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A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them Hardcover – February 17, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Originally conceived as a U.C.-Berkeley doctoral dissertation, this thoughtful, fluent book contends that female blues singers, through their creative innovations, artistic successes and unconventional lifestyles, have inspired American women to express their individuality for decades. Jackson shows how high-spirited blues exponents Ma Rainey (later deemed the "Godmother of the Blues") and Bessie Smith ("a legend in her own time") set the stage in the early 20th century by celebrating their unconventionality, bisexuality, and racial pride; they were also instrumental in opening up the recording industry to African-Americans. Then came Billie Holiday, who radiated a darker but equally rebellious persona; Etta James, who flaunted her sexuality and reveled in scandalous behavior; Aretha Franklin, who championed the rights of women and minorities; and Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, who carried the blues idiom into the world of rock 'n' roll. Other singers Jackson discusses (Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, Whitney Houston, Patti Smith, Lauryn Hill, Courtney Love) are not necessarily blues singers in the traditional sense, but they are, she says, the inheritors of the blues women's legacy of female empowerment. By celebrating the genre's "bad women" as forces for positive social change, Jackson gives blues fans a refreshing new perspective. Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The blues is about a feeling, it is often said. It's also about a way of looking at the world steeped in sorrow yet overflowing with life. Jackson traces the lives and influence of female blues singers, black and white, and celebrates the power of their music, which has been overlooked, she says. The women she limns, including pioneers Mamie Desdoumes, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith, jazz singers Billie Holiday and Etta James, and eventually pop singers Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin, refused to follow the rules about how women should behave in society. The blues allowed women to express emotions and points of view to general American culture when women had little say outside the home, and women's blues constitute a commentary about the often-complicated lives of women in an era of great social change. In conclusion, Jackson insists that the legacy of the blues lives on in contemporary performers' music and attitude toward life. Hence, she finds a blues sensibility--a struggle for emotional freedom--even in Joni Mitchell. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (February 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393059367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393059366
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Buzzy Jackson is the award-winning author of the nonfiction books, "The Inspirational Atheist: Wise Words on the Wonder and Meaning of Life" (Penguin Random House); "A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them" (W.W. Norton), "Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Blood, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist" (Simon & Schuster), and the novel "Effie Perine."

Do you like free treats? If so, you can sign up for Buzzy's free newsletter, Continuous Small Treats:

Buzzy is a Correspondent and book critic for the Boston Globe. She has a PhD in History from UC Berkeley and is a Research Affiliate with the University of Colorado's Center of the American West.

Buzzy grew up in Truckee, California and in Montana, but since then she's lived in Los Angeles, Perth, Australia, New York City, San Francisco, Barcelona, Spain, Oakland, Boston, Berkeley, and Colorado. She has worked as a radio DJ, sandwich-maker, tennis hostess, NATO HQ tour guide, literary assistant, museum docent, ESL teacher, caterer, historical researcher, and college professor, all of which led her to Colorado, where she now lives with her family and a dog named Ralph.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Blues Lover on July 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's not what is said in this book, but what is not. When Elvis Presley gets more space then Memphis Minnie, and Ike Turner gets more pages then Dinah Washington. I began to frown. Where is Big Maybell? Where is Big Mama Thronton? Where is Ruby Glaze? Where is Bessie Tucker? Where is Lucille Bogan? Where is Victoria Spivey? Where is Sippy Wallace? Where is Alberta Hunter? Where is Bonnie Lee? Where is Julia Lee? Where is Nellie Lutcher? Where is Ivy Smith? Where is Katie Webster? Where is Lil Johnson? Where is Bernice Edwards. Where is Ethel Waters? Where is Georgia White? It's not that I appreciate the contributions of Tina Turner or Janis Joplin they have record some fine blues, but Courtney Love? She may be a bad girl, but she is certainly NOT a blues singer. Not to mention the above women who lived the blues to the fullest is a real shame!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Music man on March 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Some readers may be familiar with the general contours of the lives of the women presented here--Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, and others. But the way that Jackson weaves together these stories against the tapestry of 20th Century American culture is original and compelling. Jackson convincingly shows how different woman blues singers (and later rock and alt country singers) drew on each other's work for inspiration. Their contributions were cultural and social as well as artistic. Most importantly, for potential readers--Jackson tells a good story. The writing is gripping and fast-paced. I recommend it highly.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David S. Newman on November 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent, telling of a story not well known
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