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Thursday, October 5, 2023

Blues musician Otis Taylor graduates highschool 57 years after getting expelled : NPR

In 1966, a pair months earlier than he was set to graduate, Otis Taylor was instructed he wanted to chop his quick afro or he’d be kicked out. Now, 57 years after he left, he has obtained a diploma.


It is commencement season, and amongst these donning the cap and robe is Otis Taylor. He simply obtained his diploma from Handbook Excessive Faculty in Denver 57 years after the varsity expelled him.


Wow. Taylor, who’s Black, is now a celebrated blues musician. Again in 1966, simply a few months earlier than he was set to graduate, the varsity instructed him to chop his hair, or they’d kick him out.

OTIS TAYLOR: You already know, I had, like, a bit teeny afro, in order that they mentioned I’ve to chop the perimeters of my hair. I mentioned, I do not care. Goodbye. I wasn’t going to go to school. I simply needed to play music, ?

CHANG: And play music, he did.


CHANG: He is now recorded greater than a dozen albums over a decadeslong profession.

KELLY: As a child, Taylor says he lived simply a few blocks from a music store and gathering place for people musicians referred to as the Denver Folklore Heart. And someday, he took in his mom’s damaged ukulele to get it mounted.

TAYLOR: I simply went inside this people music retailer, and, psychologically, I by no means got here out. They taught me totally free easy methods to play music, ? It was actually cool.

CHANG: Taylor says a diploma did not matter a lot to him, however his dad and mom didn’t share that view.

TAYLOR: My mom was mad. My father was furious. I do not suppose he ever forgave me for that – regardless of how profitable I bought.

CHANG: Taylor says his father was additionally a jazz fan, and he did not care a lot for Taylor’s style for the blues.

TAYLOR: He needed me to be a jazz musician. He did not need me to play the blues. He needed me to go to school. And I simply did the whole lot he did not need.

KELLY: Taylor first discovered to play the banjo, and he lower an uncommon determine round city. There is a image of him within the Denver Submit in 1964. He’s 16, enjoying the banjo as he balances on high of a unicycle. The paper referred to as him in all probability the one banjo-playing unicyclist in Denver.


CHANG: Taylor says he was stunned to be taught many years later concerning the banjo’s African origins.

TAYLOR: The primary time I came upon that banjo got here from Africa, I requested my banjo trainer, why did not you inform me this? I do not know. I simply did not consider it. It is like, wow, why would not anyone inform me this?

CHANG: He is now gone on to document a number of albums celebrating the instrument’s roots, together with the one you are listening to now – “Recapturing The Banjo.”


TAYLOR: (Singing) Seemed out the window and what did I see? Tar and feather coming after me…

KELLY: Within the many years since Taylor was expelled, greater than a dozen states have enacted legal guidelines that outlaw discrimination based mostly on hair texture and elegance.

CHANG: As for Taylor getting his diploma at age 74, effectively, he says it was a surreal expertise, and he has no regrets.

TAYLOR: Would you do it should you had the prospect to do it over? H*** sure, I would do it over once more. You already know, you’ll be able to’t dwell on all of the dangerous issues that occur to you – particularly as a Black particular person. You already know, you simply have these moments, and I had a alternative. It wasn’t like they only kicked me out of faculty, and you may’t come again. I had a alternative. I used to be only a child. You wish to play music, you wish to play music, ?

KELLY: That’s Otis Taylor, blues musician and now – drum roll – highschool graduate.


TAYLOR: (Singing) Hey. Hey. Yeah.

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