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If I see him I'm gonna beat him, gonna kick and bite him too, gonna take my Wade & Butcher, gonna cut him two in two - Bessie Smith, Hateful Blues, 1924

Author Topic: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project  (Read 1856 times)

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Offline CF

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2018, 08:15:12 AM »
Gail Dean Wardlow and Bruce Conforth just announced their exhaustive and definitive bio of Johnson will be published Spring of 2019.

I agree with Thomas88 . . . exactly what of any substance could a 90+ year old have to say about a Blues musician she knew when she was 12 years old and younger!? It's ridiculous.   
« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 08:16:15 AM by CF »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Stuart

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2018, 09:52:48 AM »
. . . exactly what of any substance could a 90+ year old have to say about a Blues musician she knew when she was 12 years old and younger!?..

I understand where you're coming from, but don't be too quick to dismiss what might at first appear to be meaningless trivia. Yeah, there's the guitar playing, singing, the stories and meaning behind the lyrics, who he associated with, traveling, womanizing, drinking, etc. But the memories of a now 92 year old who interacted with RJ when she was a child tell us about other aspects of RJ the person. Obviously, her personal memories are not going to be for everyone, but they will add to our overall understanding of RJ.

The way the Kickstarter project is structured is problematic to say the least, but that doesn't mean that Mrs. Anderson doesn't have something of value to offer.


Offline Johnm

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2018, 10:04:10 AM »
Hi all,
This may be something of a digression, but I'm curious--what is it that those of you who eagerly await and read biographies of musicians (not just Robert Johnson), painters, novelists, poets or sculptors, people involved in the arts, hope to learn by reading biographies of them? 
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 10:06:25 AM by Johnm »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2018, 10:48:23 AM »
Hi John:

I'll put the "eagerly await" part aside and give you a short answer: history, background, context, as well as the life and times of the person.

Not all biographies are the same, just as not all lives are the same, but no one lives and nothing happens in a vacuum--including music. You probably have run across Emerson's famous line, "There is properly no history, only biography," --perhaps in your undergrad days at Cornell. (I figured I'd just throw that in as food for thought.)

Quite honestly, I don't have time to read everything, just as I don't have time to listen to everything. --And if I was forced to choose between one OR the other, I'd choose to listen to and play music rather than to read about the people who made it. But that's a forced and artificial choice.

There are only 24 hours in a day and only so many days in a life. Time imposes limitations. So IMHO, it's a case of "To each his or her own." Let one's individual interests be the motivation for what one chooses to read or not to read--or to not read anything at all. There's no "one size fits all" answer that's going to work for everyone. It's as simple as that. At least in my humble opinion.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2018, 11:05:50 AM »
Thanks for your reply, Stuart.  Anybody else?
All best,
Johnm

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2018, 11:25:47 AM »
John,
I think, for some of us who aren't musicians, the reading of these artists' biographies allows us a way to -- I'm not sure what the right word is -- to "dive deeper" into something that moves us. We don't have the same ears and/or insight that could grant us the kind of purely musical explorations that a musician might enjoy upon repeated listenings of a favorite artist. Our repeated listenings are at a different level and of a different nature. I think exploring something about the artist's personality or life story allows us a different kind of appreciation of the recordings themselves.
-Jeff
« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 11:28:16 AM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

Offline Rivers

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2018, 11:38:06 AM »
In most cases I speed read them looking for material for the weenie quotes database. Occasionally I find myself thoroughly immersed but not usually.

For example Wolfe/Lornell on Leadbelly, Porterfield on Jimmie Rodgers, Wardlow/Calt on Patton, and several others all deepened my understanding of the music, history and context. If I could find something of that caliber on Stokes, Sane, Batts et al I would be very happy.

RJ is so overexposed at this point that the seemingly endless BS detracts from his musical legacy.

Offline harriet

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2018, 11:46:05 AM »
. . . exactly what of any substance could a 90+ year old have to say about a Blues musician she knew when she was 12 years old and younger!?..

