The joy that comes from being able to make a positive difference in someone’s life, sometimes by a simple act of compassion, is an amazing feeling. Once in a while this opportunity comes along.
With just a few kindly placed, meaningful words on a FaceBook post, I was able to make legendary Native American singer Verdell Primeaux feel better and at the same time recognize his great accomplishments in Native American Church music in his 30 plus years. This comes at an opportune time because he is faced with the obstacles of cancer and diabetes. I will show the letter and his reply in a little bit but here’s a brief recap of all his great accomplishments.
Verdell is of Ogalla/ Yankton Sioux and Ponca heritage. By the time he was 5 he began singing and learning Lakota culture and traditions. At 13 Verdell recorded four albums with his father and at the age of 16 began composing lyrics and rhythms. With his partner Johnny Mike, Dine, they have created many award winning recordings over a 30 plus year span. I invite anyone interested to do their own research on Verdell. Listen to and chant along with the beautiful Peyote prayer chants. Most all of their recording are still available on Canyon Records, Phoenix or thru YouTube.
Here is the letter:
My name is Michael Suess. I know you have had some pain and suffering lately and I’m truly sorry for that. May you be free from suffering and whatever causes suffering.
I have been listening to your beautiful prayer music for about 25 years now, thanks in part to Canyon Records in Phoenix (earlier) and YouTube (later). For me, you and Johnny Mike are the “gold standard”. I think I’ve listened to most everything you guys have released, and I like it all. You were innovative in your approach. I like Sacred Path with its electronic background, to your collaboration with Xavier Yxayoti and the beautiful flute music, your collaboration with Robbie Robertson, the “Lost & Lonely” collection and too many others to list.. If you were to ride in my car, you would hear one of my favorite CD’s “Bless the People” on endless loop.
It is very sad to see people disrespectfully recording live prayer songs or the pirating of NAC music. All of those are totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, there are unsavory people of all colors.
When I read one of the past comments that “you feel somewhat responsible” I would like to offer you another perspective. Imagine the thousands of people (if not more) that have heard your beautiful prayer music over the 30 plus years you’ve been doing this. By recording and putting your prayer music in the public domain, you have allowed many, many people who would never have the opportunity to hear it, a chance to experience it. That’s pretty powerful!
I know it’s a very complex issue so “Thank You” for listening to my take. And please keep on using your voice to help people heal.
Verdell Primeaux - Ahoka!! Well now my friend,,.gm there.. Finally! Here is someone who understands something about what I was talking about,,,perhaps the situation may see some resolve but for now my friend…,thank you for the research,,& may the spirit of music,,continue,,unwavering,,,your comrade,,
Chief Verdell Chaske Primeaux
When you see that an effort like this returns such a disproportionately larger result, you can’t help but wonder why we don’t do it more often. I challenge you to make a positive difference in your own and other people’s lives, everyone will the better for it!