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The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues

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Superbly researched and vividly written, The Devil's Music is one of the only books to trace the rise and development of the blues both in relation to other forms of black music and in the context of American social history as experienced by African Americans. From its roots in the turn-of-the-century honky-tonks of New Orleans and the barrelhouses and plantations of the M Superbly researched and vividly written, The Devil's Music is one of the only books to trace the rise and development of the blues both in relation to other forms of black music and in the context of American social history as experienced by African Americans. From its roots in the turn-of-the-century honky-tonks of New Orleans and the barrelhouses and plantations of the Mississippi Delta to modern legends such as John Lee Hooker and B. B. King, the blues comes alive here through accounts by the blues musicians themselves and those who knew them. Throughout this wide-ranging and fascinating book, Giles Oakley describes the texture of the life that made the blues possible, and the changing attitudes toward the music. The Devil's Music is a wholehearted and loving examination of one of America's most powerful traditions.


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Superbly researched and vividly written, The Devil's Music is one of the only books to trace the rise and development of the blues both in relation to other forms of black music and in the context of American social history as experienced by African Americans. From its roots in the turn-of-the-century honky-tonks of New Orleans and the barrelhouses and plantations of the M Superbly researched and vividly written, The Devil's Music is one of the only books to trace the rise and development of the blues both in relation to other forms of black music and in the context of American social history as experienced by African Americans. From its roots in the turn-of-the-century honky-tonks of New Orleans and the barrelhouses and plantations of the Mississippi Delta to modern legends such as John Lee Hooker and B. B. King, the blues comes alive here through accounts by the blues musicians themselves and those who knew them. Throughout this wide-ranging and fascinating book, Giles Oakley describes the texture of the life that made the blues possible, and the changing attitudes toward the music. The Devil's Music is a wholehearted and loving examination of one of America's most powerful traditions.

30 review for The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nikolai

    Хубава и увлекателна книга. Голям плюс е, че обръща внимание на социалните условия, при които се заражда блусът и за които рядко съм се замислял преди. Нещата придобиват доста по-реалистичен вид, когато са съчетани с малко статистика, новини и спомени от времето на робството и Голямата депресия. Голям минус обаче е това, че окаяното положение на негрите заема прекалено голяма част от историята. Стига се дори до изброяване на държавни агенции и обширни коментари и оценки за политиката на Хувър и Хубава и увлекателна книга. Голям плюс е, че обръща внимание на социалните условия, при които се заражда блусът и за които рядко съм се замислял преди. Нещата придобиват доста по-реалистичен вид, когато са съчетани с малко статистика, новини и спомени от времето на робството и Голямата депресия. Голям минус обаче е това, че окаяното положение на негрите заема прекалено голяма част от историята. Стига се дори до изброяване на държавни агенции и обширни коментари и оценки за политиката на Хувър и Рузвелт. Нямаше нужда. Иначе, изброяват се много имена, което е както затормозяващо, така и доста обогатяващо, когато си запознат с поне част от тях; историите на по-големите музиканти са разгледани малко по-подробно, включени са откъси от текстове, изброени са записи и има и не малко снимки (качеството им е друг въпрос, но предполагам, че през 87-ма година не са им се влагали много средства за тази повече или по-малко упадъчна музика). Интересно ми беше да видя как авторът гледа на музикалната сцена към момента на написване на книгата. Фреди Кинг е още жив, влиянието на Мъди Уотърс и Хаулин Улф не е преоткрито в пълнота (в тази връзка с изключение на няколко реда за Битълс и Ролинг Стоунс не се споменава изобщо за бели музиканти). За голямо мое съжаление Чикагският блус не е разгледан много подробно, но и няма как предвид, че се разглежда доста дълъг период от време, а и към средата на 70-те влиянието му не може да бъде напълно оценено. И да отбележа за край, че в книгата има и подбрана дискография, азбучен показалец и подбрана библиография, което някак ме зарадва.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brad McKenna

    This book traces the economic and societal hardships black people went through during the early 20th century up until the 1960s. Presented in this light, it's no wonder The Blues has the reputation it does, this was some fiercely hard times. It almost makes me feel guilty for liking the blues so much. I mean these people went through so much, and while some of it was of their own doing (cheating on their women and whatnot) most of it wasn't. Being black in the south still isn't easy, but back wh This book traces the economic and societal hardships black people went through during the early 20th century up until the 1960s. Presented in this light, it's no wonder The Blues has the reputation it does, this was some fiercely hard times. It almost makes me feel guilty for liking the blues so much. I mean these people went through so much, and while some of it was of their own doing (cheating on their women and whatnot) most of it wasn't. Being black in the south still isn't easy, but back when Sharecropping was basically just legal slavery after the Emancipation Proclamation it was a nightmare. This book touches upon a number of different artists but really focuses more on the society that gave birth to the blues. I've read a couple of these types of blues origins and so far neither of them have really said much about Urban Blues (Muddy Waters, BB King). They focus more on Country Blues (Charley Patton, Son House). So methinks that's what I'll look for next.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fraser

