Making the once known known again.

What Happens To A Dream Deferred? Ask Mississippi John Hurt.

Mississippi John Hurt

This week marks a bit of a milestone for PopExcavators.  Today I have the privilege of posting my tenth article.  Ten articles may not seem like a lot to some people, but for a guy like me who gets bored easily, sticking to something for ten weeks is MAJOR.  I’ve loved being on this journey with all of you.  Your comments and conversation have challenged and inspired me in a multitude of ways.

While reflecting on the excavations thus far, I found myself carrying a burden for those who have given up or lost sight of their dreams.  After “The Endless Summer” excavation, I was talking to an older woman who felt that she had no dreams, no talents and nothing she wanted to pursue.  This led to more conversations with people who felt the same way.  I realized the loss of dreams is a common epidemic and I would like to use today’s article to try and cure it.

As a teacher, I have taught hundreds of kids over the course of my career.  Every single one of those kids had something unique to contribute to society.  Every kid had a dream.  Every kid had a purpose.  We adults are simply grown up kids which means that we too have dreams, purpose and something unique to contribute.  If we don’t know what our dreams are, it’s not because we don’t have any.  It’s because they’ve been buried.

Perhaps you put off your dreams to marry and raise a family.  Maybe you sacrificed a lot for your dreams and didn’t see any payoff so you quit.  Maybe you figured your dreams were unrealistic so you didn’t even try in the first place.  In all of the aforementioned cases, the dreams never died.  Again, they were buried.

A friend recently shared with me the music of Mississippi John Hurt.  I was taken aback by the brilliance of his music but was inspired even more by his story.  Regardless of where you are on the journey of pursuing your dreams, Hurt’s story will inspire you to keep going.

John Smith Hurt was born in Teoc, Mississippi in 1893 and raised in nearby Avalon.  He taught himself to play guitar at the age of 9, and developed a style that no one had ever heard before.  As an adult he played regularly for dances and town events, but ended up making a living as a sharecropper.  When Hurt was thirty-six a friend recommended him to a producer at Okeh records, giving him his first recording experience.  Several songs were recorded during that two day session, but they achieved no success commercially.  Hurt tried to negotiate a contract to no avail.  Okeh Records ended up going out of business during The Great Depression and Hurt went back to his life as a sharecropper, playing guitar on the side.

Twenty years later, a few of the songs from that first recording session were included on a national compilation, “The Anthology of American Folk Music.”  People outside of Avalon Mississippi began to hear Hurt’s music for the first time and they were blown away.  The problem was that no one knew who Mississippi John Hurt was, or if he was even alive for that matter.  Using the lyrics to his song “Avalon Blues,” musicologist Tom Hoskins found Hurt in Avalon, MS and made it his goal to share the music of Mississippi John Hurt with the world.  Hurt was seventy years old.  Seventy!

After being rediscovered by Hoskins, Hurt moved to Washington, DC and achieved national acclaim.  In addition to the concert halls and college venues, he was asked to play at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival which cemented his place in folk music history.  He got a record deal with Vanguard Records and recorded three albums before his death of a heart attack in 1966.  He also left behind a series of recordings for the Library of Congress that have become somewhat legendary.

It took seventy years for Hurt to achieve his dream of being a signed recording artist.  How many of us would have thrown our guitars in the attic after Okeh Records went out of business?  Hurt could have done that, and I’m sure there were times when he was tempted to do so.  Instead Hurt kept playing and getting better.  He had a dream.

For those of you who are chasing your dream, let Mississippi John Hurt’s story inspire you to keep chasing.  For those of you who think you’re too old to pursue a dream, let Mississippi John Hurt’s story show you how young you are.  For those of you who have buried a dream over time, let Mississippi John Hurt’s story inspire you to excavate it.

What do you think of Mississippi John Hurt’s story?  What do you take away from it?

See you next week.  Looking forward to the next ten excavations!

Ryan Chavez


16 comments on “What Happens To A Dream Deferred? Ask Mississippi John Hurt.

  1. Nicole
    August 6, 2012

    I love this story. It’s inspiring. My grandmother was finishing her degree in her 40’s and my great great aunt went to college in her 70’s and did extreamly well. It is never to late to go after your dream. Colonel Saunders was like in his 40’s when he began his KFC empire. You just have to do it. Congrats on number 10, I look forward to the 100th!

