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Issue 115, Winter 2021

By the end of the 20th century, some six million Southerners had left their homes for New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Oakland, Milwaukee, Newark, Gary, and beyond. Each city transformed as the new denizens brought home with them. The Oxford American’s Winter 2021 issue focuses on Southern influences on American music beyond the borders of our region, reimagining these locales as Up South.

Our impressive lineup of contributors includes composer Terence Blanchard, who traces the Southern roots of Chicago-born Quincy Jones’s prolific production across an epic sixty-year career. The innovative recording artist Big Freedia writes a history of bounce and its spread from New Orleans to Houston and beyond. And a selection of featured images from the archive of Kwame Brathwaite tells a visual story of jazz and soul music through majestic performance portraits of Miles Davis, Max Roach, Nina Simone, and more.

Through essays, dispatches, and playlists curated by an exceptional lineup of musicians and writers, this issue explores the movement of Southern sounds and aesthetics, tracing the region's influence in Motown, Chicago gospel, and Philly soul, spanning the West Coast to Paris and beyond.

Editor’s Letter: A Rhythm Nation by Danielle A. Jackson



I Love the Way it Sounds, by Lynell George

In Search of Vigon, by Miles Marshall Lewis

Music from the Magic Box, by Alice Randall

Our Us (Three Syllables), a story by Ed Pavlić

Alvin Ailey Finds His Voice, by Mark Burford

I Am Bound for de Kingdom, a poem by Marlanda Dekine

Lowell George in Eight and a Half Songs, by Elizabeth Nelson

Ode to Coca-Cola, Helium, Carbon, a poem by Cal Freeman

In Montana, by Jessica Lynne

Buddy Guy Walks into a Bar, by Ben Greenman

Where Is Jimmy Bishop?, by Alex Lewis

Overnight Scenario, by Karen Good Marable




“Rescue Me,” on repeat
by David Ramsey

Southern resonance in Daniel Lanois’s Sling Blade score
by Tim Greiving

A ballad of Johnny Bristol, Al Green, and Battle Creek’s Bloody Corner
by Rebecca Bengal

Jazz and soul bloom Up South at midcentury
Photographs by Kwame Brathwaite
Accompanying essay by Jasmine Sanders

Ike & Tina Turner and the scene that formed their art
by Maureen Mahon



Notes on the sound of the South in the city

Zandria F. Robinson on Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace

Jim Beaugez on Chicano Soul

Joi Gilliam on Turning Fifty

Dan Gentile on Jay-Z and UGK’s Big Collaboration

Jay Jennings on Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge

Big Freedia’s History of Bounce

Terence Blanchard on Quincy Jones

Leon Bridges’s Spring Break Soundtrack

Harmony Holiday on Mary Lou Williams

Tarisai Ngangura on Carolyn Franklin

Up South Music Credits

Simon Marotte’s Vocal Visionaries


Art by
Ethan D’Ercole, Malick Sidibé, Carla Jay Harris, Ida Kohlmeyer, Lynell George, Derrick Adams, Zhou Yilun, Irwin Gooen, Jack Mitchell, Edgar Bryan, Jessica Lynne, Omar Velázquez, Gordon Parks, Angela Davis Johnson, Bryan Graf, Kwame Brathwaite, Jim O’Neal, Carter/Reddy, Joi Gilliam, Daniel Hastings, Jonas Dovydenas, Brad Hebert, William P. Gottlieb

Cover 1: Tina Turner in concert at Madison Square Garden, in New York City, 1969 © Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images
Cover 2: Aretha Franklin, c. 1967  © Induna Entec Media/Alamy