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The words was the hardest thing to get and make 'em stick. Sometimes you'd sit down at night and write two or three songs, but they had the same tune to mostly all. All the blues pretty near sound alike unless you got a rare voice and put turns and trills in it - Thomas A. "Georgia Tom" Dorsey interviewed by Jim O'Neal and Amy van Singel, The Voice Of The Blues

Author Topic: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy  (Read 7602 times)

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Offline Stuart

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #45 on: April 19, 2012, 07:22:02 AM »
Still waiting for the authorized biography of Willie Mae...

I know where Ron's coming from, but isn't that what we have the recordings for?

Re: Mr. O's comments: Decades ago I relegated critiquing writing style and organization to the back burner, at least for books on music. It's not that I don't perceive the problems or consider them important, it's just that I don't let them bother me. Editing, and even proofreading, has become non-existent in many areas of publishing--not that it should be that way or is an excuse for slop. Still, the professional guiding hand that helps turn a rough draft into a polished, finished product is no longer available in many cases. Many of these works are labors of love, done when time permits by people who have full time jobs in other fields and are not trained and/or professional writers. Thus, I'm glad that they were able to run down the info, organize it , and get it published. Obviously, these are not very high standards, but I reserve those for other areas and am just thankful that anything at all is written about some of our musical heroes. I guess the NJ wise-ass in me wants to say, "If I want great writing, I'll read Shakespeare."

Offline dj

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #46 on: April 19, 2012, 07:45:23 AM »
Quote
One shortcoming of this book is that while he discusses Hurt's performances and some of the reactions of folks like Patrick Sky and Jerry Ricks, he does very little in bringing the music to life, discussing the performances...

Quote
I know where Ron's coming from, but isn't that what we have the recordings for?

Thankfully, that's what we have Weenie Campbell for!

I thought Bob Riesman's writing in the Broonzy bio was just fine.  Philip Ratcliffe's in the Hurt book was a little odd - I'd often hit a phrase and stop and say "That's not the way an experienced writer would put it", but I eventually got used to that.  I've read much worse prose.  David Evans when he's got his academic hat on comes to mind.  I realize he is an academic, but his writing is vastly improved when he forgets that fact (in his old columns for Blues Revue Quarterly, for example).

O'Muck, if you enjoyed Blue Smoke, you'd like Rosevelt's Blues by Guido van Rijn.  It provides "a more complete social, cultural , historical picture" which functions "as a stand alone work without Broonzy's inclusion".  I think van Rijn is a better writer than Roger House, and he makes it his policy to quote entire songs rather than just a few odd lines taken out of context, which I think is important.

I guess good writing really is in the ear of the reader.  My take after reading the two Broonzy books almost back to back was that Bob Riesman was a far better writer than Roger House. 


Offline Stuart

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #47 on: April 19, 2012, 08:12:14 AM »
Re: "Academic prose" (this has been mentioned before, but just in case you missed it--a couple of sources for this classic piece):

http://www.soc.umn.edu/~samaha/cases/limerick_dancing_with_professors.html

http://wolfweb.unr.edu/homepage/calabj/pdf/Academicprose.pdf

Edited to add: Actually, I found all three books to be quite readable and enjoyable. Like dj, I would find myself saying at times, "This isn't the way that I would have written it," but so what? I sensed that at times the authors knew that they had information that they shouldn't leave out, but didn't have a way to include it that didn't come off as awkward.

Sometimes a person gets only one shot at writing on a subject or topic (especially in a niche area), so the decision to include all the available info--even if circumstances dictate that it is done in an awkward manner--overrides stylistic considerations.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 08:31:08 AM by Stuart »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #48 on: April 19, 2012, 09:59:53 AM »
I did have reservations about posting my thoughts and I hope I made the point that I was grateful for the efforts of the authors. It is certainly true that budgets for editing and the like are not there and that these books were written by non professional writers in most cases, probably at great cost and sacrifice to themselves and their families. So thanks again. Part of my reason for posting is that a Gary Davis bio is in the works and I wanted to put out there what I see as some of the pitfalls of this kind of undertaking in hopes that they can be avoided in THAT book..which I want to be great.
And yeah if I want great writing I'll read Shakespeare. Actually I don't really believe that. One of the things that makes Wald's Josh White book work as well as it does is that he understands that he's telling a story, rather than disgorging accumulated research in a comprehensible form. A story has to have a dramatic arc of some kind in which to place the pertinent information. Josh White's life had many dramatic episodes and plenty of living witnesses to relate them. But having the knack of knowing when to usher an instance on stage, how long it should remain, what the essence and larger meaning for the whole is, is the mark of a good story teller.
BTW My Garfield Akers Bio* is being published next October by Random House. So far it is 980 pages mostly of arguments between a Freudian & a Jungian analyst as to the meaning of his lyrics, right hand method, and exact moment of when his singing begins in each stanza. Throw away that Ambien!

