He was a black man as well as the protagonist in the story mentioned before. Within it, a young boy, which eventually grew up, had the obligation of taking care of his little brother. Baldwin carried at that age with the same responsibility. This means that Baldwin can relate to Sonny. Drugs are one of the principal problems among society. This type of topic is also included in “Sonny’s Blues” because Sonny got addicted to a drug called Heroine. In a way, this topic is also added to James Baldwin’s life because during his childhood his parents broke up in result of drug dilemmas. Situations like these are the ones that let us know that, although sometimes life can treat us harshly, the reward of all that suffering will eventually arrive. Baldwin’s case is the perfect argument because even though he had a rough childhood he became a successful and admired writer.

    As a great saying states “be careful what you wish for because you might get it”. Hard and ruff childhoods can become a lifelong lesson. Who knows if when you reach adulthood you become a very successful and wealthy person? But, always remember that money can’t buy happiness. Usually, the most humble people are happier than wealthy ones. Therefore, we should always be thankful for what we have no matter how small it might be because that tiny thing can be more valuable than all the fame and fortune of the world.

  15. gabrielcuret says:

    Suspend Drug-Addicted Musicians? It’ll Never Work

    “They’re calling it the “Michael Jackson clause” – but it’s got nothing to do with suspiciously generous out-of-court settlements with teenage boys. According to The Guardian, a coalition of managers and label bosses are working to hammer out a legal clause that will enable labels to ‘suspend’ – ie stop paying – any artist who gets too whacked out on drugs to do his/her job. On a cold economic level, this makes sense. You imagine such an insurance scheme might look attractive to, say, Island executives, who are probably wondering how many more years Amy Winehouse is going to spend slurring show tunes in St. Lucia, or having unnecessary boob jobs, or singing inaudible backing vocals for her goddaughter on Strictly Come Dancing, as opposed to actually, you know, recording the albums that her contract requires.”

    I can obviously socialize this with Sonny being a drug addict and liking the music, being on a band. We know that dealing with any drug addict isn’t easy, you never know if the person is really going to change or if he is lying so he could continue doing his/her thing, but if you know that something makes them happy, the drug addicts, you will want him to do that, for example playing music so he could set his mind in another thing. But also putting myself in Sonny’s brother position I’ll understand if he tells himself that even with the music “It’ll never work”. Today we see this a lot, a lot of people in jail thanks to the drugs and we are used to see that kind of problem, but we have to have in mind that the time it’s not the same, at that time we could say it was more chocking to see this kind of thing.

  16. tanyaorama1 says:

    Lynching in Sonny’s Blues

    Sonny’s Blues is a short story written by James Baldwin. Baldwin lived in Harlem, New York, in a very poor family. He spent much of his time caring for his several younger brothers and sisters. He lived during a period of racial injustice for example; at the young age of ten a gang of police officers beat him. Events like this must have influenced his writings; we can clearly see this in Sonny’s Blues. Sonny’s Blues setting is also in Harlem, in this story the author presents many issues that occurred to black people in the 1950’s for example, lynching. Lynching is defined as the illegal execution of an accused person by a mob, these type of execution has been more frequent in times of social and economic tension. After the civil war, violence in the south rose against African Americans and segregation also became a big problem. Nearly 3,500 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968, mostly from 1882 to 1920.

    Lynching is seen in the story as the act of discrimination against people due to their race. Through the characters we can see different topics, in Sonny’s brother we can see examples of lynching. We can see lynching in the obstacles and hardships they face growing up in a poor family in Harlem were segregation was present and imposed by the government. In conclusion lynching was used as a way of controlling the black population in order for the whites to remain superior to blacks. If you don’t look up and understand the term lynching you wouldn’t know it is present in the story, but after learning what it is you can understand that although it isn’t mention it is present. Lynching affected the lives of many black people and made it really hard for people like Sonny’s brother to grow up in this tension and hardship and this is what the author is criticizing, the social injustices that innocent people had to endure.

  17. enidmarieruiz says:

    An artistic inspiration

    Louis Armstrong was an American jazz trumpeter and singer, being a big influence in this type of music by changing the collective to a solo performance. Armstrong had an amazing talent in improvisation, being joyful and spontaneous, made his way to the Jazz history. In music, he was not the first to record scat singing, but he mastered the technique and popularized it, being his popular hit “Heebie Jeebies”. He was one of the first popular African-American entertainers, whose skin color was secondary to his music in an America that was racially divided. Although he was well accepted into society, he was very outspoken of integration; he even called President Eisenhower a “two-faced” and “gutless” for his inaction in some conflicts in Arkansas.