    • PopExcavators
      August 8, 2012

      Did your great great aunt get some sort of discount off of tuition?? Lol….

      Seriously though I agree. Age is no excuse. Go for it.

  2. Trevor Honeycutt
    August 7, 2012

    Great story RC! Wonderful encouragement to keep going, and keep the dream alive.

    This story reminds me of a scripture that the Lord has used to encourage me for many years: Hebrews 6:11-12 – And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through *** faith and patience inherit the promises. ***

    Faith and patience. Believing while we wait. Being faithful in the small things, while we wait for Him to put us in charge of much (Matt 25:21). This is the “stuff” of miracles.

    But in these days-and-times, our ideas of “waiting” look more like microwave-timing then the Lord’s 40-years-in-the-wilderness.

    Hebrews 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, …

    • PopExcavators
      August 8, 2012

      So true Trevor. A lot of us give would give up after 40 days, let alone 40 years!

  3. hectorsue23
    August 7, 2012

    I love this story! I agree with Nicole, I look forward to your 100th! I, like Trevor, find myself thinking of Moses. He was 80 when he went to Pharaoh and asked for the Israelites to be ‘let go’. 80! This is very promising to me. There are lots of dreams that get buried because “they” tell us we are too old, or too young, or too poor, not from the ‘right’ side of town. Truth is, what Christ has place in your heart, what desires/dreams are there, He will accomplish. At any age, from whatever race, in whatever town.

    • PopExcavators
      August 8, 2012

      Didn’t even think of the Biblical connection. All of those dudes were old haha….thanks for sharing

  4. JazZY
    August 7, 2012

    Betty Jo Ward…a neighbor from childhood that didn’t let anything stop her from her dream of playing a piano. When she first started out…there wasn’t much to do but chuckle. Folks giggled and snickered….but in no time at all church doors were open for Sister Ward to do an A&B selection. The sound may not had been superior to many….but she didn’t give up and learned how after age 40.
    Ms. Ward became the unsung inspiration to many. There were chuckles…but also new piano bangers popping up…directing new choirs…lol…banging and directing.

    My dreams…so many can’t pinpoint one to speak of. So what I’ve been doing is use all the gifts I’ve been provided…paying attention to which one is the one for the future and just keep on keeping on enjoying the pleasure they bring…some what like Mr. Hurt. Don’t stop dreaming…live in reality and be ready when the time come. It’s coming…question is, “who is ready?”

    Congratulations on your Tenth article, it has been a pleasure getting to know you through your postings. What you have created here is more than what you set out to do. You came online with a vision…but you have restored vision to many. Keep on keeping on~(:-D)

  5. Nadia
    August 7, 2012

    Congrats on #10! This was a very inspirational story. It shows that you should never give up, I guess dreams can come true. But one point you mentioned was that he continued to practice and hone his skills by performng at local functions. I am not sure if he continued because he still hoped for a recording career or if he continued just because he loved the music. If the music led him to fame and fortune or just to the local gin joint, his music was his passion.

    • PopExcavators
      August 13, 2012

      That’s right. Passion is a powerful thing and can sometimes dictate our path without our being aware.

  6. Brea Dawn (@i_am_Brea)
    August 9, 2012

    This is a powerful story. Says so much! I still have yet to hit 30, but have looked back over my Goal List that I started in early high school. I am still pushing towards or have surpassed some, but honestly “Nah, it may be too late.” or “Too much time has passed.” walked across my mind regarding others. I am curious to know as well if he continued playing with the anticipation of being heard or if he continued playing solely for the love of music. Either way, his story is inspirational, and it is definitely going into my list of examples when I mentor and examples that I need to pull from for myself! 70 years old. Wow. I’m revived in even the small things that I gave up on on my Goal List. Its on!

    • PopExcavators
      August 13, 2012

      Do the dang thing! lol. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  7. Lisa
    August 9, 2012

    This story truly is an example of not giving up or deferring your dream. Mr.Hurt was meant to reach the high grounds at the age of 70 because he had to walk the green mile and observe, learn and research so much growth, that made him wiser when GOD called him out to enjoy his reward.. I look forward to more pop-escavators!!

