Synopses & Reviews
Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton-we are all familiar with the story of the Delta blues. Fierce, raw voices; tormented drifters; deals with the devil at the crossroads at midnight.
In this extraordinary reconstruction of the origins of the Delta blues, historian Marybeth Hamilton demonstrates that the story as we know it is largely a myth. The idea of something called Delta blues only emerged in the mid-twentieth century, the culmination of a longstanding white fascination with the exotic mysteries of black music.
Hamilton shows that the Delta blues was effectively invented by white pilgrims, seekers, and propagandists who headed deep into America's south in search of an authentic black voice of rage and redemption. In their quest, and in the immense popularity of the music they championed, we confront America's ongoing love affair with racial difference.
Who really invented the Delta blues? A historian debunks the conventional wisdom about an iconic American art form
In this extraordinary reconstruction of the origins of the blues, historian Marybeth Hamilton demonstrates that the story as we know it is largely a myth. Following the trail of characters like Howard Odum, who combed Mississippis back roads with a cylinder phonograph to record vagrants, John and Alan Lomax, who prowled Southern penitentiaries and unearthed the rough, melancholy vocals of Leadbelly, and James McKune, a recluse whose record collection came to define the primal sounds of the Delta blues, Hamilton reveals this musical form to be the culmination of a longstanding white fascination with the exotic mysteries of black music.
By excavating the history of the Delta blues, Hamilton reveals the extent to which American culture has been shaped by white fantasies of racial difference.
About the Author
Marybeth Hamilton is a professor of American history at Birkbeck College, University of London. The author of When Im Bad, Im Better, she is also a writer and presenter of features for BBC radio. She lives in London.