Compay Segundo And Benny Carter

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Jul 21 11:29:14 MDT 2003

Compay Segundo And Benny Carter
by Louis Proyect

Swans, July 21, 2003

African-American Jazz legend Benny Carter died on July 12, 2003 at the
age of 95. Two days later Afro-Cuban musician Compay Segundo, of Buena
Vista Social Club fame, died -- he too was 95. They both remained active
musically into their 80s and 90s and some critics believe that their
greatest work came in those years.

Carter's obituaries were filled with praise for his musicianship and his
regal manner. John S. Wilson characterized his career as "remarkable for
both its length and its consistently high musical achievement, from his
first recordings in the 1920's to his youthful-sounding improvisations
in the 1990's." But his achievements as civil rights activist were just
as important. The Washington Post filled in some of the details:

"Starting in 1943, when he moved to Los Angeles from New York, he was
breaking down racial barriers in Hollywood, becoming the first black
musician to write and arrange film scores (and television scores, once
that medium emerged), in the process opening the doors for people like
Quincy Jones and Isaac Hayes. Like King, Benny Carter was a peaceful but
effective civil rights warrior. In the mid '40s, he won a legal battle
against restrictive covenants that had prohibited blacks from owning
homes in certain parts of Los Angeles. Carter was also a major force in
merging the previously segregated American Federation of Musicians
locals, which helped increase the presence of black musicians in studio


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