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Magazine


Issue 123, Winter 2023

Motifs of devotion and daydreams, of antiheroes and broken hearts appear throughout this very special 25th-anniversary edition of our annual Southern Music Issue. Dedicated to ballads of all genres and origins, our 123rd issue features an impressive lineup of new and returning contributors: Dom Flemons debuts a brand-new ballad written especially for this edition; Lauren Du Graf slows down to the tempo of Shirley Horn’s music and life; and Ed Pavlić relives the memory of an important friendship made to the croons of Anita Baker. The Middle Eight, named after the climactic section of the thirty-two-bar song structure, collects eight short pieces covering artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Project Pat to Paramore. Elsewhere, Gaby Wilson connects Filipino and American history, karaoke, and Beyoncé; contributing editor David Ramsey dives deep into the tangled history of a traditional murder ballad; and Benjamin Hedin searches for R.E.M.’s ineffable coolness in Athens, Georgia. The Ballads Issue also includes new fiction by Clyde Edgerton, exclusive playlists for listening while you read, and a meticulously curated collection of visual art and photography.







Prologue: Cigarette Smoke and Magic
by Patrick D. McDermott

POINTS SOUTH


Anita Baker Introduced Us and Patrice Rushen Did the Rest, by Ed Pavlić

Gracias a la Vida, by Clarissa Fragoso Pinheiro

Some Ballad Folks, by Justin Taylor

Inside Voice, by John Lingan

Orphan Girl, by Melanie McGee Bianchi

Hearing Aids, a story by Clyde Edgerton

The Feel of the Flames, by Jason Kyle Howard

The Final Gift, a new traditional by Dom Flemons

THE MIDDLE EIGHT
A Ballads Songbook


Ashawnta Jackson
on Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

Jim O’Neal on Sid Hemphill

Annie Zaleski on Bonnie Raitt

Ben Dandridge-Lemco on Project Pat

Maggie Boyd Hare on Paramore

Madeline Weinfield on the Local Honeys

Noah T. Britton on Aretha Franklin

Harmony Holiday on Madvillain

FEATURES


NEVER ALONE IN THE NIGHT
The queer alchemy of Melvin Lindsey’s Quiet Storm
By Craig Seymour

MORE THAN WHAT YOU MADE OF ME
How Beyoncé’s “Listen” became the Philippines’ unofficial national anthem
By Gaby Wilson

WAS IT COOLER BACK THEN?
A search for the memory of R.E.M. in Athens, Georgia
By Ben Hedin

HOW TO TAKE IT SLOW
Following the rhythm of Shirley Horn
By Lauren Du Graf

BLOOD HARMONY
The far-flung tale of a murder song
By David Ramsey
Read More: A Murder Ballad Family Tree 

Music Credits


ART BY: Amir H. Fallah, Alec Soth, Cara Weston, Hulda Guzmán, Rachelle Baker, Joaquín Torres-García, Kristine Potter, Kristina Knipe, Rob Amberg, William Ritter, Donald Saaf, Jemima Murphy, Meghann Riepenhoff, Abe Odedina, Jim Marshall, Alan Lomax, Zachary Gray, Judy Koo, Lila Callie Simpson, Kyle Dunn, Robert Pruitt, London Pierre Williams, Oggi Ogburn, Marigold Santos, Sandra-Lee Phipps, Thomas Hart Benton

COVER: Roberta Flack, circa 1970s © Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images