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If you're not doin' it like this, you're doin' it wrong - Steve James, Port Townsend 97

Author Topic: Really the Blues  (Read 424 times)

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Offline Chezztone

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Really the Blues
« on: November 20, 2017, 12:08:36 PM »
Just want to put in a strong recommendation for an old book that I recently reread: Really the Blues by Mezz Mezzrow with Bernard Wolfe. If you haven't read it, or just haven't read it lately, pick it up! Despite the title, it is not about the kind of blues we focus on. It's the biography of a white Chicago musician, born in 1900, who plays New Orleans-style jazz (which includes many blues pieces). He hangs out with (and sometimes plays with and even mentors) many of the great musicians, plays in speakeasies for some of the big gangsters, and immerses himself in underground black culture. Along the way he becomes the Johnny Appleseed of cannabis, almost single-handedly turning on the US to this herb, which was legal at the time. And it's all told in the hipster slang of the era. The book was a huge influence on the Beat writers, and it's sort of the beginning of American counterculture, at least in literature. It's also life-affirming, the story of someone who followed his passions no matter what. Plant you now, dig you later. Ch.

Offline jharris

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Re: Really the Blues
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2017, 12:53:01 PM »
I second this recommendation. A wonderful and fascinating book. Couldn't have described it better.

Offline oddenda

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Re: Really the Blues
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2017, 05:19:41 PM »
A decent work of fiction! Good ole Mez. Grain of salt reportage.

pbl

Offline lindy

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Re: Really the Blues
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2017, 11:06:48 AM »
I agree with all of the above comments, as well as others made about this book in other threads.

I'm 3/4 the way through it as I write, and I'm loving all of the zoot-suitin' hip talk that Mezzrow and Wolfe captured. If you come across a copy in your travels and only have a few minutes to peruse, go straight to the glossary in the back, a dictionary of hipster slang from the 20s and 30s, with terms like 'wig-trig': idea; 'tall': intoxicated on marijuana; 'knock a fade': go away, leave; and the 'Head Knock': God.

I also got the same feeling as Oddenda, methinks that 'ol Mezz was good at self-promotion. In the Introduction to the book, Ben Ratliff takes some air out of the image that Mezz gave himself.

But it doesn't matter, you can't help but not care if Mezzrow was tootin' his own horn so to speak, the book is a great description of the first few decades of this century in Chicago and New York, and a great book to read in the context of the current (will it ever end?) debate on race in this very slow-to-learn country of ours and slow-to-learn planet we inhabit.

Lindy
« Last Edit: December 23, 2017, 06:25:08 PM by lindy »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Really the Blues
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2017, 01:39:02 PM »
Thanks for the post, Lindy--both as a reminder and review. The Seattle Public Library has six copies in its holdings, so for those of you with borrowing privileges, it's a cheap date.

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