Amede Ardoin, a French-speaking Creole music pioneer, can be likened to the rock stars of our generation. His legacy is steeped in both musical brilliance and personal tragedy.
rock star of his era
In the early 20th century, Ardoin, a virtuoso on the accordion, composed and recorded a number of songs that marked the genesis of today’s Creole and Zydeco music. Darrell Bourque, a writer and poet who has extensively researched Ardoin’s life and work, likens him to a rock star of his time.
story of amede ardoin featured on tv
themes of exile and longing
Bourque has delved into the Creole French lyrics of Ardoin’s songs, discovering recurring themes of longing and a sense of loneliness. “Other than wanting a girl to pay attention to him, is this thing about not having a home, you know, being exiled,” Bourque notes. He wrote about Ardoin’s life in his book, If You Abandon Me.
a tragic end for Amede Ardoin
Ardoin’s flourishing musical career was cut short by a horrific act of violence that left him severely injured. Bourque explained that Ardoin was playing at a dance and, “he asked someone to give him a rag to wipe his face. A White woman, without hesitation, opened her purse and handed him a handkerchief.” That caught the attention of two White men, whom Bourgue described as racist, “who declared that Amede would never perform again”. The two men followed Ardoin home that night and beat him. Bourque said, “The story goes that they rolled over his head and neck with a Model A Ford and thought they had killed him.”
buried in an unmarked grave
Ardoin suffered severe brain injuries and was institutionalized at the Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville, where he died a few months later. His remains were buried anonymously in a potter’s field. Bourque lamented, “The whole idea of genius ending up unclaimed, alone, solitary, not being able to be in connection with anything that defined his life to a large extent is very touching.”
Tribute to amede ardoin’s legacy
The St. Landry Parish Visitors Center near Opelousas has a life-size bronze statue of Ardoin. Artist Russell Whiting created the 1,500 pound piece. The statue was dedicated in 2018 on March 11, Ardoin’s birthday. The statue depicts Ardoin holding an accordion and a lemon, which he used to soothe his throat.
In Bourque’s book of poetry, he uses lyrics from Ardoin’s songs to convey the musician’s sense of loneliness and isolation. Discussing Ardoin’s song “The Prisoner’s Waltz”, Bourque says, “I think probably there is no prison so complete as the idea of alienation and the idea of aloneness.”
The St. Landry Parish Visitors Center is located at 978 Kennerson Road (I-49 Exit 23). Phone (337) 948-8004.