Burying the King Again: Buddy Bolden’s Jazz Funeral and Defleshed Memory
Abstract: This essay conducts a rhetorical analysis of the efforts to commemorate Charles “Buddy” Bolden with a mock jazz funeral in 1996. Widely recognized as a jazz pioneer today, Bolden acquired most of his acclaim posthumously. Bolden spent the last twenty-five years of his life in the Louisiana State Insane Asylum where he died in obscurity in 1931. Bolden’s mock funeral provides a useful case for extending public memory scholarship by exploring the rhetorical dimensions of defleshed memories. Drawing from interviews, archives, and textual analysis, this essay theorizes defleshed memories as memories whose physical trace—or evidence of a physical trace—is attenuated to a state close to non-existence by coercive acts of institutional repression and neglect that sanitize and depoliticize memories. Further, this essay finds that defleshed memories are often rebodied to serve commercial interests but can also be reincorporated into more robust living traditions through rhetorical acts of commemoration.