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  1. #1

    Recommendations: Books On the Blues

    I love the blues as an art form. I'm saddened that it isn't as appreciated as it should be, especially among the descendants of those who created it. While I collect music in the genre of blues like I collect many other genres, I recently realized that I don't know much about the subject in a literary way, if that makes any sense. I was hoping to get some recommended reading from you folks on the subject of the blues. I did read that Robert Palmer's Deep Blues was someone's idea of the "best" book on the subject. But before I go tracking down a copy, I wondered what other recommendations might SD have in the way of books? Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Hey, RanRan! If you haven't read it already, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka's Blues People is indispensable; it ticks your "literary" box quite neatly. Also, for an exploration of the blues through the lens of gender and sexuality, hunt high and low for Angela Davis's brilliant Blues Legacies and Black Feminism; it's a tripartite study of the work of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday as well as a larger meditation on the meanings and origins of the form in African-American culture and history. And, although I haven't read it, Albert Murray's Stompin' the Blues is considered essential. If I think of more general blues titles, I'll pop back in.
    Last edited by sansradio; 05-30-2020 at 10:31 PM.

  3. #3
    I should've known you'd come through Sans! Thank you so much. Gonna look into these.

  4. #4
    ...what blues? whose blues? when? where?...Virtually every American genre of music
    was born out of the blues.There is no one single book that's going to cover every aspect
    of blues birth and history. You'll do best by starting where you are. You said you have blues
    recordings so what are they, what do you enjoy? Individual singers? Musicians? Guitarists?
    Pianists? Horn players, harmonica players? What styles? The big city jump blues that
    birthed much R&B or that deep heavy low delta blues that Ted Gioia wrote so well about? The Albert Murray book was good to me but I didn't expect it be the last word because the blues are still a living entity. Taj Mahal, Keb Mo and their contemporaries
    would surely tell you that. Blues People by Amiri Baraka when he was still Leroi Jones
    was landmark but keep in mind it's not a history, more a reflection of his ideology.
    Start where you are...

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I should've known you'd come through Sans! Thank you so much. Gonna look into these.
    My pleasure, my brother.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by splanky View Post
    ...what blues? whose blues? when? where?...Virtually every American genre of music
    was born out of the blues.There is no one single book that's going to cover every aspect
    of blues birth and history. You'll do best by starting where you are. You said you have blues
    recordings so what are they, what do you enjoy? Individual singers? Musicians? Guitarists?
    Pianists? Horn players, harmonica players? What styles? The big city jump blues that
    birthed much R&B or that deep heavy low delta blues that Ted Gioia wrote so well about? The Albert Murray book was good to me but I didn't expect it be the last word because the blues are still a living entity. Taj Mahal, Keb Mo and their contemporaries
    would surely tell you that. Blues People by Amiri Baraka when he was still Leroi Jones
    was landmark but keep in mind it's not a history, more a reflection of his ideology.
    Start where you are...
    Thanks Splanky!

  7. #7
    If you are looking for an early history of the Blues, I highly recommend the following Paul Oliver's 'Blues Fell This Morning' (still in print) and 'Story of the Blues' now out of print but available on Kindle and also Lawrence Cohn's 'Nothing But The Blues'. All 3 books do go into far more detail on pre-War Blues but nevertheless provide a good grounding if you are just getting into the music and extensively cover the roots.

    Happy reading.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter G View Post
    If you are looking for an early history of the Blues, I highly recommend the following Paul Oliver's 'Blues Fell This Morning' (still in print) and 'Story of the Blues' now out of print but available on Kindle and also Lawrence Cohn's 'Nothing But The Blues'. All 3 books do go into far more detail on pre-War Blues but nevertheless provide a good grounding if you are just getting into the music and extensively cover the roots.

    Happy reading.
    Thanks Peter! I'm particularly interested in the pre-war period, so these appear to be fantastic additions to the ones already suggested in the thread.

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