Lonnie Holley on Freeman Vines

Lonnie Holley and Freeman Vines

Lonnie Holley speaks about Freeman Vines

To describe a person who is actually working really in nature, with nature, or with what nature provides . . . I’m looking out the door and I’m seeing that the rain is falling. The rain falls and makes all roots grow. It allows the roots to grow. Whatever the stories are, whatever the materials are around those roots, those roots are going to grow through that.

The foundations the sounds come from, which he creates in these guitars, he helps to choose the right sources, to allow the sounds to come forth.

When I met him, his brain was going through the judgment of the wood, the sources where he gets this wood. Looking and thinking as an artist and seeing this man’s overall value for the future. These materials that he’s worked with, some of them are historical devices. They are fitting into classics. They have attained, already, the antique. The main thing about art: Humans have a tendency to want to know its history. Its background. Who were its producers? What its producers went through to achieve this type of brainsmithing upon this art. How it came along.

I visited Freeman and his home. I walked around and I felt what he had to work for, to get the little money that he got in order to do his greatest art. This man was almost fresh out of slavery, still working on someone’s plantation and having to do that and still, every now and then, leave that yes sir, yes ma’am attitude and work strictly to please himself. All of these things are involvements to his creativity.

I heard Mr. Thornton Dial talk about it before his death, and I heard Mr. Purvis Young talk about it before his death. How these feelings and emotions came about. They began, really, at the time that we were born. We were having our senses messed with. Our senses were messed with, our emotions were messed with, throughout our entire life.

That is to say in an appreciative manner, what this human is still going through. Actions speak louder than words. Was the mule eating out of the trough or was it drinking out of the trough? Think about what is happening. The slobber, the spit of the mule, has sunken into that wood. He has taken something that was actually affected by the life of something else. The life of something else. This thing was affected by that mule’s slobber. By the life of something else.

This human was hung there. Think about this. If the fiber of the rope is affected by the blood that goes into that rope once the rope tightens up around the throat of that victim. I love using old ropes in my works. But even if those ropes never hung nobody, just the visual sight of the rope reminds the humans of what that rope was capable of.

A lot of people don’t dive into the wonders of the human brain. They don’t dive there. Because it’s almost too much information for them to retrieve. But it’s necessary for them to do it in order for art to stand out and be appreciated for what it is.

When we walked back into his studio, why, all the dust and all the little chips and all the little pieces of wood still lay in place. Still lay in place as evidence. And as pieces of vintage. That’s what the mule trough is all about. That’s what the hanging tree is all about. He might have even put that hanging tree into more guitars than the average person could realize.

But again: His secret works. This works in secret. He never told and he never will tell. Because those were things that were enhancing his ability. Those are things he was keeping within himself, to be proud of. Because why?

People have a tendency to laugh at our works and make fun of us. And that grinds on our emotions. And it messes with us until we grow through all of those effects. Can you imagine how many critics must have criticized my work back in 1990?

Tim takes someone’s reality, no matter the mental pain or the suggested attitudes of our times, and puts it in a perspective so that this person’s old soul stands out from his young appearance.

Old soul. Again, we talk about being reborn. When I enter my mother’s womb a second time, just to be reborn. If there is some part of my time when I sit down and I give myself some serious thought, then out of that serious thought I’ll be reborn. To appreciate the old intense values that we have, we as humans, we have that.

We are at an important time now in America, one of the most important times.

If we are going to let a little bit of our digital appearances destroy all of our further journeying into the future . . . If we are going to let this age, this time of development in the digital, totally destroy . . . Somebody sitting around has the power within their fingertips to cause this Earth’s destruction.

I think to the guitars, the way the sounds are made. Just those sounds alone, I’m thinking that this man’s brain is free.

Let me free your brain. This man is going to be a Free Man, but with sound. After his death is over, he’s going to be as important as Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass. Dug, dig, digging into the sources that would allow him to be an orchestrator, to write those things. Write these things, write of them. But a lot of us didn’t have the education to write of these things. Freeman, he gave us a way to do that. Play it.

Chuck Berry says I never learned to read or write so well, but playing that guitar was like ringing a bell. Man, the guitar itself put more humans on the rock ’n’ roll map than ever before. That guitar allowed those humans to take just some of the basest information from slavery and turn it into hymns.

Organs and pianos were all they allowed in church for a while. Then they brought the drums in. But when they brought the guitar in, it changed the whole atmosphere. It changed the whole mood. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make a joyful noise unto the Lord by any means necessary, but where do these means come from? Where did we get this from? It’s inherited in the blood.

In the Bible it says you were anointed. Can you imagine your mama’s mama’s mama being anointed in the womb? Whoever was anointed, I don’t care how many generations back, you are a part of that anointment. Because you are a product of that blood.

We have problems trying to evaluate mentalities about human existence. I don’t want to put Freeman in a perimeter of African American art, but he was closer to slavery than I was. I went and saw that this man was still living on the plantation. Even though I was at the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children, and that was a plantation, I wasn’t there but for a while. But after leaving and going to Florida and working on an orange grove, that was a plantation. And leaving that, going to Ohio working for Campbell’s Soup Company, picking tomatoes and cucumbers and beans, that was a plantation.

You understand what I’m saying. He’s still laying his head on the plantation. And you know why he’s there? He’s now the guardian of it. He’s like the night watchman. Music holds its ground. And Mr. Freeman is just one of the people who is allowing those grounds to be cultivated. This is a great man. This great man. This great man. I’m going to put one more great on there.

This great man.

Lonnie Holley, 2016. Timothy Duffy