Karen Akers: The Kiss of an Angel

Nostalgia, Tennessee believed, was a disease, an emotional disorder that kept all boats firmly anchored at the dock, dry, empty, unaware of new shores. Tenn was not the first--and will not be the last--to discourage a hypochondria of the heart, and he was skillful in managing to love the past without becoming locked--immovable and useless--in its comforting amber. "It's a sort of prophylactic nostalgia I practive," he told me, giving credit for that term to his friend Jane Smith, an artist and erstwhile escort for Tenn to any number of venues.

"We can wear black in memory of those we've lost," Tenn told me. "That is honorable, appropriate. We can listen and learn from the writers, artists, singers of the past: We can even take the baton or artistic effort others have left us and run in another direction; run faster; run away. But let us always move. It is never good to dance with a corpse. But a rose left on the grave, a prayer muttered in appreciation--those are fine."

An example?

"Well, Karen Akers does not dance with corpses," Tenn told me, "but she leaves roses in all the right places and in all the right shades, the right colors. She has listened and learned--but not only the songs and the styles: She has listened and learned through her own life, her own living, and brings a shading, a knowing tickle of experience, to songs that might ordinarily remain vaulted, entombed, amber-logged."

The greatest style, Tenn believed, was one worn lightly. Talent worn casually--like a poncho or a hickey--rather than a suit of armor or the dress, much too small, that was owned by an idol. "Akers wears her talent well, and she plants it lightly on her material, like the kiss of an angel. Another gift from Jane Smith, I'm sure. Who else would offer me such a divinity?"

Lilian Montevecchi, David Carroll, and Karen Akers in Grant Hotel (1989).

Tenn in Conversation
New Orleans


Popular Posts