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I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy
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I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  58 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
A major figure in American blues and folk music, Big Bill Broonzy (1903–1958) left his Arkansas Delta home after World War I, headed north, and became the leading Chicago bluesman of the 1930s. His success came as he fused traditional rural blues with the electrified sound that was beginning to emerge in Chicago. This, however, was just one step in his remarkable journey: ...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published May 15th 2011 by University Of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Big Bill Broonzy proved to be a pliable, accommodating bluesman by changing with the times and giving people what they wanted, from hokum to a more urbane strain of country blues to bigger blues ensembles featuring horns to, finally, a rebirth as a folk/folk blues artist in the 1950s. Broonzy's reinvention of himself musically mirrored his reshaping of his own history, as Bob Riesman's fine biography, "I Feel So Good," attests. Riesman notes that Broonzy's 1955 autobiography, "Big Bill Blues" ha ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Big Bill was the first blues musician that I listened to extensively, discovering him as a teenager around 1970. I knew that his autobiography was largely 'augmented' truth, but I didnt know just how little I knew about him until I read this book. This is an essential read for all fans of blues and folk music.
Al Young
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Broonzy is maybe not as heralded as other bluesmen, but he is a big influence, so I was excited to see this offered as a free e-book selection from The University of Chicago Press. Those who have spoke of his influence include Clapton, Townsend (who writes the into here), Elvis, the Kinks, Rory Gallagher, Steve Howe and many more. Phil and Dave Alvin just released an album of Broonzy covers earlier this year. I am going to butcher the quote, but it’s something like Clapton said he loved Broonzy ...more
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This monumental work is one of the very best Blues Bio you can ever own. Impeccably researched and far reaching in its scope, it is truly a must read for anyone interested in classic and modern Blues history, it's relationship with English Rock'n Roll, Trad Jazz, and the amazing journey of a major African-American American artist. Much of the Big Bill enigma is revealed, from intimate personal details, to how exactly he was the first solid and long lasting bridge to bring the Blues to Europe in ...more
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
A superb biography of a true blues giant. Broonzy was a star of 30's and 40's Chicago blues, cutting hundreds of records marketed to the black blues buying public. He also played on dozens of sessions backing other artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson I, Washboard Sam, Jazz Gillum and others. Predating the blues boom of the 60's, Broonzy crossed over in the 50's playing and gearing his music to white audiences at home and abroad.

Untangling Broonzy's story could not have been easy as Broonzy's s
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, if somewhat dry and scholarly, account of one of the most important musicians (and most outsized personalities) in American music. Riesman does a good job of approximating the truth about the life of a man who cared about telling a good story, including about himself, more than he did about strict fidelity to facts. Good side portraits of his contemporaries ranging from Muddy Waters to Pete Seeger to Studs Terkel. A serious but very entertaining biography of a complicated man.
Brett Bydairk
Feb 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A good biography, although the author is a real apologist for the many biographical "facts" Bill himself gave throughout his life: "He conflated and condensed these events to show his narrative power;" "he restated this event to make a point," etc. But at least the author does present the truth as much as we will probably ever know it about the man born Lee Conley Bradley, and so this is a welcome addition to the bookshelf of musical biographies.
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: musicians, bio-dome
Before reading this, the one Broonzy song I knew was "Hey, Hey" via Eric Clapton. While reading this, a lot of the book's references went over my head. However, there's no denying that Bob Riesman had a tough job culling from a pile of possibly embellished oral and written records - which he was able to turn into not just a straightforward biography, but also brief social and cultural histories of Chicago's and the South's music scenes circa Broonzy's lifespan (1903-1958).
Phil Overeem
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Haven't listened to much Big Bill--mainly for the reasons that Riesman very skillfully subjects to critical analysis here. His writing's a bit workmanlike for my tastes, and I've read a lot of these kinds of books, but he succeeds in renovating Broonzy's rep and presenting him as a pathfinder in many respects.
University of Chicago Magazine
Bob Riesman, AM'88

From our pages (Sept–Oct/11): Bob Riesman's biography of the early 20th-century Chicago blues star follows his personal life and career, with stories f his performances in jazz clubs and concert halls. His life is also recounted through interviews with Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, and Ray Davies, who discuss how Broonzy inspired their music.
David Burke
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For pre-electric blues fans. This is a bio that will put the facts in order seeing as Big Bill`s autobiography was less than accurate. A great read and an inspiration for guitarists and musicians in general. ...more
Christopher Klug
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Starts a little slow, but picks up in the middle, and then ends rather abruptly.

All in all, a very good book, worth reading.
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music, blues, 2014
Interesting subject matter, but I just could not get into the book. The writing was too flat and factual for me. The introduction of the characters was always the same.
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