Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude Ma Rainey, Be... and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $17.00
  • Save: $2.69 (16%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 15 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Want it Monday, April 21? Order within and choose Two-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Eligible for *FREE* super saver shipping. Amazon customer service with delivery tracking. A book that has been read but is in good condition. Very minimal damage to the cover including scuff marks, or very small tears. Binding has minimal wear, and some pages show signs of use. Occasionally these may be former library books. CD may NOT be included!
Add to Cart
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday Paperback


See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from Collectible from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Paperback
"Please retry"
$14.31
$9.26 $2.53

Frequently Bought Together

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday + Blues People: Negro Music in White America
Price for both: $25.59

Buy the selected items together
  • Blues People: Negro Music in White America $11.28

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Big Spring Books
Editors' Picks in Spring Releases
Ready for some fresh reads? Browse our picks for Big Spring Books to please all kinds of readers.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (January 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679771263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679771265
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The female blues singers of the 1920s, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, and Bessie Smith, not only invented a musical genre, but they also became models of how African American women could become economically independent in a culture that had not previously allowed it. Both Smith and Rainey composed, arranged, and managed their own road bands. Angela Y. Davis's study emphasizes the impact that these singers, and later Billie Holiday, had on the poor and working-class communities from which they came. The artists addressed radical subjects such as physical and economic abuse, race relations, and female sexual power, including lesbianism. Ma Rainey was well known as a lover of women as well as men, and her song "Prove It on Me" describes a butch woman who dresses like a man and dates women. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism places the fluid sexuality of these women within a larger context of African American artists' attempts to subvert and recreate America. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In her provocative book, Davis, the well-known sixties radical, professor and author (Women, Culture, and Politics; Women, Race, and Class) finds, in the work of three pivotal artists of the blues and jazz era, "rich terrain for examining a historical feminist consciousness that reflected the lives of working-class black communities." Through her close readings of their lyrics, which she transcribed (and presents as the book's second half), Davis explores the meanings behind the performances of Gertrude "Ma" Rainey and Bessie Smith. Toppling the prevailing image of the tragic blues woman, she finds that the songs don't portray the desolate and deserted woman; rather, "the most frequent stance assumed by the women in these songs is independence and assertiveness?indeed defiance?bordering on and sometimes erupting into violence." She also offers ample evidence to dispute claims that women's blues were personal, not political, arguing that their songs created consciousness by naming the issues. Her readings of Billie Holiday's lyrics are less successful, perhaps because it is difficult to capture in words Holiday's subversive renderings of popular love songs. Still, Davis's book should be read by both scholars and music aficionados for its expressive reading of these singers' complex works. 8 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Chase on August 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Davis work is a powerful re-reading of Blues women, and firmly places them in the center, rather than the margin, of Black oppositional and autonomous culture discourse. The book is mostly devoted to the work of Gertrude Rainey and Bessie Smith, but there are important sections devoted to Billie Holiday as well. In each case, the Davis argues for a more complete contextual understanding of Blues women music as introducing gender issues, breaking discursive taboos, and forging meaning within the context of an imagined community of Black women's lives.

To begin with, Davis convincingly argues that Blues women were on the vanguard in breaking down taboos concerning domestic violence and male subjugation, as many Blues songs concerned these matters. Davis uses powerful works such as "Rough and Tumble Blues," "See See Rider Blues," and "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," to demonstrate that Blues women were willing to engage in oppositional, if allegorical, violence in the service of personal autonomy. Even man songs that seem to demonstrate acquiescence, even masochism, in the face of male abuse can be seen to have an ironic, subversive, or didactic quality that belies a simplistic surface reading.

Davis also takes on the common notion that Blues music doesn't include social protest, an interpretation that has been pushed by white commentators, such as Samuel Charters, and black commentators, such as Albert Murray. Davis argues that Blues music inherits from Slave musical culture a coded approach to naming and resistance that demands more than a surface analysis of the lyrics, and takes into account the role of music as a lyrical interlocuter.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By bdincturk@hotmail.com on March 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you expect to read a traditional biography you may be dissappointed. The lives of the blues women and their political messages behind their songs are discussed in one another's light. This works very well as blues is a folk music which tells many things about the black experience and most singers are song writers themselves. The section about Billie Holiday and her song Strange Fruit is one of the rare approaches to Lady Day as an artist who gave a very important political messages about racism. In other biographies Billie Holiday is always portrayed as a victim rather than a person who had an important political message. I believe this very style of her portrayal could be discussed in a feminist context and that's what Angela Davies did in this book with her vast knowledge and experience in black politics and gender issues. Some people criticize the book for being overtly political. However, I see no other way of analyzing the blues without its political context. The transcriptions of the songs also gives a documentary value to this book. It has been a great reference for my research in this field. I wish I can get in touch with Angela Davies one day and discuss her about the research she has done while preparing this book.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MP Grier on March 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Davis' title explains her project in clear terms at the outset. She is not engaged in a critique of modern women in popular music (as one reviewer anticipated). Nor is she profiling these women in biography format. Therefore, she does not need the permission of Rainey's relatives for this project. Her goal is to uncover the pre-feminist sentiments expressed in these women's music. In that regard, she needs only the barest biographical information (that women performers were not rooted to hearth and home, traveled, worked, and had marquee positions). Assuming this general information to be true of all these women, Davis then concentrates her primary energy on the legacy that blues lyrics leave for Black Feminism. Part of that legacy is found in the advice on romance, religion, and race that these women's songs shared (or share now) with black female listeners. I hope this gives readers an accurate idea of what to expect from this worthwhile book and encourages disappointed readers to re-encounter the book on its own terms.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I definitely agree with "mpgrier" who writes that Davis' book is almost flawless in its discussion of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. If Davis had chosen to write about these two artists only, the book would have been an instant classic and a triumphant tribute to the artistic and social impact of these remarkable women on American culture.
The fact that all the lyrics are included is all the more reason to recommend this book. Being a white man from Norway, I may not be the best judge of language and style in the transcriptions of these lyrics, but they remain a powerful read, and they become an even stronger listening experience.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By MP Grier on December 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The early dismissive reviewers on this site have missed the most useful point of Davis's book. When she talks about "proto-feminist consciousness" she means that the lives and music of Ma Rainey Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday paved the way for modern feminism. As working-class black women, these singers were utterly alienated from the "hearth and home" that defined the "official version" of (white) woman's identity. Yet were they not still women? They broke all of the rules at the intersection of domesticity and Jim Crow: They worked outside the home, they traveled extensively, they chose their lovers, they were artists, and they were band-leaders. None of these positions fit neatly within the prevailing attitudes about woman's place. So, before the 1970s feminist movements explored these same topics (sexuality, gender roles, working women), Rainey and Smith had lived and sung about it.

Whereas white feminists find white women's literature a valuable place to search for roots of feminism, Davis and other scholars of black American culture (in which the struggle for literacy has still not ben won) have found music to be a rich source of personal and communal histories and social commentary. So music is where she searches to find articulations of women who already lived identities in conflict with the prevailing notions of femininity. No one need fear Davis's use of the term feminist or her use of race and class to analyze these women's music. Race, class, and gender undoubtedly determined the possibilities for these women's lives.

Davis draws upon existing definitions of the blues and also expands the definition to include the "proto-feminist consciousness" of black women. Davis's discussion of the blues idiom is comprehensive.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Product Images from Customers

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search
ARRAY(0xa0100b4c)

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?