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Providing a clear look into the life of one of the greatest Mississippi bluesmen, this is the first biography of the late Skip James, perhaps the most creative and idiosyncratic of all blues musicians. His 1931 performances of "Devil Got My Woman", "I'm So Glad", and "22-20 Blues" are masterpieces that transcend the genre. Drawing largely on hundreds of hours of conversations with James himself, it paints a dark and unforgettable portrait of a man untroubled by his own murderous inclinations, a man who achieved one moment of transcendent greatness in a life haunted by failure. In doing so, it offers new insights into the nature of the blues, the world in which it thrived, and its fate when that world vanished.
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About the Author

Stephen Calt is the author of King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton and the coauthor of R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country. He lives in Fresh Meadows, New York.

Reviews

Less a biography of one blues legend than a biography of Mississippi blues, this account chronicles Skip James's life in part to make a more important, more affecting point. Most blues players from the early '20s and '30s waited decades for their music to earn them any degree of fame or financial reward. With a record's worth of songs earning them only $10 or $20, musicians survived as sharecroppers or manual laborers. Calt depicts James, born on a plantation in 1902 and abandoned early by his bootlegger father, as a man whose life before and after a single 1931 recording session was the blues. James's early years were not so different from his music-superstitious and undeniably violent. James made his living on the road, playing dance music in juke joints and whorehouses. Jazz fans discovered James in the '40s, and his songs ``22-20'' and ``Devil Got My Woman'' became instant classics. That James was one of the few to live long enough to witness his fame, which peaked in the '60s, was luck after years of hard living. Calt's interviews with James just before his death in 1969 imbue this book with a true survivor's voice. (Oct.)

"Less a biography of one blues legend than a biography of Mississippi blues ... Calt's interviews with James just before his death in 1969 imbue this book with a true survivor's voice." -- Publishers Weekly

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