    One of the best books on music I have read for some time. Oakley wrote the original book in 1976 to accompany the BBC TV series (still available via I-Player), and with a number of (then ageing) blues performers still alive, had access to some incredibly insightful first-hand material. A later edition appeared in 1983, and it is this one (with the 1997 afterword) reviewed here. Being able to add further perspective in 83 and 97 this is a fantastic piece of work. Oakley doesn't just tell the story One of the best books on music I have read for some time. Oakley wrote the original book in 1976 to accompany the BBC TV series (still available via I-Player), and with a number of (then ageing) blues performers still alive, had access to some incredibly insightful first-hand material. A later edition appeared in 1983, and it is this one (with the 1997 afterword) reviewed here. Being able to add further perspective in 83 and 97 this is a fantastic piece of work. Oakley doesn't just tell the story of the performers, he has everything rooted in the culture in which it belongs. For anyone interested in cultural studies, this is the sort of well rounded historical analysis that brings the subject matter to life far better than a linear progression of who did what and when. There is great detail in the book, including many examples of lyrics, lots of analysis of secondary source material, and the TV series helps illuminate all of this. All done with great care and attention to detail of all kinds, and with some love I would imagine too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    A fabulous and well-written account of the emergence of blues music. Though written in 1976, this book has aged well; in fact, because all of the artists and songs can be listened to while reading via youtube, it makes the book even better. If you read this book, do yourself a favor and read it in front of a computer and look up all of the songs you read about (every song mentioned can be found on youtube). The enrichment gained from hearing the songs as you read cannot be missed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Good, but overwhelmed by an excess of names and dates in rapid unending succession which causes the reader some confusion. For a straightforward linear history encyclopedia great. Narrative history it's not. Good, but overwhelmed by an excess of names and dates in rapid unending succession which causes the reader some confusion. For a straightforward linear history encyclopedia great. Narrative history it's not.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ренета Кирова

    Авторът систематично и подробно разказва за създаването на блуса от чернокожите роби, работещи в плантациите на Южна Америка. Подробно се спира на тежкия им живот, като песента и ритъмът са били техният отдушник. След гражданската война между Севера и Юга те се разселват най-вече на север, а тяхната музика става търсена и желана. Голямата Депресия през 30-те години в Америка, отново ги запраща на дъното, сякаш те са орисани да живеят все в бедност и мизерия. Потискането им, унижението, безработи Авторът систематично и подробно разказва за създаването на блуса от чернокожите роби, работещи в плантациите на Южна Америка. Подробно се спира на тежкия им живот, като песента и ритъмът са били техният отдушник. След гражданската война между Севера и Юга те се разселват най-вече на север, а тяхната музика става търсена и желана. Голямата Депресия през 30-те години в Америка, отново ги запраща на дъното, сякаш те са орисани да живеят все в бедност и мизерия. Потискането им, унижението, безработицата, преследването им от ку клукс клан – всичко това са изпявали в песните си. Чак до 60-те години на 20-ти век в Америка те са били подлагани на расова дискриминация и сегрегация. Въпреки това са оставили на музикалната сцена много имена, неизвестни днес, които полагат основите на съвременната музика. Те са създателите на много нови музикални интерпретации и изпълнения. Накрая на книгата има библиография, бележки и речник, илюстрирана е и със снимки, макар те да са толкова черни, че едва се вижда какво има на тях. Допадна ми с това, че научих много нови неща за музиката, изпълненията, инструментите и за живота на чернокожите в Америка.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gijs Grob

    This is a short but very insightful introduction to the history of the blues, with much attention for the sociological and political background. Thus we don't only learn about the blues, but also about e.g. slavery in the United States, the Jim Crow laws, the black migrations from the South to the North, and the Great Depression. Oakley identifies different scenes and key players, without falling into the trap of name dropping. Oakley doesn't treat the blues in isolation, but also touches the ge This is a short but very insightful introduction to the history of the blues, with much attention for the sociological and political background. Thus we don't only learn about the blues, but also about e.g. slavery in the United States, the Jim Crow laws, the black migrations from the South to the North, and the Great Depression. Oakley identifies different scenes and key players, without falling into the trap of name dropping. Oakley doesn't treat the blues in isolation, but also touches the genre's ties to spirituals, ragtime, jazz, gospel and jump blues. The book is spiced with many quotes from blues songs and from interviews with various blues artists, like Gus Cannon, Muddy Waters and Victoria Spivey. Oakley's focus clearly lies on the prewar years, he is clearly less interested and less focused when writing about post-war blues. The 1997 is enhanced with an interesting if not all too necessary chapter on developments in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, the printing is abominable. Especially the print quality of the photos is atrocious.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vladimir Kiperman

