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Can't Be Satisfied


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Muddy Waters's wailing slide guitar, stuttering rhythm and boisterous, sex-drenched lyrics (see "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "I Got My Mojo Working") inspired a generation of bluesmen and rock-and-rollers including a modish band of Brits who copped their name from his classic tune "Rollin' Stone." In this engaging biography, Gordon (It Came from Memphis) mines some new territory, but the real punch comes from his telling, which reads as if he were on the front porch with friends, passing a half-pint of whiskey. Describing Waters's (n McKinley Morganfield) birthplace in Issaquena, Miss., he writes that it was "where farmhands partied on weekends because they'd survived another week, because the land didn't swallow them, the river didn't drink them, the boss man didn't kill them...." In the early 1940s, Muddy fled to Chicago, cut several big hits for the budding Chess record label and became an international star. The author points out, however, that Muddy never left behind an ingrained obedience from his sharecropper days. Over the years, he would allow his bosses to tamper with his style often with embarrassing results and with his fair take of the profits. And as Gordon notes, success never did satisfy his other main passion. "He went through several wives, and always had women on the side, and women on the other side too." After all, Muddy wasn't just talkin' blues he was the blues. (May) Forecast: With a foreword by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and a launch date just before all the nation's big summer blues festivals, this book should sell with blues and classic rock fans alike. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

After arriving in Chicago from Mississippi in 1943, Muddy Waters (born McKinley Morganfield) became the first successful blues man to play electric guitar while performing in the style of his heroes Robert Johnson and Son House. Gordon (It Came from Memphis) treats Muddy with the same dignity that he seemed to exude in real life. The story opens with Alan Lomax's "discovery" of Waters during one of his famous field recording expeditions for the Library of Congress. Not long after, Waters reached legendary status as the premier artist on Chicago's Chess Records. Lean times then struck in the 1950s and 1960s as rock'n'roll pushed aside the blues, but in the 1970s Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones (named after one of Muddy's songs) turned on a whole generation of white youth to their musical idol. Gordon reveals Muddy's family life to be almost as rocky: he left several illegitimate children in his wake. Rather than judge his subject, however, Gordon lets the music do the talking. With vivid prose ("The rhythm evokes the banging of a tattered suitcase being pulled down a bumpy road"), he shows that Muddy didn't have to put on an act; he was the Hootchie Coochie Man, and he did have his mojo working. Likely to become the leading biography of this legendary artist, the book is recommended for all popular, blues, and ethnomusicology collections. Also available, though unseen by the reviewer, is Sandra B. Tooze's Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/02.] Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"A brisk account of Waters's journey from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the clubs of Chicago and beyond.... With this entertaining and important book, Robert Gordon has made sure that future generations will never forget the original rolling stone."
"Likely to be the definitive treatment of perhaps the genre's definitive artist, a work of musical biography and history that should have the same durability and relevance that Peter Guralnick's treatments of Elvis Presley have had."
"Men don't come more masculine than Muddy Waters.... Gordon, whose crisp writting, acute insights, and obvious passion for the music fuels his work, has written a book as large as that man."
"Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be given to any biography is that on its pages, you feel like you meet the subject.... I leave CAN'T BE SATISFIED feeling like I can smell, touch, and, most important, hear Muddy Waters again."

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