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Fictional Blues

Narrative Self-Invention from Bessie Smith to Jack White

Kimberly Mack (author)

ISBN: 9781625345493

Publication Date: Apr 2021

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

Unpacks the figure of the blues performer, moving from early singers such as Ma Rainey and Big Mama Thornton to contemporary musicians such as Amy Winehouse and Jack White to reveal that blues makers have long used their songs, performances, interviews, and writings to invent personas that resist racial, social, economic, and gendered oppression.
£70.95

Temporarily out of stock: usually despatched in 10-14 days

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The familiar story of Delta blues musician Robert Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads in exchange for guitar virtuosity, and the violent stereotypes evoked by legendary blues "bad men" like Stagger Lee undergird the persistent racial myths surrounding "authentic" blues expression. Fictional Blues unpacks the figure of the American blues performer, moving from early singers such as Ma Rainey and Big Mama Thornton to contemporary musicians such as Amy Winehouse, Rhiannon Giddens, and Jack White to reveal that blues makers have long used their songs, performances, interviews, and writings to invent personas that resist racial, social, economic, and gendered oppression.

Using examples of fictional and real-life blues artists culled from popular music and literary works from writers such as Walter Mosley, Alice Walker, and Sherman Alexie, Kimberly Mack demonstrates that the stories blues musicians construct about their lives (however factually slippery) are inextricably linked to the "primary story" of the narrative blues tradition, in which autobiography fuels musicians' reclamation of power and agency.

Reviews

"...illuminating, thought-provoking, refreshingly broad-minded..." – Los Angeles Review of Books

"The perspective Mack offers on blues mythology is fresh and compelling. Fictional Blues is well-researched, engaging, clear, confident, and important." – Emily J. Lordi, author of Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature

"Mack provides a complex mapping of American blues music to investigate the work it does as a multifaceted cultural trope, from its inception in the Jim Crow South to its global dissemination in the twenty-first century. Fictional Blues is certain to make an impact in African American studies, along with American literary and cultural studies writ large." – Caroline A. Streeter, author of Tragic No More: Mixed-Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity
Illustrations 3 black & white illustrations
Pages 264
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Apr 2021
Publisher University of Massachusetts Press
Series African American Intellectual History
Subject/s Literature: history & criticism   Literary studies: general   Literary companions   Popular culture   Blues   20th century & contemporary classical music   Popular philosophy   Music reviews & criticism  
Kimberly Mack is assistant professor of African American literature at the University of Toledo.

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