* This is a joke folks!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #49 on: April 19, 2012, 10:25:37 AM »
BTW My Garfield Akers Bio* is being published next October by Random House. So far it is 980 pages mostly of arguments between a Freudian & a Jungian analyst as to the meaning of his lyrics, right hand method, and exact moment of when his singing begins in each stanza. Throw away that Ambien!
* This is a joke folks!
L-O-V-E I-T, needed a belly laugh.

Re. the RGD biography, I guess you are referring to the Ian Zac work in progress. Are you in contact with him? If not I'll point you in his direction.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #50 on: April 19, 2012, 10:36:52 AM »
Yes Ian and I are in touch and I've already conveyed some of my concerns to him. I don't have a sense of how far he's gotten yet but he did interview me for the book which should automatically disqualify it from serious consideration  :P  . Ian IS however a professional writer so I am hopeful.
He is also the father of twins, a huge motivator in wanting and needing the book to be successful.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Stuart

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #51 on: April 19, 2012, 10:52:34 AM »
Re: Shakespeare--It was my NJ wise-ass talking, Phil. Sorry if it came off as snide as it wasn't meant to be--just a nod to the wide range of writing out there.

I enjoy Elijah's writing, too, and think that he's quite talented. And I've always wondered if having a Nobel Laureate father and a Ph.D. mother had any thing to do with it.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #52 on: April 19, 2012, 10:58:52 AM »
No offense taken. It was a fair shot and made the point well I thought. Its also ALWAYS funny.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #53 on: April 19, 2012, 11:09:33 AM »
I like the sound of your Akers biography, Phil, though I don't know if 980 pages is enough to deal with Akers' right hand technique adequately.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #55 on: August 30, 2012, 09:19:07 PM »
This was in my mail box.

I?m very pleased to announce that Chicago blues harp master Billy Boy Arnold and guitarist Eric Noden will join me on Thursday, October 11 at 6:30 pm at 92YTribeca in New York City for I Feel So Good: A Celebration of Big Bill Broonzy, Featuring Billy Boy Arnold. The event will mark the publication of the paperback edition of my Big Bill Broonzy biography, I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy (University of Chicago Press).
 
Here?s a link to the event listing on the 92YTribeca website:
 
http://www.92y.org/Tribeca/Event/I-Feel-So-Good.aspx
 
The evening will feature Billy Boy Arnold performing songs from his recently released tribute CD, Billy Boy Arnold Sings Big Bill Broonzy (Electro-Fi). Eric Noden, who produced and played guitar on the CD, will accompany Arnold on guitar. In addition to performing Broonzy?s songs, Billy Boy Arnold will also sit down for a conversation with me in which he?ll share his first-hand recollections of Big Bill and the Chicago blues world of the 1940s and 1950s.
 
Tickets are now on sale, and I hope you can join us for what promises to be a memorable evening of words and music. Please tell your friends, and I hope to see you there!
 
Best,
Bob

I Feel So Good on Facebook - paperback edition due out October 2012


Offline Pan

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #56 on: August 31, 2012, 01:16:10 AM »
Thanks Bunker Hill. I shared the facebook pages.

Cheers

Pan

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: I Feel So Good - The Life And Times Of Big Bill Broonzy
« Reply #57 on: September 01, 2012, 07:32:13 AM »
Well I'll certainly be at that event. When I was first researching my fabulous and successful "come back" five years or so ago, I did a bit of research regarding my likely competition (i.e. guitar players working more or less out of the same bag of material) in the U.S., and Eric Noden emerged as one of the better players I encountered ,along with
Frankie Basile before I knew him of course and also John Hennigan. They were also people who I felt had an authentic feel and good chops. I wasn't looking at more established people like Ari for instance. I think we should try to get Noden and Hennigan to become participants here. I know John but have never met Eric I think he's a Minnesotan?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

 


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