    The basis of this examination of the Blues was illustrated against the broader history of the United States itself. In particular, the oppression of blacks in America through history: Slavery, Jim Crow, Segregation, ghetto life, and modern racism and tacit and explicit inequality. This gave the story a powerful context, creating a meaningful backdrop for the subject of the book. This was the book's best feature. The research seemed solid enough, but, appeared to focus on only the most prominent The basis of this examination of the Blues was illustrated against the broader history of the United States itself. In particular, the oppression of blacks in America through history: Slavery, Jim Crow, Segregation, ghetto life, and modern racism and tacit and explicit inequality. This gave the story a powerful context, creating a meaningful backdrop for the subject of the book. This was the book's best feature. The research seemed solid enough, but, appeared to focus on only the most prominent performers of any given era. When the Blues (the music) itself and (some of) the people who made it were explored, against their historical frame of reference, a tension was created. This tension was pleasingly, though, not powerfully enough, sustained throughout the book. This opened the door to make cultural insights. Sadly, the insights were very sparse and weak. And the level of the tension never rose beyond a very weak level either. This gave the narrative little momentum or intrigue. Additionally, the author decidedly made an effort to avoid any technical information. That is to say that there was no descriptive information about the music itself; its structure or composition. This also added to the book's perceived lethargy. Instead, some (but not much) focus was placed on describing the various musical ensembles themselves. Finally, the chronology of the Blues and its many personalities was blurry and unsatisfying. In one passage the author would talk about the 1930s, in the next the 20s, then the 30s again, then 1940-1950. It was hard to keep the history and chain of events clear. All told, the book does a good job exploring the characters behind the music and places them well in history. But lack of technical depth, and lack of breadth within the blues world itself coupled with confusing chronology and lack of insight made the read somewhat tedious.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    Incredibly rich, comprehensive blues history with lots of social and political context. My only complaint is that Oakley's prose is rather dense, making this far from an easy read... I started and abandoned this book three times before finally making my way through it! Incredibly rich, comprehensive blues history with lots of social and political context. My only complaint is that Oakley's prose is rather dense, making this far from an easy read... I started and abandoned this book three times before finally making my way through it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Fascinating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Burke

    The best work-up of the modern blues (pre-war, post-war and Chicago blues) I've ever read. Muddy Waters is god. The best work-up of the modern blues (pre-war, post-war and Chicago blues) I've ever read. Muddy Waters is god.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ronn

    Of all the books on Blues history I have read [I've read many], this is one of the best. It does a better job of placing Blues development against contemporaneous history, not just back to the Civil War, but from before the America Revolution. Really excellent work, and easy to read too, not scholarly/stuffy. I would have given this 5 stars if not for a couple of omissions that I personally feel are important, at least in the 1997 [when the afterword to this 1976 book was written], namely Luther Of all the books on Blues history I have read [I've read many], this is one of the best. It does a better job of placing Blues development against contemporaneous history, not just back to the Civil War, but from before the America Revolution. Really excellent work, and easy to read too, not scholarly/stuffy. I would have given this 5 stars if not for a couple of omissions that I personally feel are important, at least in the 1997 [when the afterword to this 1976 book was written], namely Luther Allison and Jeanne Cheatham.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Howarth

    Great read although written a few years ago. That is good in some ways like he could talk to people still alive from The Blues hay day. I am left interested in what is happening now! Part two perhaps!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Moz Copestake

    I'm a blues fan and have a reasonable knowledge of the music & history. I was disappointed, although it is a great reference book if you need to check something out - but, in the days of Wikipedia, this is probably going to be a rarity. There are some great facts and nice anecdotes but too often it falls back on a list of artists, songs and piecemeal lyrics which fail to evoke the atmosphere and times they are reporting. While supported by some great interviews the narrative seems to jump away fr I'm a blues fan and have a reasonable knowledge of the music & history. I was disappointed, although it is a great reference book if you need to check something out - but, in the days of Wikipedia, this is probably going to be a rarity. There are some great facts and nice anecdotes but too often it falls back on a list of artists, songs and piecemeal lyrics which fail to evoke the atmosphere and times they are reporting. While supported by some great interviews the narrative seems to jump away from a person or story just as it engages my interest. Perhaps it is trying to cover too many contributors, so that none enjoy enough of the limelight. An ambitious project but I did find it tough going for much of the time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Емили Иванова

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

  17. 4 out of 5

    Still

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Fogarty

  19. 4 out of 5

    Graham Dampier

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mai Quang dong

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rob

  22. 4 out of 5

    HONCHI

    R

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sheridan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Larry James

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stanton

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pauline Bailey

  28. 5 out of 5

    LDF

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  30. 5 out of 5

    LAOG

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