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Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock 'n' Roll Paperback – July 1, 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock 'n' Roll
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  • Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians
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  • Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Peter Guralnick pledges in the epilogue to Feel Like Going Home that his writing will henceforth be "younger, less self-conscious and critical." Don't dwell too much on the author's oath, however: the prose here is hardly jaded and awkward. Initially published in 1971, Feel Like Going Home consists of 11 chapters, most of which are single-subject studies of American roots-music artists. Guralnick openly reveres his interview subjects, which isn't to imply that he fawns over them. The likes of bluesmen Howlin' Wolf and Johnny Shines, incorrigible rock & roller Jerry Lee Lewis, and, in particular, moody man-without-a-genre talent Charlie Rich (who was inspired to write a song called "Feel Like Going Home" based on this book--it's the final song on his final album) come across as knotty, vivid, complex characters. Published in tandem with Guralnick's similarly organized Lost Highway and his superb history of southern soul, Sweet Soul Music, Feel Like Going Home provides an early-stage perspective on a music historian who's truly arrived. --Steven Stolder

From Library Journal

Published in 1971 and 1979, respectively, these titles continue Guralnick's analysis of American music. Feel Like Going Home concentrates primarily on blues artists, with some borderline rockers thrown in, while Lost Highway covers a wide array of artists from several genres, including everyone from Hank Snow to Elvis to Merle Haggard. Both volumes were hits with critics and have a place in popular music collections.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316332720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316332729
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on April 12, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who doesn't know a lot about blues music except to run and hide when someone begins to comment on "the cadential modalities of Muddy Waters's early Chess period" over cocktails, I approached this book with trepidation, unnecessarily. It's a very enveloping and informative look at some of the compelling personalities who helped shape two key forms of American popular music, the blues and rock 'n' roll.

It's not a comprehensive history; Guralnick instead offers some individual, detailed portraits. You can understand him choosing Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Jerry Lee Lewis, because they were all giant figures in the creation of these genres. But other choices are more idiosyncratic, like Johnny Shines, described as "a run-of-the-mill blues singer" by the co-founder of landmark label Chess Records; and Robert Pete Williams, who seems to merge blues with free associative verse and would never be more than a footnote character in most histories. And what's with including Charlie Rich, who had a brief association with rock's founding via Sun Records but never really established himself as either a blues or rock performer?

Guralnick never does tie any of this in; his pieces, however intended to cohere, feel like collected articles written for music magazines. I don't know that they have to be read in order and one after the other, like chapters of a book.

But individually they are good, in most cases very good. Guralnick is an unusual departure from rock writers. He writes with singular care; with craft, honesty, and an engaging sense of humility that draws the reader in. He doesn't make broad claims for anyone's greatness, or dismiss others out of hand.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Guralnick writes so beautifully about blues, treating it with the seriousness it deserves without making it carry more than it can bear. His writing is so understated and his insights so subtle that you find yourself thinking about his profiles of these artists as you listen to them later. He brings enough scholarly bearing to them to make you realize that what makes blues so special are the things it has in common with all great art--beauty and depth of feeling.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Guralnick has referred to his trilogy of American roots music (Feel Like Going Home, Lost Highway and Sweet Soul Music) as an effort to detail his love for blues, rockabilly/country, and soul music. Like Lost Highway, Feel Like Going Home mixes profiles of blues and rockabilly/country musicians, though the emphasis is plainly on blues and blues musicians. It is less cohesive than the others, particularly Sweet Soul Music, but is a great introduction to Guralnick as biographer and critic. Guralnick applies his relaxed writing style to his love of rock n' roll, which began in his youth, and his love of the blues, which began in college. The reader really gets a sense of what drew Guralnick to the music, which is often difficult for critics to convey. He profiles musicians like Howlin Wolf, Johnny Shines and Jerry Lee Lewis with aplomb, but by far the best portions deal with Charlie Rich. Like Guralnick's tastes, Rich is a somewhat genre-blurring; he scored early hits as a rockabilly singer, shifted towards a bluesier feel, but is best known as a countrypolitan crooner. As he does in his other books, Gurlanick provides a fairly up-to-date discography for the artists covered in the book, and his recommendations are spot-on. As a stylist, he avoids the over-the-top gonzo style of Nick Tosches and the desperate graps for historical relevance of Greil Marcus to accurately portray the lives of musicians and the strength of music as entertainment and art.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Guralnick begins this book with a tribute to early rock and roll and his adoration of it and then has chapters on mainly blues performers and then Sun Records and finally the final days of Chess Records. Guralnick gives us personal insights on artists, some famous (Jerry Lee Lewis), some more obscure (Robert Pete Williams). Even if you have read every item of information on Howlin Wolf or Charlie Rich this still displays a perspective on them from a different angle. Overall a wonderful glimpse into the world of the performers from a human level.
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Format: Kindle Edition with Audio/Video Verified Purchase
Like all Guralnick's books, this is a fascinating, well-written history - this time of the blues. Unfortunately with my Kindle version, I could never get past chapter 5, no matter what I tried. I like the book so much (at least what I could read), I bought the paperback version.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent reading for the true blues fan. Lots of interesting information about some musicians few have heard about. Yet another sad perspective of how tough the music business is for the early players. you will understand about suffering once you read about Robert Pete Williams.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Guralnick comes over as a fan to the houses of the men he is going to interview. Sometimes an apartment, sometimes a house in Louisiana, but usually in their own homes. They watch tv, some books are on the shelves, a color tv, some records, a wife that also wants to add something.

In this manner you read the chapters about some great bluesmen. And they still remain legends and heroes, but legends and heroes that we can touch, that we can talk to, what we can see as normal men. And isn't that what blues is about? a music-style about and for normal men, who have trouble enough getting on in life?

This was Guralnicks first real book from 1971. The people he talks about were then mostly still alive and still performing. Also a good way to see them as they once were.

Don't expect a comprehensive history, it's more a portrait. Another great Guralnick read.
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