    In the story Sonny’s Blues, Louis Armstrong is mentioned in conversation of Sonny and his brother. Sonny’s brother asked him if he wanted to be just like Armstrong. Sonny replied that he didn’t wanted to be old-school he wanted something fresh like Charlie Parker, whom he admired. Throughout the story, this famous musician is not mentioned, but the essence of greatness is there. Sonny did not want to be just like Louis Armstrong who had a great career, he wanted to be just like Parker, who we see similarities between them. The idea of being a famous jazz musician and making a statement in history, demonstrates the presence of this artist. Charlie Parker came close on having influence on the history of Jazz as Louis Armstrong.

    I believe that the author mentioned Louis Armstrong in the story, because he was a great influence in the history of Jazz. Although Sonny saw himself in Charlie Parker, the author believed that they all had in common a major addiction, for it being Jazz music. Also the story was developed during the peak of Armstrong’s fame and after the loss of a major musician of the jazz genre. I believe that both, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, were an inspiration to create such story and maybe as a memorial to them.

  18. luis candelaria says:

    Louis Armstrong a good role model

    Louis Armstrong, a jazz singer and excellent trumpet player. This man is a good example of auto attempt-producing-and self motivation a role model to follow. But not everyone have the same ideas for example in the story sonny’s blues, sonny the main character wants to play music as a work and he enjoy to play it, but he is a drug user and he left the school and his life is without future. His brother the narrator does not have the same mentality as him; his thoughts are not bad intentioned as a father figures which he has to follow to keep his brother and his mother promise alive.

    In the story there are different ways the author relate satchmo,(which is one of the many nicknames of Armstrong) based on music play, the boom of the jazz in that time and the fight that sonny has with his brother. First and the most direct mention of Armstrong in the story is the fight of the brothers. Sonny said that he wanted to be like Charlie parker, parker was another jazz singer at difference of Armstrong, Parker was an excessive drug user which was the main cause of his death. The brother gets worried and mentioned Louis Armstrong who was a better role because he was not a drug abuser, but a very famous and skilled with the trumpet. The influence of the music during the great depression’s end, mark the start to influence the youth minds to start a music career. The music influence is like a drug for many, that keep clear at the end when sonny start play the piano in which all the audience get annoyed by his piano skills, some of this character like Armstrong which sonny denied to follow as his model to follow is a legend for many, a hero for others or in this case not so important, but something is really clear the author makes mention of it as an example of the best of the best of jazz figure of all time not only for his jazz sing but his feelings towards others and living a good life in concordance of music.

  19. Harlem Renaissance and Sonny’s Blues

    My group and I talked about the Harlem Renaissance, which was a cultural movement that took place between 1920 and 1930. Although is currently known as the Harlem Renaissance, in those days was known as “The New- Negro Movement”. It was a movement where the African American residents of Harlem began to build their own culture, their own identity. And although it began in Harlem, this movement spread throughout the national borders. This movement is very present in the story of James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues. This is about a young man named Sonny, whose brother not allowed him to become a member of a jazz group because he believed that the job wouldn’t be able to maintained Sonny. But his desire to be musician in the end triumph, he end up being not just a group of jazz pianist but also a figure who was respected in that world. And at the end his brother had to accept that despite the fact that Sonny had made many mistakes, finally he had found the path that would lead him to happiness. The Harlem Renaissance is related to story because this movement was trying to define the identity of a culture, and in Sonny’s Blues, Sonny, was seeking his own identity. He always knew that the world of jazz was what he wanted for his life, but when her brother began to hinder him, he went out of course and ended addicted to heroin and then in jail. But when he finally found the course, it was only matter of be carried away to be able to become what he always wanted to be. This also applies to the Harlem Renaissance, that when the movement began, the people did not believe that this could go far, but when it started to take straight it end up being an example to other movements around the world. The Harlem Renaissance was precisely that, a renaissance for a culture that wanted to come to light. The same was with Sonny, he knew he had potential and when he finally let It out he was all what he always wanted to be. All of us have a Sonny inside, but to let it being seeing we must be reborn, as Harlem and Sonny.

