There's an interesting article and short interview with Elija Wald, author of Escaping the Delta on the VOA News web site. Here are a couple of excerpts:
In Escaping the Delta, Elijah Wald writes that blues music should be celebrated not just in scholarly documentaries, but for what it originally was - a form of popular entertainment among rural southern blacks.
(Wald discussing Robert Johnson) "... and he was not all that distinctive for those times. He certainly is not revolutionary. Whereas if you hear him coming backwards from the Rolling Stones or the Beatles, you've never heard anything like it before, and he knocks your socks off."
(Wald on blues evolution) "Blues had evolved steadily as black popular music. And black people started calling their music soul music and then funk music and it was still an evolution of the same music. But white people picked the blues up because they were nostalgic. They wanted somebody they could imagine sitting on the front porch in Mississippi with a guitar. And that took them straight to Robert Johnson."
I still haven't had a chance to read this blasted thing, it's been sitting in our cataloging department waiting for a record for the longest time. It's interesting that Wald tries to place Johnson in context of his time and contemporaries... you have to wonder if there wasn't the story of Johnson selling his soul to the devil, a story that piqued all the interest, that Johnson might just be remembered as another good musician along with Son House, Tommy Johnson and the rest of his colleagues from that time.
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