Robin Wilson says her home growing up was full of music. Her mother sang and her father had a recording studio in the basement. It was the Motown era and the house was filled the music of the Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder and other Motown greats. And, she says, the house was often filled with jazz.
Wilson says she wrote Mama got Rhythm and Daddy Got Rhyme to expose young people to jazz and its influence.
“In the storyline, there’s also a lot of research that I did to incorporate historical references,” Wilson says. “So … young readers, they can really understand how jazz is related to the music that they listen to today.”
The book was originally published in 2009 but was re-released last year. It features beautiful illustrations from a now well-known artist: Mario Moore.
Wilson says she snapped him up for the project when Moore was a student at the College for Creative Studies.
“He had not become this huge name that he is today. Now he’s gone on to graduate from Yale, and I’m really proud of him,” Wilson says. “And so it’s an honor to be able to say that he did the artwork for my book, because he’s also gone on to do some amazing things since then.”
Wilson teaches French at the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies in Detroit. She says she uses music as a teaching tool when she teaches. When her book was published, she saw a chance to introduce the students to jazz.
“When I play some of the older classics, they were like ‘We don’t like jazz.’ And I said, ‘Well, you guys were just jamming to Trombone Shorty, and that is jazz,” she says. “And that’s OK. Because at least they can say that they’ve heard it, they were exposed to it.”
“And my hope is that they will continue to explore jazz in some way … I think even for the younger generation can find something that they really enjoy.”