Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blues People – The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That Developed From It – LeRoi Jones

I have been reading a lot about early blues and this book popped up in my Amazon recommendations so I thought I’d check it out. Initially published in 1963, this is one of the first books written by an African-American about the music that they have contributed to America. The timing of the book makes it especially interesting as it precedes the breaking of black music in the American Top Forty, at least as a movement – soul, Motown, etc. While Jones does discuss the blues, he focuses mainly on jazz, as a uniquely American and distinctly black musical genre, and the changes it went through, the spin-offs it fathered and how it all fits together in the larger scheme of things. In hindsight from 2012, I’m not sure that I agree with all of his conclusions, but coming from a young, black intellectual at the time, it gives a unique perspective.

Not something that I can whole-heartedly endorse, as it at times reads more like a dissertation than a compelling book, but I did appreciate the point of view of this fascinating time capsule.