  20. jafetpadilla says:

    The topic I choose is Harlem Renaissance. This topic is probably the most important topic to explain the story because this is the background of the movement that happen and Sonny’s wanted to be a part of it, but his brother didn’t understand him because he wasn’t aware of the kind of relieve that this type of expressive art make him feel. Harlem Renaissance is a revolution that occurs on the 1920’s to the 1930’s in wish African American started to get better opportunities of liberty and expressive way. Most of African American started to move up from the south to the north of The United states. All of that happen because African American where no longer slaver. All of this is really the back bone from the story all of the drama of the story is related toward this movement because the story basically is telling us the way that Sunny’s was using drugs because he was depress and he was using heroin but at the same time playing piano did to him the same thing that heroin did to him so he basically was getting to express all of his feeling playing piano. Other thing why this topic is really the back bone of the story is because in that era there where a lot of racism between Blacks people against white people and white people toward black people. You get this feeling in the story in the way Sunny’s mother talked about the dead of his uncle in a way of racism who was run over by a “white drunk guy”.

  21. carolacruz says:

    The topic presented in class was Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the music’s focus from collective improvisation to solo performance. He was also greatly skilled at scat singing. Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing. Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to “cross-over”, whose skin color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided. Louis Armstrong’s stage personality matched his flashy cornet and trumpet playing. Armstrong is also known for his raspy singing voice. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 70 of a heart failure.

    Louis Armstrong is mentioned in the story in a conversation between Sonny and his brother. In this conversation we can infer that Sonny what really wanted was to be like Charlie Parker and not that “old-time, down home crap” as he said of Armstrong. He probably said it because he felt great admiration for Parker because he was fresh, but though Louis Armstrong was among the best jazz players as Charlie Parker was too. Even though he’s not mentioned in the whole story, we know by that conversation they had that Louis Armstrong was a great jazz trumpeter and singer, but not a new one like Charlie Parker at that time. I think that’s what Sonny liked so much. The fact that Parker was younger, maybe, and fresh, but I also think that he also wanted to be renowned, popular and have a career like Armstrong’s. They both have many similarities (Armstrong and Parker) and I think that what Sonny really wanted was to be like a combination of these two great jazz musicians.

    I think that the reason why Louis Armstrong is mentioned in the story is because he was very popular and essential in jazz history.

    Carolina Cruz

  22. renecarlos says:

    Blues and Jazz shown in Sonny’s Blues
    Sonny’s Blues holds many musical aspects, especially with jazz. Jazz and blues were very popular music genres during the Harlem Renaissance, and most popular with the African-american community. In the Story, Sonny is also heavily influenced by this music, and aspires to become a jazz musician, being a pretty well adept piano player. Even though he wants to play jazz, it is apparent how blues is also incorporated in the story.
    Jazz is a music style that is mostly played by a group, and it’s mostly played improvising. Jazz was very lively and had a very important meaning to Sonny, but it’s called Sonny’s Blues for a reason. Blues is a style played solo, with a certain chord progression with very solemn, melancholic tunes. Sonny’s background can be seen as a sort of blues; he became addicted to heroin, not being able to pursue his one and only dream, and his past was not particularly “jazzy”. Blues reflects the artist’s soul, in pools of sorrow and deep, emotional distress; Sonny is the embodiment of blues in the story, being a sensitive, young man dealing with emotional trauma.
    The only thing that Sonny wanted to do was be a jazz piano player; it was the one thing he was truly good at. He was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, a famous jazz player, whom also delved into drugs. Sonny’s family discouraged him with his dream, not truly understanding the art of it all, leaving Sonny trapped in a state of self-destructive depression and some deep blues.
    Music is all about following your dreams and making them right. Whenever Sonny played the piano, his life meant something, as if it was the only thing that made sense anymore. A few beats, a jazzy rhythm was all he needed to become a better person, and pull through with his life.

  23. emanuelramos1 says:

    Music’s icons as inspiration.

