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The Music of Vera Pilgrim and the Ritual of the Dolphins

The novel is woven through with a tapestry of music. Vibrant stories are influenced by a wide range of songs, artists, and genres. The book becomes richer when the reader is able to hear the same soundtrack as the characters.

Below is a list of songs, lyrics, and artists in the book, roughly in the order they are mentioned.

Please explore the music here, spend some time searching Youtube and other online resources, and remember that this is a jumping off point. We hope that this is only the beginning of an inspiring journey.




This section is under construction. Please excuse formatting.

‘Good Morning Heartache’ – Billie Holiday, page 7

‘Cats’, the Musical – Andrew Lloyd Webber, page 14

Coleman Hawkins’ music (unspecified titles), page 34

‘Lush Life’ – Ella Fitzgerald, page 62

‘Gladly the Cross I’d Bear for Jesus’ – traditional hymn, page 88

Reference to Miles Davis, page 143

‘Greensleeves’ – Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, page 162

Don Quixote (ballet), page 162

‘La Noces’ – Stravinsky – page 162

Mahler Symphony #8 in Eb “The Symphony of a Thousand”- Leonard Bernstein, page 162

Musicians mentioned: Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey, Carmen McCrae, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Flora Purim, Charlie Parker, page 163

Reference to African Drumming, page 184

‘Ain’t gone let nobody turn me around. Gone keep on walking, gone keep on talking. Walking down freedom road...’ SNCC Freedom Singers, page 186

‘Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing oe’r the plain. And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strain.’ Traditional Christmas carol, Page 199

‘Rock of Ages’, Traditional Hymn, page 201

‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ – Percy Sledge, page 238

‘Ooh, freedom. Freedom over me. And before I’ll be a slave. I’ll be buried in my grave. And go home to my Lord.’ Freedom Song Lyrics, page 254

‘I Cried for You’ Billie Holiday, page 281
     Now it’s your turn to cry over me
     Everything has a turning; that’s one thing you’re learning
     What a fool I used to be…

Musicians mentioned: Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Sarah Vaughan, Mose Allison, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Cab Calloway, Bojangles, Baby Dodds, Roy Eldridge – page 282

‘Me, myself and I…are all in love with you.’ – Billie Holiday, page 283

‘Southern trees bear a strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root.’ Billie Holiday, page 284

‘My man done left me, he treats me oh so mean. My man done left me, he treats me awful mean.’ Billie Holiday, page 284

‘He’s the lowest man that I’ve ever seen.’ Billie Holiday, page 285

Billie Holiday, page 285
     ‘Love will make you drink and gamble, make you stay out all night long.
     Love will make you drink and gamble, make you stay out all night long.
     Love will make you do things that you know is wrong.’

‘Love is like a faucet, it turns off and on. Love is like a faucet, it turns off and on. Sometimes when you think it’s on baby, it’s turned off and gone.’ Billie Holiday, page 286

Nina Simone – Porgy and Bess, page 286
     ‘I love you Porgy, don’t let him take me.
     Don’t let him handle me and drive me mad.
     If you can keep me: I want to stay here.
     With you forever, and I’ll be so glad.
     He’s gonna handle me and hold me so,
     It’s gonna be like dying, Porgy…’

Nina Simone – ‘Porgy and Bess‘, page 287
     ‘But when he comes, I know I’ll have to go.
     I love you Porgy, don’t let him take me.
     Don’t let him handle me with his hot hands.
     If you can keep me, I want to stay here, with you forever,
     Cause I’ve got my man.’

Nina Simone – ‘Little Girl Blue’ – page 287
     ‘Sit there and count your fingers, what can you do
     Little girl you’re through.
     Sit there and count your little fingers
     Unhappy little girl blue.
     All that you can do is count the raindrops
     That fall on little girl blue.’

Nina Simone – ‘Strange Fruit’ – page 287, 288
     ‘Southern trees bear strange fruit. Blood on the leaves, blood on the roots.
     Black bodies swingin’ in the sorghum trees,
     Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees…’

‘Scent of magnolia, keen and fresh Then the sudden smell of burning flesh For the crows to gather For the wind to suck For the sun to rot, for the leaves to drop’ Nina Simone – page 288

‘What do they call me, my name is sweet thing. My name is sweet thing My skin is brown, my manner is tough. I’ll kill the first mother I see. My life has been rough. I’m awfully bitter these days, because our parents were slaves. What do they call me. My name is Egypt.’ Nina Simone – ‘Four Women’, page 289

‘We are alone now, and I’m singing this song for you.’ – Donny Hathaway, page 290

‘Take a good look at my face… ‘The tracks of my tears…’ – Aretha Franklin, page 290

Musicians referenced: Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday – page 305

‘What’s Goin’ On’ – Marvin Gaye, page 311

Musicians referenced: Coltrane, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Jimmie Rushing, Billie Holiday – page 334

‘My Favorite Things,’ Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones – page 334

‘The Sound of Music’, Rodgers and Hammerstein – page 334

Musicians referenced: Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin – page 335

Country music referenced – page 337

Musician referenced: John Coltrane – page 343

Musicians referenced: Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison – page 344

Composer referenced: W.A. Mozart – page 344

Musician referenced: Ellington – page 359

Composers referenced: Mahler, Chopin – page 359

Musical genres referenced: gospel, rap, hip-hop – page 363

Musician referenced: LL Cool J – page 364

‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’, Traditional – page 365

‘Amazing Grace’, Traditional – page 366

‘…that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.’ ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved…’ ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; ‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.’ Amazing Grace, Traditional – page 370

‘You Must Learn’, KRS One - page 384

‘World Peace’, KRS One – page 385

‘Freedom, oh Freedom. Freedom over me. And before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave. And go home to my Lord and be free.’ Freedom Song – page 389

‘Go down, Moses. Way down in Egypt Land’, Traditional – page 405

‘Mississippi Goddam’, Nina Simone – page 432

‘Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by, There’s a better home awaiting, in the sky, Lord, in the sky’, Traditional – page 434

Reference: black church choir music – a cappella – page 437

‘Inner-city Blues’, Marvin Gaye – page 441

Musical instruments referenced: conga drum, thumb piano, berimbau, accordion, bagpipe, native American flute, guitar, fiddle, viola, didgeridoo – page 465, 466






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Vera Pilgrim and the Ritual of the Dolphins



The Vera Pilgrim Project

Imagine this book as a seed planted in fertile soil, the aspirations of people everywhere to live in communities that gather in peaceful and open dialogue to rejuvenate their lives and society.

Envision small groups organizing on a massive scale to reflect on Vera Pilgrim, the challenging messages, themes, characters, myths, rituals and histories presented in this book.

Imagine deeply personal, intimate conversations of introspection and sharing that, as with Vera, serve to heal divisions within and in the community at large.

Envision such dialogue underway in public schools, colleges and universities, in faith-based organizations, in the workplace, at all levels of government, in social service agencies.

Walk the path with Vera Pilgrim. The seeds are planted and ready to grow to fruition. Welcome to my website. Now, look within.