  8. Ms. Cratchit
    August 13, 2012

    This is so encouraging. Both Mississippi John Hurt as well as Tom Hoskins are inspiring. The fact that John, an “almost” northern white man, went on a seemingly wild goose chase to find an African American farmer, in the south, in the 60’s in Mississippi, during the civil rights era is a story within itself. This was..mind you pre Google Maps, People Search…Facebook..lol. Then John allowed himself to be convinced by a white man…at a time when black men were still being lynched, beaten, castrated, thrown in jail without just cause..etc. to leave his home and chase a dream that seemed dead most likely to many..all the way to DC. AND IT WORKED! It doesn’t get anymore inspiring than this.

    I think that when it comes to dreams, chasing those dreams and seeing them realized the key is that there is someone in your life that believes in you just as much if not more than you do. It took Tom to come back and “excavate” John. Tom became obsessed. I think when we have someone or people in our lives that believe with us it works to fill in the gaps. The days when we don’t feel like it anymore, or we are discouraged, or just plain lazy or overwhelmed with fear or don’t feel like we are good enough or don’t feel like we really are cut out for it..those people come in and fill those cracks, crevices or big gaping wholes with light, faith, hope…love. I think for those of us that find it difficult to accomplish our dreams or stay on track it is in part because we need that support. We read something or hear something and we get inspired but we are human and that inspiration often begins to fad if it is not continually nurtured. We need someone that is consistently there speaking truth into our lives. Because the lies come. I am sure that John thought that his time had passed on more than one occasion. That it was over. That farming was going to be it for him. But someone came and filled those cracks and crevices with light and hope. So my prayer for everyone who read this week’s excavation is that God sends you someone that helps keep you afloat when your arms get tired from swimming upstream. Someone that believes in you and sees you as Christ sees you. That knows that nothing is impossible and reminds you of that truth. As I pray for you I pray that you are praying the same for me ;-).

  9. Felicity
    August 13, 2012

    I agree with Ms. Cratchit. Every week when I read these articles I am inspired by either the piece of Ryan’s journey that he has chosen to share or the excavation of the week or both. I am inspired by the comments. Over the past ten weeks Pop Excavators has challenged and stretched me. It has also caused me to think about why I been so slothful about the pursuit of some of my dreams. It’s not that I think it’s too late or that I am too old. I am a firm believer that “too old” is a mind set.

    Over the past week since this was posted I have thought about this post every single day. I thought about times in my life when I literally felt as if I could and would take over the world versus times when nothing seems possible and every single day is a struggle to even believe in a dream, nevertheless, chase after it. I came to the conclusion that the person above touched on…support. Everyone’s personality type is different. Some people may not need consistent encouragement but I have come to realize that without words of affirmation I wilt. Chasing dreams becomes a struggle. I dated a guy that believed in me as Cratchit said “more than I believed in myself”. I soared. Not that I didn’t have bad days or days that I wanted to quit but he consistently reminded me that I was born for this. He was like resin. He filled in the cracks. He also constantly reminded me that the unique person that I am was beautiful, not weird, not odd, but perfect. Perfect because this is the wonderfully unique person God fashioned me to be. The world is LOUD as hell. For me it is important for me to have someone in my life that can hit the mute button on my behalf when I become to weak from fighting to hit it myself.

    Again, I am just speaking for myself and agreeing with Cratchit. Having people in your life that can see what you see and believe in you and support you can make all the difference in the world. I guess I need to make sure that at least one person in my life does that because without it I don’t think I can do it.

  10. Henriette
    October 11, 2012

    Inspiring post! You are on point with the fact that many many people defer their dreams. I love hearing stories like these; they truly remind me of how important it is to make my dreams a reality. My biggest motivation to continue achieving my dreams is my niece. Her pure desire to achieve is infectious and I want her to have an example that regardless of age you SHOULD continue pursuing your dreams. I for one plan to be the cool grandma one day taking shop classes fixing up my 1967 Mustang. 🙂

    Congrats on your tenth post!

    “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”
    Leon J. Suenes

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This entry was posted on August 6, 2012 by in Lives, Phonograph and tagged , , , , .
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