Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday

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9780679771265: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude

From one of this country's most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens. Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday as powerful articulations of an alternative consciousness profoundly at odds with mainstream American culture.

The works of Rainey, Smith, and Holiday have been largely misunderstood by critics. Overlooked, Davis shows, has been the way their candor and bravado laid the groundwork for an aesthetic that allowed for the celebration of social, moral, and sexual values outside the constraints imposed by middle-class respectability. Through meticulous transcriptions of all the extant lyrics of Rainey and Smith—published here in their entirety for the first time—Davis demonstrates how the roots of the blues extend beyond a musical tradition to serve as a conciousness-raising vehicle for American social memory. A stunning, indispensable contribution to American history, as boldly insightful as the women Davis praises, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is a triumph.

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Review:

The female blues singers of the 1920s, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, and Bessie Smith, not only invented a musical genre, but they also became models of how African American women could become economically independent in a culture that had not previously allowed it. Both Smith and Rainey composed, arranged, and managed their own road bands. Angela Y. Davis's study emphasizes the impact that these singers, and later Billie Holiday, had on the poor and working-class communities from which they came. The artists addressed radical subjects such as physical and economic abuse, race relations, and female sexual power, including lesbianism. Ma Rainey was well known as a lover of women as well as men, and her song "Prove It on Me" describes a butch woman who dresses like a man and dates women. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism places the fluid sexuality of these women within a larger context of African American artists' attempts to subvert and recreate America.

From Kirkus Reviews:

An earnest attempt by the well-known scholar (Women, Culture, and Politics, 1989, etc.) and activist to see three great African-American singers as part of a black feminist tradition. In her appreciative analysis of the classic blues written and recorded in the 1920s and early '30s by Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, Davis (History of Consciousness/Univ. of Calif., Santa Cruz) accurately notes that these women expressed a working-class, African-American sensibility quite different from the ``uplift the race'' gentility of their middle-class peers in the Harlem Renaissance. Openly sexual, unconstrained by maternity or marriage, pragmatic about the impact of money and work on women's lives, Smith and Rainey spoke to and for ordinary blacks with a candor that remains striking and appealing today. Davis's explication of their works' political undercurrents seems accurate, if somewhat trite compared to the splendid particularity and vigor of the lyrics themselves. (The author's transcriptions of Rainey's and Smith's songs occupy one third of the text--and it's not wasted space.) It's hard to trace a strong connection between these two artists, who generally wrote their own earthy material, and Billie Holiday, stuck with the banal pop cliches of second-rate white Tin Pan Alley hacks. Davis makes a plausible case that Holiday transformed this dross by informing it with a subtext of irony and social consciousness, the latter quality more evident in one of the few songs she composed, the searing ``Strange Fruit.'' But a single paragraph arguing that ``Holiday was following in the footsteps of a host of black artists who preceded her . . . who . . . incorporated into their music their own brand of critical social consciousness'' needs much more fleshing out. Davis's prose, distanced and overly abstract in the vintage academic manner, could also use a shot of Rainey's humor, Smith's sass, or Holiday's soulful intensity. Intelligent, well-meaning, not without merit--but so drab compared to its vivid subjects. (8 pages b&w photos) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Descrizione libro Random House USA Inc, United States, 1999. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From one of this country s most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens. Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday as powerful articulations of an alternative consciousness profoundly at odds with mainstream American culture. The works of Rainey, Smith, and Holiday have been largely misunderstood by critics. Overlooked, Davis shows, has been the way their candor and bravado laid the groundwork for an aesthetic that allowed for the celebration of social, moral, and sexual values outside the constraints imposed by middle-class respectability. Through meticulous transcriptions of all the extant lyrics of Rainey and Smith published here in their entirety for the first time Davis demonstrates how the roots of the blues extend beyond a musical tradition to serve as a conciousness-raising vehicle for American social memory. A stunning, indispensable contribution to American history, as boldly insightful as the women Davis praises, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is a triumph. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780679771265

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Angela Davis
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Descrizione libro Random House USA Inc, United States, 1999. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From one of this country s most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens. Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday as powerful articulations of an alternative consciousness profoundly at odds with mainstream American culture. The works of Rainey, Smith, and Holiday have been largely misunderstood by critics. Overlooked, Davis shows, has been the way their candor and bravado laid the groundwork for an aesthetic that allowed for the celebration of social, moral, and sexual values outside the constraints imposed by middle-class respectability. Through meticulous transcriptions of all the extant lyrics of Rainey and Smith published here in their entirety for the first time Davis demonstrates how the roots of the blues extend beyond a musical tradition to serve as a conciousness-raising vehicle for American social memory. A stunning, indispensable contribution to American history, as boldly insightful as the women Davis praises, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is a triumph. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780679771265

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Descrizione libro Random House USA Inc, United States, 1999. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. From one of this country s most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens. Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday as powerful articulations of an alternative consciousness profoundly at odds with mainstream American culture. The works of Rainey, Smith, and Holiday have been largely misunderstood by critics. Overlooked, Davis shows, has been the way their candor and bravado laid the groundwork for an aesthetic that allowed for the celebration of social, moral, and sexual values outside the constraints imposed by middle-class respectability. Through meticulous transcriptions of all the extant lyrics of Rainey and Smith published here in their entirety for the first time Davis demonstrates how the roots of the blues extend beyond a musical tradition to serve as a conciousness-raising vehicle for American social memory. A stunning, indispensable contribution to American history, as boldly insightful as the women Davis praises, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is a triumph. Codice libro della libreria BZV9780679771265

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