    Louis Armstrong was born in one of the poorest sections of New Orleans on Auguts 4, 1901. He was an African-American jazz trumpeter and singer, playing with bands in clubs with his mentor Joe “King” Oliver. Armstrong had a great stage personality. He shift the jazz music’s focus from collective improvisation to solo performance. When he sang, he vocalized using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics, transforming the vocal tradition. He used his voice like a musical instrument. He was one of the first popular African-American entertainers, whose skin color was secondary to his music in an America that was racially divided.
    Armstrong was mentioned in the story of Sonny’s blues in a conversation. Sonny’s was talking with his brother and he asks him if he wanted to be like Louis Armstrong. Sonny replied that he did not want to be like Armstrong, he represent the old-school, he said that he want to be like Charlie Parker, he represent something fresh and new. Charlie Parker was another famous jazz composer and saxophonist being the one of the most famous jazz artist. He was a dependency of heroin, like Sonny, and also many others musicians imitated him. Sonny just replied that he want to be like Charlie Parker, as we see, they have some common behaviors and have a more fresh spirit of jazz music. As we see in the story Sonny wants to be a famous jazz musician and Charlie Parker, for him, is the best idol to follow. In the story, Parker has more influence in Sonny’s life.
    The story mentioned two of the most important jazz musicians as an influence to follow in music. It is important to know that many times the musicians, athletes, actors are icons that youth follow to be important and famous like them. In this case, Sonny chooses to be like Charlie Parker because he saw himself in him. Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker were greater musicians and have drugs addiction, but through the story they were an inspiration for Sonny and also we remember the essential of the Jazz music.

  24. fernando1019 says:

    Charlie Parker & Sonny’s Blues
    -Fernando Rivera Ocasio
    Sonny’s Blues a short story written by James Baldwin, talks about the rough life of a young musician in progress. Influence by many relevant musician of that epoch, like Charlie Parker, James Baldwin writes his story. When we looked up on Charlie’s Parker life we can see that his making was rough in comparison to others jazz musicians. He presented a perseverant attitude thru his early career, when he didn’t have all the knowledge about music composing. And influence by many local musicians, he learns to improvise and starts to create music. In some way the character of Charlie Parker is presented on the story Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. In which we can clearly see the similitude between him and Sonny. Inspired by Baldwin and other musicians, Sonny starts to play music with the hope of living of it. But in the way we could see how the drugs and the bad roads kept him away from being a great musician. During time many musicians have been affected or influence by drugs. The relation between these two is that, to them playing music and use drugs cause a similar sensation. Causing at the same time some sort of inspiration for writing new songs or even play better (according to them). Otherwise this leads to many musician drop-out or even death; in the case of Sonny we can see how on a moment of the story he is affected greatly by the drugs. It was not until bottoming that he realized his situation, and begins to overcome. Although he never gives up, instead he learns to practice to impress those who haven’t hope on his music. This attitude is mainly linked to Charlie’s Parker character, which after deception became glory.

  25. fernandoortizrobles says:

    James Baldwin’s life is very closely related to the story in the sense that he too had a younger brother and in the sense that he was very protective of his brother. As a black man he suffered though various tragedies, the early death of his stepfather who was unusually harsh and being beat up by the police when he was young. After his father died they moved to Harlem and lived in poverty. He would take care all the time for his younger brothers and sisters, much like Sonny’s brother in the story. James Baldwin uses the sense of self both coherent and benevolent to guide him though his works. Essay writer, novelist, poet and social critic, James lived to his fullest in trying to make a life for himself when he couldn’t have done that in his poor home. Again, much like the story “Sonny’s Blues” where the big brother tries to become something more by going away to serve in the army and then feels responsible for his younger brother and comes to bail him out. I think James Baldwin, while being a fatherly figure as a child, wrote this story to show a kind of self-awareness in how he was with his brothers and sisters when he was but a child. Overall this story is not like others I’ve read, especially in the end when Sonny is described playing music, the extreme overuse of descriptions is something I still need to get used to. But the plot itself of the story was easy to follow even when there were so many time jumps and time skips. The thing that really cought my attention in the story was when Sonny was playing in the house and he was unjustly punished for it, yeah it could get annoying but there are other ways to deliver a message in a nicer way than to make that poor boy feel bad about just playing a bit of music which is what he loved to do.

  26. caroreyes7 says:

