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By 1935, he [Charles Seeger] was writing for a small Marxist journal called Music Vanguard that "fine art" music was the property of the dominant classes, for which it was made. Pop music was a bastardization of the "fine art" tradition; it was "crumbs from the table of the rich and powerful . . . combined with various story elements". But folk music was the music of the proletariat and, therefore, inherently progressive - from Woody Guthrie - A Life, by Joe Klein

Author Topic: Racehoss (Life in a Texas penitentiary during the 1950s and 1960s)  (Read 617 times)

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Offline jphauser

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If you ever wondered about the environment that Texas prison songs like "Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos" and "Midnight Special" came out of, you might want to read Racehoss: Big Emma's Boy.

It's written by Albert Sample and tells his life story including his 17 years in a Texas penitentiary during the 1950s and 1960s.  By that time, prison reforms had made life easier for the convicts, but it was still very brutal.  They still sang the work songs and, at several points in the book, Sample describes singing them as part of a "200 con choir."
Here is a review from the Chicago Tribune.

Sample is a great storyteller and Sean Ferrer (Audrey Hepburn's son) made a documentary of him telling his life story before a live audience.  It's available on DVD

and on youtube (with the annoyance of ads).  He doesn't talk about prison until about halfway through the documentary.  But the whole two-hour film is great, and, when all is said and done, uplifting.  Sample will have you laughing and crying and sometimes doing both at the same time.