Some might have perceived symbolism when the University of Louisiana System’s leadership approved the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's request Thursday to posthumously name Amédé Ardoin the Honorary Dean of Creole Music.
It’s a belated honor for Ardoin, a groundbreaking musician on the accordion, equivalent to that paid to fiddler Dennis McGee, the “Honorary Dean of Cajun Music,” in 1982. Around Acadiana, symbolism can signal substance’s impending arrival. Plans call, eventually, for a “pocket park” at UL to honor both men, sons of French Acadiana.
Ardoin, who was black, shared stages and recorded music with McGee, who was white, as early as 1929. Both crossed the perceived color line to forge a friendship. While McGee lived a long life — he died in his 90s — Ardoin’s was cut short in 1942 under mysterious and tragic circumstances. He was buried in an unmarked grave at a mental institution.
Though his years were short, Ardoin’s influence was long. His “la la” music, forerunner to zydeco and Cajun sounds, featured his own creations, which sometimes included lyrics offered extemporaneously.
In his prose poems memorializing Ardoin, Darrell Bourque wrote of his subject lamenting, “Me, I am going to the house all alone,/I am leaving for prison.”
But not alone, not now. Not when Louisianians relish his memory, or whenever an accordion is lifted here. Then his voice rises, and the music lasts forever.