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Author Topic: New book: The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy  (Read 598 times)

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Offline jostber

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  • Posts: 612
New book: The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy
« on: April 05, 2018, 12:43:34 AM »
This will be coming out November this year:




The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy

Over the course of his long career, legendary bluesman William ""Big Bill"" Broonzy (1893@-1958) helped shape the trajectory of the genre, from its roots in the rural Mississippi River Delta, through its rise as a popular genre in the north, to its eventual international acclaim. Along the way, Broonzy adopted an evolving personal and professional identity, tailoring his self-presentation to the demands of the place and time. His remarkable professional fluidity mirrored the range of expectations from his audiences, whose ideas about race, national belonging, identity, and the blues were refracted through Broonzy as if through a prism. Kevin D. Greene argues that Broonzy's popular success testifies to his ability to navigate the cultural expectations of his different audiences. However, this constant reinvention came at a personal and professional cost. Using Broonzy's multifaceted career, Greene situates blues performance at the center of understanding African American self-presentation and racial identity in the first half of the twentieth century. Through Broonzy's life and times, Greene assesses major themes and events in African American history, including the Great Migration, urbanization, and black expatriate encounters with European culture consumers. Drawing on a range of historical source materials as well as oral histories and personal archives held by Broonzy's son, Greene perceptively interrogates how notions of race, gender, and audience reception continue to shape concepts of folk culture and musical authenticity.

Offline jharris

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    • Big Road Blues
Re: New book: The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2018, 07:38:13 AM »
Not counting Broonzy's autobiography, this will be the third Broonzy book in recent years:

-I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy by Bob Riesman
-Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy by Roger House

Offline mtzionmemorialfund

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  • Tear This Barrelhouse Down
    • Mt. Zion Memorial Fund
Re: New book: The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2018, 04:56:53 AM »
This is Greene's revamped dissertation ?Just a Dream?: Community, Identity, and the Blues of Big Bill Broonzy," which he completed in 2011 under the direction of Benjamin Filene, who wrote the book Romancing the Folk.  I have not read the other books, but this one is sure to emphasize the overwhelming force of socially constructed definitions and images of the blues.  It seems to go so far as to suggest that Broonzy was helpless and at the mercy of these forces.  Of course, my prediction may be wrong, but if the stars align just right.....

The dissertation was 332 pages long and below was the Table of Contents in 2011:

I. INTRODUCTION?????1
II. ?BIG BILL? FROM CHICAGO: IDENTITY
FORMATION IN CHICAGO?S BLACK METROPOLIS????25
III. EXPECTATION BLUES PART I: THE STRANGE CAREER
OF BIG BILL BROONZY IN THE UNITED STATES????91
IV. EXPECTATION BLUES PART II: THE STRANGE
CAREER OF BIG BILL IN EUROPE?????????181
V. ESCAPING THE FOLK: MUSIC, MEMORY,
AND THE BLUES OF BIG BILL BROONZY???????252
VI. CONCLUSION?????????315
BIBLIOGRAPHY?????319

This dissertation investigates the development of African American identity and blues culture in the United States and Europe from the 1920s to the 1950s through an examination of the life of one of the blues? greatest artists. Across his career, Big Bill Broonzy negotiated identities and formed communities through exchanges with and among his African American, white American, and European audiences. Each respective group held its own ideas about what the blues, its performers, and the communities they built meant to American and European culture. This study argues that Broonzy negotiated a successful and lengthy career by navigating each groups? cultural expectations through a process that continually transformed his musical and professional identity.

Chapter 1 traces Broonzy?s negotiation of black Chicago. It explores how he created his new identity and contributed to the flowering of Chicago?s blues community by navigating the emerging racial, social, and economic terrain of the city. Chapter 2 considers Broonzy?s music career from the early twentieth century to the early 1950s and argues that his evolution as a musician?his lifelong transition from country fiddler to solo male blues artist to black pop artist to American folk revivalist and European jazz hero?provides a fascinating lens through which to view how twentieth century African American artists faced opportunities?and pressures?to reshape their identities. Chapter 3 extends this examination of Broonzy?s career from 1951 until his death in 1957, a period in which he achieved newfound fame among folklorists in the United States and jazz and blues aficionados in Europe. Together, chapters 2 and 3 argue that across three decades Broonzy navigated the music industry in the United States and Europe by cannily creating identities that suited the expectations of individuals who could help sustain his career. Finally, Chapter 4 examines how Broonzy?s story has been shaped and reshaped in collective historical memory. It argues that his successful cultivation of white and European folk and jazz enthusiasts toward the end of his career contributed to a historical picture of Broonzy that masks the importance of his identity as a black artist for black audiences. Big Bill Broonzy and the African American blues musicians of his generation made their lives in a period of tremendous flux?from the Great Migrations through the emergence of the Civil Rights era. Exploring how Broonzy navigated the shifting parameters of this world illuminates the shifting contours of race, class, and politics in the twentieth century and shows how African Americans forged cultural identities and communities within and around these constraints. These identities and communities, moreover, redefined how the United States and the world would understand African American music and reshaped twentieth-century cultural history.
T. DeWayne Moore
Executive Director, Mt. Zion Memorial Fund

Offline RobBob

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  • Blues is truth.
Re: New book: The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2019, 06:19:39 PM »
When I played harp with the late Moses Rascoe, he held Big Bill as his hero and the best blues singer.  He had piles of his recordings, literally.  Regardless of the place Big Bill holds in other's minds, his impression on history is large and worthy of examination.  Muddy Waters also held Broonzy highly.

Offline DavidCrosbie

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  • Posts: 145
  • Howdy!
Re: New book: The Invention and Reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2019, 05:39:32 AM »
See what you make of this conclusion to Chapter Two, the chapter on Bill's move to Chicago before he started recording.

Quote from: Kevin D Greene
By investigating Bronzy's relationship to respectability, his life and experiences as a southern migrant, urban laborer, blues pioneer, and husband and lover become tools for reavhing a deeper understanding of Black Chicago, urbanization, and race pride, while challenging the parameters of blues music history more broadly.

Not all his sentences are quite so awful, but it does represent the tone of much of his writing.

The content is, if anything, worse. It amounts to 'Big Bill's biography give me an excuse to write about what I'm really interested in'.

To be fair, Greene does recognise that Bill was a great musician, and he seems genuinely interested in the man and his life. There's a fairly decent biography buried within this historical study of Black leadership and celebrity. And it would be a whole lot better if he'd applied a bit more scepticism to Bill's tales of the events of his lfe.

If you choose to read it anyway, skip the Introduction entirely. And check the 'facts' against the assessments in Bob Riesman's I Feel So Good.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2019, 07:32:55 PM by DavidCrosbie »