I understand where you're coming from, but don't be too quick to dismiss what might at first appear to be meaningless trivia. Yeah, there's the guitar playing, singing, the stories and meaning behind the lyrics, who he associated with, traveling, womanizing, drinking, etc. But the memories of a now 92 year old who interacted with RJ when she was a child tell us about other aspects of RJ the person. Obviously, her personal memories are not going to be for everyone, but they will add to our overall understanding of RJ.

The way the Kickstarter project is structured is problematic to say the least, but that doesn't mean that Mrs. Anderson doesn't have something of value to offer.

I entirely agree with you.

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2018, 12:34:08 PM »
It feels like this Kickstarter is all about trying to pad what might be a very interesting magazine article into something book-length.
Jeff

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2018, 01:55:02 PM »
John,
In response to your question I'll add that I really enjoy what I like to call "hidden history" which to me is the small details behind a person's life and the stories that they tell or that others tell about them. Often those stories may have nothing to do with the music or talent of the person I'm reading about but I often find them fascinating regardless. Of course the music the person made is what draws me to read about their life in the first place.

Lew
« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 02:08:22 PM by TenBrook »

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #25 on: September 12, 2018, 03:47:16 PM »
I like analysis and discussion of the music as well as corroboration of recording sessions and of artists I'm familiar with, as well as the evolution of a musicians mind and style and how they learned and what was their process etc...

Sadly that tends to get a few pages or maybe a chapter if I'm lucky. Sometimes I read the lyric forums on here with the sole purpose of exploring the musical content within the pieces discussed rather than the lyrics, so I'm not sure how inclined I am to this book in the first place.

I just find it very satisfying to hear a piece of music and then read a text that discusses the nuances and what makes the piece tick.

As you could probably tell I'm a riot at parties :D

Offline Rivers

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2018, 05:04:02 PM »
Regardless of genre, subject, book type or subjective opinion, a really good writer is usually, and not always, a pleasure to read. Bad books written by good writers tend to be rushed efforts, I have found after digging into some of the backgrounds to disappointing books.

Some otherwise valuable books in our subject area fall so surprisingly short ah jes' cain't read 'em without rollin' mah eyes. It's probably a legacy of my time teaching English. I am a grammar nazi when reading a book that I've paid for and not so much when posting on the internet.

Please feel free to critique my post accordingly. Note that I did spell 'grammar' correctly, unlike last time I gave a mini-lecture on the importance of English grammar!! Thanks UB, and where the heck are you?

Offline Rivers

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2018, 06:05:55 PM »
CF mentioned the book that's currently scheduled for release in the spring of 2019 by Gayle Dean Wardlow and Bruce Conforth. I went looking for references to it. Here's an interesting interview with Bruce Conforth, dated 2017. Let us all hope the book will help move Robert Johnson's work out of the crazy zone.


Offline waxwing

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2018, 07:46:46 PM »
Echoing others, I guess I have an interest in the times and lives that created the music I enjoy performing, the "lore". I think most players and appreciators of this music generally are. Certainly not "eagerly awaiting" the latest RJ tidbit, hence my mildly sarcastic post above (also mildly humorous, I hope).

But as a performer I rarely am playing for either other players or even other appreciators of country blues, just folks who may have a mild passing interest, or no knowledge at all of the music and it's lore. I have found that these audiences are immensely interested in this lore. Oddly, other musicians usually chide me for the various stories and explanations I provide, "You should just play the music, dude!" But many, many more audience members thank me for the stories and lore, and request more. And lets face it, 10 three minute songs don't really make a 50 minute set, so either you can spend a lot of time tuning, or telling the latest joke you heard, or you can actually hold the audiences interest between songs, let them have a deeper understanding of the music, and maybe create a few more appreciators.

I like to think I am just following the Weenie Campbell Mission Statement: Preserving Country Blues through Education, Performance and Technology.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Stuart

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Re: Kickstarter for Robert Johnson project
« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2018, 08:48:39 PM »
Two thumbs up to your approach, Wax. When done the right way, intros, stories, etc., only add to the appreciation of the songs and enhance the audience's enjoyment of the overall performance.

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