Deep Inside the Blues: Photographs and Interviews

Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. Nov. 2023. 416p. ISBN 9781496847416. $45. MUSIC
Photographer and oral historian Cooper’s new book is a testament to the power of music, especially the brawn of the blues. A rich combination of black-and-white photos and interviews with blues musicians, this book allows each performer a chance to tell their story in their own voice. Many of the musicians interviewed were born in the Mississippi Delta; several, such as guitarist Mickey Rogers and singer Shirley Lewis, grew up in the North with family down in Mississippi and Arkansas. Most grew up attending church, working the cotton fields as the children of sharecroppers, and experiencing the Jim Crow South firsthand. Choosing a musical career involved performances in bars, concert halls, and an eventual move to Chicago. Some stories are so detailed that readers can see how their social consciousness came to life because of historical events, such as the murder of Emmett Till and the rise of the civil rights movement. All these performers make it clear that the blues became the balm for lives lived during hard times.
VERDICT A magnificent oral history of the healing power of blues music.
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