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The Land Where the Blues Began Paperback – November 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; New edition edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565847393
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565847392
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 7.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Co-founder--with folklorist father John A. Lomax--of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, Alan Lomax traveled the South "from the Brazos bottoms of Texas to the tidewater country of Virginia" in search of the wellspring of American blues. Previously the author of Mister Jelly Roll, Lomax stalks the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy and Charlie Patton, among many other blues pioneers. This winner of the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction is more than just another profile of a musical genre. It's an intimate diary of a purely American art form born of a powerful mix of despair and hope. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Working for the Library of Congress and other cultural institutions, legendary roots-music connoisseur Lomax ( Mister Jelly Roll ) visited the Mississippi Delta with his father, folklorist John Lomax, and black folklorist Zora Neale Hurston in the 1930s; with African American sociologists from Fiske University in the 1940s; and with a PBS film crew in the 1980s, researching the history of the blues in America. Addressing this wonderfully rich vein of scarcely acknowledged Americana, Lomax has written a marvelous appreciation of a region, its people and their music. Burdened early with now long-forgotten technology (500-pound recording machines, etc.) and encountering pronounced racial biases and cultural suspicions about black and white people mixing socially and otherwise, Lomax sought out those in the Delta who knew Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton and others acquainted with musicians once less well known, such as Doc Reese, young McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters), Dave Edwards, Eugene Powell and Sam Chatmon. Traveling across the South "from the Brazos bottoms of Texas to the tidewater country of Virginia," Lomax discovers the plantations, levee camps, prisons and railroad yards where the men and women of the blues came from and the music was born. In a memoir that will take its place as an American classic, Lomax records not just his recollections but the voices of hard-working, frequently hard-drinking, spiritual people that otherwise might have been lost to readers.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

THis is something every serious Blues listener or anyone interested in American music should read.
Mr. Baker
Lomax's portrait of the South is a tough one, and many times the ugliness makes for difficult reading.
Jason P. Gubbels
Lomax also talks about how blues, re-named "rhythm and blues" became the America's national music.
H. Kirkpatrick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By First Things First on June 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Land Where the Blues Began is one of the finest books on any subject I've ever read in my life. Every magical benefit of reading came poring forth from its pages, including deep and fascinating discovery, chills, outrage, tears, joy, laughter, amazement and finally, understanding and awe. Alan Lomax embarked on a personal odyssey to the Mississippi Delta serving up one of the great vicarious thrill rides any reader with a hankering to learn where rock and roll, and rhythm and blues came from. Armed with primitive recording equipment and a lifetime's experience researching the folk and popular music of the world (following in his father's distinguished footsteps in this endeavor), Lomax plunges us directly into the redneck towns and the plantations, where the Blues emerged from a fascinating combination of African musical roots, Folk...Popular...and Church Music, and the hollers which slaves, prisoners, levee workers, rail gangs, mule drivers, sharecroppers and roustabouts would sing out to express their rage, pain, heartsickness, loneliness, hopelessness and frustrations. Finding giants of the blues in dilapidated shacks in the middle of nowhere, Lomax coaxed many into performing for his acetate machines. Also haunting the bars, with names such as the Dipsy Doodle, in the black sectors of heavily segregated towns, Lomax (who is white) repeatedly puts his personal safety in jeopardy as he defies the redneck deputies' orders and ends up swigging homemade whiskey and eating fresh barbecue while recording legendary performances. If all this weren't enough, the book weaves the evolution of the Blues in with poignant memoirs of impoverished childhoods, family life, prison life, farm labor, Jim Crow, unthinkable mistreatment, murder, and devastation.Read more ›
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a native, white expatriot Mississippian, I read with great interest Alan Lomax's account of the genesis of the Blues--which he considers the most important indigenous musical form of the 20th century globally. As grand a claim as this is, Lomax carries the credentials and the experience to back it up. Aside from the music, what he reveals is bitter suffering and unconscionable cruelty against African-Americans, the quality of whose lives was scarcely better than those of their slave grandparents. Out of this tragedy grew an art and a culture than far surpassed that of the oppressors. The poignant majesty of these folk poets is engaging and arresting. Their ability to find beauty, humor, passion, and dignity in lives that were riven with strife speaks of the indomitable spirits of these people. Lomax's research was timely, because much of the music and poetry he heard in the 40's no longer exists, and he chronicles an invaluable chapter in the history of American art and culture. Dr. William Bradley Roberts
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By D. Sean Brickell on October 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Think you know the blues? Yeah, well so did I. But after reading this book, coupled with the current PBS series on The Blues, I'm diving back into stuff I've listened to for decades, but never really "heard." Quite possibly the best book ever written on the subject and one that I'll be re-reading for a long time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jason P. Gubbels on April 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I plunged into this book unsure of what to expect, knowing little of Alan Lomax and his contribution to American culture. I emerged overcome with emotion at the stories and lives contained within this book. Lomax's story is not his own, but those of the African Americans he interacted with over the course of his career. And their stories are brutal, hilarious, depressing and uplifting. As Lomax travels across the South with his portable recorder, he discovers and re-discovers musical traditions that have helped sustain a rural culture, and will serve as the bedrock of modern American popular culture. The characters we meet are truly unforgettable - hardly a day goes by when I don't suddenly flash upon Blind Sid Hemphill, Son House, or many others. Lomax's portrait of the South is a tough one, and many times the ugliness makes for difficult reading. But these are the stories that we'd rather keep swept under the rug, tales of vicious brutality and lynchings, the shadowy secrets of America and the black struggle for equality, and it says as much as any slave narrative or civil rights chronicle. For those who agree that American culture is ultimately African in origin, this book will be an affirmation. For those unaware of the rich cultural tradition forged by a proud group of individuals, it will be a revelation. And as an unforgettable portrait of America, warts and all, this is a history book that breathes life on every page. Reading this book should change your life, a lofty claim too often bestowed casually on works that don't deserve the hype. Believe the hype this time - Lomax's story demands to be told, remembered, and taken to heart. We forget the cruel causes of the blues at our own peril.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book details the life of the poor, southern black in the early and middle portion of the twentieth century, not only in terms of the music, but perhaps more interestingly, with reference to the traditions and mores of those who were born and lived under the "plantation" system. The unbelievable stories and recountings of the individuals made me understand much more deeply the true effects of slavery as well as the reasons for so many of the difficult to explain behaviors we see in the inner city today. And of course, the highly romantic history of the origins of the blues makes fascinating reading for any jazz or blues buff.This book affected me more than nearly any other I've read in the last 10 years.
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