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Whose Blues?: Facing Up to Race and the Future of the Music

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  18 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Mamie Smith's pathbreaking 1920 recording of "Crazy Blues" set the pop music world on fire, inaugurating a new African American market for "race records." Not long after, such records also brought black blues performance to an expanding international audience. A century later, the mainstream blues world has transformed into a multicultural and transnational melting pot, ta ...more
Paperback, 332 pages
Published October 19th 2020 by University of North Carolina Press
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Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I love blues music. I love a lot of music, but blues is one that speaks to me deep down. It's the emotion and power. It's raw expression, at least early on, as sometimes it's too polished for me in more modern recordings. Give me Blind Lemon Jefferson telling us about John the Revelator any day of the week. I also fall hard for the storytelling of the blues, as it reminds me of my own cultural background in music with Scots-Irish ballads. As a historian, I want to know your story. Blues invites ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Whose Blues tackles the question of whether the blues should be strictly for black artists, black audiences, and the black music business, or whether white artists and audiences have a legitimate claim without automatically being guilty of cultural appropriation. Black bluesism vs. Blues universalism. Of course, the genie has been out of the bottle since black audiences largely abandoned the blues sixty years ago, during which time white artists and audiences have kept it alive starting with the ...more
J Earl
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whose Blues?: Facing Up to Race and the Future of the Music by Adam Gussow is a compelling account of the history of blues with the emphasis on race and who, if anyone, truly "owns" the genre.

I found this book to be almost like several books in one, and they all worked well together to create the larger book. As the title makes clear, this is about opinions, namely who owns the blues. But to even begin to have the discussion, several topics need to be openly and honestly looked at. The underlyin
Sam Motes
Jul 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The author struggles with two competing paradigms of the blues with the first being blues universalism versus the second being blues as of and for black people.

The first is all about the blues being for everyone and the later argues that the blues should not be appropriated by white people who have not been through the existential generational journey in the words of Cornell West “blues soaked world” first hand to truly feel the soul churning call of the blues. As one half of the blues duo “Sat
patrick Lorelli
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Whose Blues? That was the question when the book opened, but as you read and the more you get into it you find that the question is really never answered. Was that the intent of the author who knows, for me the blues is for the person who is listening to it and it touches them. Like any music, not everyone likes or allows themselves to really feel the music.
The music the words and tone do not care about the color of your skin, it is what is inside of you when you hear the song, the person play
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is a comment below which comes down to, essentially: "I play guitar and know the names of a lot of blues musicians. You didn't mention all of them and failed entirely to affirm my mastery of this genre." My point is that if you are looking for a book which will namecheck all the people that your guitar teacher has mentioned and will more or less confirm that the blues is this cool thing from Mississippi, this is not your book. Like most 'experts' on the blues, I too play guitar, have brill ...more
Dave Murray
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book that needed to be written

A history of blues music and culture that I suspect most blues enthusiasts, certainly me, are ignorant of. Blues poetry, who knew?

Years ago on a now forgotten tv show, Keith Carradine sang a song that stuck in my mind and I have searched the internet in vain to find. "I'm free, white and twenty-one. I've got no right to sing the blues" were words in the song. Much of the book gives credence to that idea, or at very least why some say that with some legi
Edward Sullivan
Learned and provocative but not especially absorbing.
Hank Stone
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-history
I was asked to review this book for the Portland Folkmusic Society, and it was published in Local Lore, their newsletter in Jan/Feb 2021...

Whose Blues? Facing Up to Race and the Future of the Music
by Adam Gussow
The University Of North Carolina Press
reviewed by Hank Stone

As a white senior citizen songwriter with an appreciation for all genres of music, I've long wondered how the Blues, which everyone agrees is a creation borne of African-American experience, has become dominated by whites, as see
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A professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Adam Gussow is also a professional blues harmonica player and teacher. He is best known for his long partnership with Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, a Mississippi-born bluesman with whom Gussow began busking on the sidewalks of Harlem in 1986. As Satan and Adam, the duo has released six CDs—including, most recentl ...more

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