The Will to Adorn

Music

From Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings curated a special playlist in honor of the Will to Adorn program at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which celebrated African American diversity, style, and aesthetics. The playlist features songs and poetry in which clothing, hairstyles, jewelry and other accessories, or style ornaments become protagonists in the larger song narrative.

Standouts tracks include a 1955 recording by Langston Hughes reciting his first published poetry about a beautiful classmate and her red dress; Lizzy Miles’ rendition of “Baby Let Me Bring my Clothes Back Home,” which laments the tensions in a relationship; and blues man Guy Davis’ “Nappy Hair,” an anthemic protest against prevailing ideas that African American people should use special hair products to manage their hair.

Compiled by Regan Carver and Diana Baird N’Diaye
Special thanks to Kevin Parme