In Scott P. Richert’s otherwise fine article “Polka Can’t Die” (The Rockford Files, November 2004), I was somewhat pained by his only slightly veiled disdain for the accordion. Polka without accordion? As soulless as Bach on a Moog synthesizer!
His aversion does place him in some traditional company. A Daumier cartoon has a character whose snooker game is disturbed by the sound of an accordion saying, “One does not yet have the right to kill the people who play this instrument, but there is hope we will soon get it!”
Invented in the early 19th century, the accordion became wildly popular with the lower classes of Europe. Probably the vast majority of the immigrants to this country loved it. From the hard-driving R&B that Zydeco musician Clifton Chenier was doing in the mid-50’s to the tasteful jazz playing of Art Van Dam or the traditional Irish accordionist playing slow airs that should make a stone weep, the instrument has a versatility, subtlety, and emotional range that, to my ears, even approaches the human voice.
I’m afraid the ’lectric guitar is the folk instrument of our brave age. The match is perfect.
New Orleans, LA