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Big Bill was the first blues musician that I listened to extensively, discovering him as a teenager around 1970 I knew that his autobiography was largely augmented truth, but I didnt know just how little I knew about him until I read this book This is an essential read for all fans of blues and folk music. A Major Figure In American Blues And Folk Music, Big Bill Broonzy Left His Arkansas Delta Home After World War I, Headed North, And Became The Leading Chicago Bluesman Of The S His Success Came As He Fused Traditional Rural Blues With The Electrified Sound That Was Beginning To Emerge In Chicago This, However, Was Just One Step In His Remarkable Journey Big Bill Was Constantly Reinventing Himself, Both In Reality And In His Retellings Of It Bob Riesman S Groundbreaking Biography Tells The Compelling Life Story Of A Lost Figure From The Annals Of Music History I Feel So Good Traces Big Bill S Career From His Rise As A Nationally Prominent Blues Star, Including His HistoricAppearance At Carnegie Hall, To His Influential Role In The Post World War II Folk Revival, When He Sang About Racial Injustice Alongside Pete Seeger And Studs Terkel Riesman S Account Brings The Reader Into The Jazz Clubs And Concert Halls Of Europe, As Big Bill S Overseas Tours In The S Ignited The British Blues Rock Explosion Of The S Interviews With Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, And Ray Davies Reveal Broonzy S Profound Impact On The British Rockers Who Would Follow Him And Change The Course Of Popular Music Along The Way, Riesman Details Big Bill S Complicated And Poignant Personal Saga He Was Married Three Times And Became A Father At The Very End Of His Life To A Child Half A World Away He Also Brings To Light Big Bill S Final Years, When He First Lost His Voice, Then His Life, To Cancer, Just As His International Reputation Was Reaching Its Peak Featuring Many Rarely Seen Photos, I Feel So Good Will Be The Definitive Account Of Big Bill Broonzy S Life And Music Broonzy is maybe not as heralded as other bluesmen, but he is a big influence, so I was excited to see this offered as a free e book selection from The University of Chicago Press Those who have spoke of his influence include Clapton, Townsend who writes the into here , Elvis, the Kinks, Rory Gallagher, Steve Howe and manyPhil and Dave Alvin just released an album of Broonzy covers earlier this year I am going to butcher the quote, but it s something like Clapton said he loved Broonzy for his precision, while Ray Davies says it was his ability to go off script It seems contradictory, but it shows what Broonzy meant to so many.The most interesting thing to me is the span of Broonzy s career He was born and raised in the Arkansas Delta, starting to play the blues after returning home from World War 1, making him a contemporary of Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton and Son House He moved to Chicago in the 1930s and was a mentor and godfather for that city s famous blues scene, playing with Sonny Boy Williamson I and paving the way for the likes of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon Post WW2, he found fans within the folk movement, and also comradery with the jazz and gospel scenes This brought him into working with the likes of Pete Seeger, Lead belly, Studs Turkel and performing with Mahalia Jackson In the 1950s, he toured the UK extensively, and his public figure ended up being a huge influence on all of those great British rock bands that emerged from the blues influence.I tend to like music biographies, but this one tends to be a bit too academic for my liking It s a pretty dry read, though it certainly would be worthwhile for some It provides Broonzy s insight of growing up in the South in the post Reconstruction era Reisman does a good job covering the music business specifically what they call race music as it was in the 30s and 40s I also found it interesting that Broonzy spent a couple years in Ames, Iowa, which is a town I have spent some time in If you are already well acquainted with Broonzy, I am sure this will be valuable, but is a bit of a slog otherwise This monumental work is one of the very best Blues Bio you can ever own Impeccably researched and far reaching in its scope, it is truly a must read for anyone interested in classic and modern Blues history, it s relationship with English Rock n Roll, Trad Jazz, and the amazing journey of a major African American American artist Much of the Big Bill enigma is revealed, from intimate personal details, to how exactly he was the first solid and long lasting bridge to bring the Blues to Europe in person and on record But what found fascinating is BBB s crucial role in the growth of the early Chicago Blues and Folk too scene To hear Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Little Walter, Ray Davies speak of him with such warmth and emotion is priceless I have been a BBB fan for decades As with many Europeans in my case, he was my first contact with the Blues, and sparkled a fascination with American music I actually moved to the USA and collect, play and teach American Blues and Folk music This biography is remarkable in bringing out the Soul of the Man Its many surprises and treasures all underline and match what the recordings reveal a direct honesty, wisdom and self knowledge we can all draw from This outstanding read, while being the best Blues reference book in my collection, is also a deeply soulful, emotional page turner I know I will read it again With my deepest gratitude, Mr Riesman, thank you Bertrand Laurence A superb biography of a true blues giant Broonzy was a star of 30 s and 40 s Chicago blues, cutting hundreds of records marketed to the black blues buying public He also played on dozens of sessions backing other artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson I, Washboard Sam, Jazz Gillum and others Predating the blues boom of the 60 s, Broonzy crossed over in the 50 s playing and gearing his music to white audiences at home and abroad Untangling Broonzy s story could not have been easy as Broonzy s stories often blended fact and fiction, most notably in his own autobiography Big Bill s Blues Riesman has done his best to untangle the story, has done a tremendous amount of research and has dug up much that is new Compelling, well written and superbly researched, this a major contribution to blues literature Bob Riesman Interview mp3 Fascinating, if somewhat dry and scholarly, account of one of the most important musicians and most outsized personalities in American music Riesman does a good job of approximating the truth about the life of a man who cared about telling a good story, including about himself,than he did about strict fidelity to facts Good side portraits of his contemporaries ranging from Muddy Waters to Pete Seeger to Studs Terkel A serious but very entertaining biography of a complicated man. A good biography, although the author is a real apologist for the many biographical facts Bill himself gave throughout his life He conflated and condensed these events to show his narrative power he restated this event to make a point, etc But at least the author does present the truth as much as we will probably ever know it about the man born Lee Conley Bradley, and so this is a welcome addition to the bookshelf of musical biographies. Before reading this, the one Broonzy song I knew was Hey, Hey via Eric Clapton While reading this, a lot of the book s references went over my head However, there s no denying that Bob Riesman had a tough job culling from a pile of possibly embellished oral and written records which he was able to turn into not just a straightforward biography, but also brief social and cultural histories of Chicago s and the South s music scenes circa Broonzy s lifespan 1903 1958. Haven t listened to much Big Bill mainly for the reasons that Riesman very skillfully subjects to critical analysis here His writing s a bit workmanlike for my tastes, and I ve read a lot of these kinds of books, but he succeeds in renovating Broonzy s rep and presenting him as a pathfinder in many respects. Bob Riesman, AM 88AuthorFrom our pages Sept Oct 11 Bob Riesman s biography of the early 20th century Chicago blues star follows his personal life and career, with stories f his performances in jazz clubs and concert halls His life is also recounted through interviews with Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, and Ray Davies, who discuss how Broonzy inspired their music.