    In the story Sonny’s Blues, music plays a central role in defining the characters and culture of Harlem. Many aspects of Sonny’s Blues are closely connected to Harlem, its society and history. Sonny’s Blues takes place in Harlem during 1940, a place full or crime, poverty and drugs. Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, long known as a major black cultural and business center (   Harlem has always been a dangerous place and to survive there a person has to be strong and adaptive. Crimes and drug usage are the main cultural elements there and of course in 1940. It was even more than now and so that it was really hard for a young individual to stay out and Sonny couldn’t stay out( and Sonny is a perfect example of how hard it was to escape all this problems) , he was trying to fit in somehow, to find himself and maybe a better world.  The problem was that in 1940-1950 in Harlem uneducated blacks could find jobs more easily than educated men could, confounding efforts to improve the lives of people who lived in the neighborhood through education (Harlem History). That means that motivation to do something different and challenging there was very low and public pressure to be just like other high ( This environment had an effect on people causing them to have a low motivation to do something different…. and a high motivation to be just like any other rather than stand out) To become someone different there a person really needed to get out of this culture and that was what Sonny’s brother did, he got out and that helped him to find himself and to fight public pressure. Sonny, on the other hand, couldn’t get out or maybe just didn’t want to, he just let the culture to drug him into the addiction which determined much of his future. At the 1940 the drug addiction rate in Harlem was ten times higher than the New York City average, and twelve times higher that the United States  as a whole. Property crime was pervasive, and the murder rate was six times higher than New York’s average. Half of the children in Harlem grew up with one parent, or none, and lack of supervision contributed to juvenile delinquency (Harlem History). In such neighborhood it seems almost impossible to be someone else, different from others. The only thing that was respected there was music, blues especially because it was considered as black music.  That was what inspired Sonny, and at the same time it helped him to get out of his addiction. To fight something so powerful as drugs, a person has to find something that is much stronger. Music was his most powerful weapon on the fight to fight his addiction. Blues is the name given to both a music form and music genre that was originated in African-American communities of Deep South in 19 century from spirituals, work songs, field cholers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads (Wikipedia). That was this type of music through which black people were expressing themselves; they created their own music, something that was making their hearts happy. Maybe that is why Sonny has chosen it, simply because it was something that was born inside of his community, inside of people in his race.  In Harlem of 1940 nothing really mattered, people were cruel and a lot of crime was going on, but music could inspire anyone, music has this unique ability to make you forget all the troubles and to make you see the world in a different light, that is why in every place in the world people are listening to the music, there are thousands of different types of music but one thing is true: every single person has his own melody which helps him to find piece inside. Music addiction may sound a lot like drug addiction, even with time I think music could be more powerful than drugs, it could simply inspire Sonny more, and than he would never need drugs again, but to reach this stage he still had a long way to go, because not everything happens instantly, some things need time and practice. Music also needed time to fulfill his heart and to push drug addiction out.

  27. Monica Ruiz Ramos says:

    Charlie Parker: an influence for many musicians

    Charlie Parker was a man who quit school at the age of fifteen to become a musician. In the earlier times it was common to see how people abandoned school and many other things in order to achieve their dreams no matter how impossible it may seem. Although it was hard for him, he became to be known as one of the most important figures in jazz history. But as it always occur to those who finally have everything when being famous, the drugs took control of him and even made him go to a mental hospital due to his heroin addiction. An addiction that destroyed his health and ended his life at the young age of 34. He not only inspired others musicians by his amazing talent but also they believed that if they consumed the same as Charlie Parker maybe they could play as good as him. Here we can relate to the story by James Baldwin where Sonny also encounters many harder situations when trying to become a musician but the use of drugs also drives him through the wrong path and is not until he found himself really sick and decide to get over it. Is really hard for me to understand how people decide to use drugs when they are on their peak moment in their lives with so many achievements and they throw them out the window by their addiction. Not only back in the days but each day there are more people doing it. And even though she isn’t recognized in music by jazz, but we can point out the example of Whitney Houston, a great singer with one of the most desired voices on stage and little by little she destroyed her life by consuming drugs.

  28. caroreyes7 says:

    Charlie “Bird” Parker is one of the most important figures in jazz history and also one of its greatest tragic heroes. He got his nickname (also known as “Yardbird”) from his love of chicken. He came from Kansas City and was a self-taught Alto Saxophonist who didn’t realize that many jazz songs of the day were only played in a few keys, so he learned them all. He quit school at the age of 15 to become a musician. His education was brutal: once he tried playing Body and Soul in double-time and was laughed off of the stage. Another time, he was playing with Count Basie’s orchestra in a jam session. They were playing I got rhythm and Bird lost the key and couldn’t find it. Basie’s drummer, Jo Jones completed his humiliation by throwing his cymbal at Bird’s feet. Bird continued practicing and got the point where he could play Lester Young’s solos in double time.The stories of Bird’s musical genius are too lengthy to list. Miles Davis said the only time you were surprised with Bird was when he didn’t do something amazing on the bandstand. He could literally walk in off the street and start playing, and never make a mistake. His playing was fast, perky, and very bluesy, all wrapped up into one. He can make you bounce around one moment and feel his pain the next. His music is rooted in the Kansas City blues and every song he played had a blues twist to it.

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