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Living Legends Program

The Living Legends award honors those who made special contributions to our Cajun culture. For
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Living Legends

Goldman Thibodeaux
Inducted on December 14, 2019

Goldman Thibodeaux The Acadian Museum inducted Goldman Thibodeaux into its Order of Living Legends on Saturday, December 14, 2019 at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center in Opelousas.

This tribute to Thibodeaux was written by Darrell Bourque:

In letters like this one, writers use language that try to distinguish the subject from all the others who will be considered for recognition and distinction. Words like remarkable, exemplary, treasured all too often miss the mark of the subject's worth. Such is certainly the case with Goldman Thibodeaux, who is one of the most accomplished people I know. He is of mixed Creole and Cajun bloodlines and represents the best of both cultures, as well as, more broadly, Louisiana's gumbo cultures and America's melting pot cultures.

His grandfather, Theodule Thibodeaux, fought at the Battle of Port Hudson as a Confederate soldier in America's Civil War. The elder Thibodeaux had 21 children with four women (two Cajun, two Creole). I am descended from one of the children with his Cajun wife, Philomene Latliolais; Goldman is descended from one of four children he fathered with his Creole neighbor, Marie Ophelia Richard. Goldman has always claimed his mixed heritage proudly and without fanfare. He has never let who he is be something that diminished him or defined him in any way that kept him from doing what he wanted to do with his life, personally and professionally.

Goldman, the leader of Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys is one of the only musicians who performs the rural, pre-Zydeco, house-dance, early 20th century music of the communities around Lewisburg, Lawtell, Mallet and Prairie Ronde, Louisiana. He is the only person I know who actually saw the legendary Amede Ardoin alive. Goldman was 8 or 9 when Ardoin rode in on horseback to the Semien farm neighboring his home place in Prairie Ronde to play a Sunday house-dance (see "On the Trail of a Creole Music Pioneer, Still Alive in Song, New York Times, May 28, 2015). Goldman, now 83, went on to do much of what Ardoin did.

Goldman preserved the native music of his culture and time, Louisiana LaLa music. He played in a mixed race band echoing Ardoin's experiences (and a part of Ardoin's demise), and carried on the music traditions of his other grandparent, Joseph "Bebe" Carriere and his uncle Eraste Carriere. He taught himself in the traditions of Canray Fontenot, Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin and Douglas Bellard (the first person to commercially record Louisiana Creole music -one year before Arnede Ardoin began his recording career).

The music he preserves is the music that came before the Zydeco greats like Clifton Chenier, BooZoo Chavis, Beau Jacques and the contemporary exemplars of the style like Lawrence Ardoin, Mary Broussard, Corey Ledet, and Chris and Sean Ardoin. It is a music that is distinct from Zydeco but it is the music that Zydeco was built upon.
Goldman's proud claim to heritage, music and otherwise, is largely recognized in his home state.

This spring he opened the Fais Do-Do Stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, his 24nd annual appearance. He appears regularly at Festivals Acadiens et Creole in Lafayette, Louisiana, now in its 40th+ year, as well as at Vermilionville Jean Lafitte Historic Center's Bal de dimanche apres midi, at the Jean Lafitte Historical Center's Liberty Theater Saturday night programming (Cajun-Creole Prairie Home Companion-like performances in Eunice, Louisiana), at French tables throughout Acadiana, at the Plaisance Zydeco Festival, and at his annual church bazaar at St. Ann's in Mallet. In 2015 he was featured at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Bright Lights Literacy Awards, which honored Cokie Roberts with its Humanist of the Year Award. Last year he played for an anniversary celebration of the founders of the Alexandre Mouton Museum and the Lafayette Library Association (Mouton, another Confederate soldier who also has a large Creole line of descendants).

The latter event is testament to Goldman's fearless acceptance of who he is and what he represents in Louisiana culture and the culture of the nation-at-large. He has also taught at the August Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, part of the college's Appalachian Studies programming for students of all ages in all American traditional music, dance, craft and folklore traditions. He and his Lawtell Playboys make regular appearances at the Northwestern State University (Natchitoches) Folk Festival and the Cane River Music Festival (in the Creole Cane River settlements). In 2014 Goldman was awarded the State of Louisiana Folklife Heritage Award by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne.

Of equal importance to Goldman as is his performing life is his life in his family and his community. An active church member, he and his wife Theresa received and raised two orphaned sons by arrangements with their church pastor, one now a successful businessman and the other a nurse. They now raise their only grandson Brock, 11, the child of a single father, whom Goldman also teaches traditional music to (mostly the frottoir and t-fer -washboard and triangle- at this age), and he invites Brock regularly to perform with him and his band. He also grows much of what he eats and feeds to his family, everything from native figs, jujube (pomme surette native of the West Indies), mirlitons, heirloom tomatoes, Hubbard squashes, and Barbados Black Belly sheep, a herd of nearly 50 that he has kept for many years now.

Goldman is person close to the earth, close to family, close to faith, close to the political life of his community, close to artistic articulations of every kind. He is kind, nurturing, giving, compassionate; an environmentalist, a firm believer of repurposing and sustainable practices -- in farming, in economics, in the practice of his art. He treats the earth as he treats his music and his community, his neighbors and his family -- with love and respect.

I write because I know the Goldman Thibodeauxs of the world make the world make sense, that the Goldman Thibodeauxs of the world are models for the best we can be as artists and citizens, as keepers of our best human values, as builders of communities where everyone in the community is valued and acknowledged for whatever gifts or talents they bring to community life, no matter how great or small that contribution might seem to others. The Goldman Thibodeauxs of the world teach us in-the-world being and I can think of no greater thing that anyone might aspire to or that anyone might value in the life of the nation.

Goldman Thibodeaux was born into diverse cultural heritage. He is a master artist of traditional Louisiana Creole and Cajun music, specifically Louisiana LaLa music, but he can play a moving and skillfully representative selection of Iry Lejeune songs, as well as songs of other Cajun musicians. In addition, he is also a song writer and has released cds of his original works. His achievement is of the highest rank; he is a model of artistic excellence and his whole life as a traditional arts performer has been to honor his heritage. He is most deserving of one of The Acadian Museum's Living Legend Awards.
 

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