Tag Archives: Blind Tom Wiggins

Great book on the Legendary “Blind Tom”

17 Feb

blind-tom

I first heard the music of Blind Tom on one of the annual Oxford American Southern Music CD collections. I was blown away and quickly went about trying to learn more about this legendary but nearly forgotten performer of the 1800s. I am pleased that Dierdre O’Connell has taken the great time and effort to put the spotlight back on Tom and, at the same time, clear up some of the many rumors that have surrounded his legend. Musical genius is a term that gets tossed around far too much these days. But in the case of Wiggins, that may be an understatement.  

Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family’s young daughters, and by the time he was fourTom was playing tunes on the piano.

Eventually freed from slavery, Wiggins, or “Blind Tom” as he was called, toured the country and the world playing for celebrities like Mark Twain and the Queen of England and dazzling audiences everywhere. One part genius and one part novelty act, Blind Tom embodied contradictions-a star and a freak, freed from slavery but still the property of his white guardian. His life offers a window into the culture of celebrity and racism at the turn of the twentieth century.

In this rollicking and heartrending book, O’Connell takes us through the life (and three separate deaths) of Blind Tom Wiggins, restoring to the modern reader this unusual yet quintessentially American life.

Order yours today at http://www.amazon.com/Ballad-Blind-Tom-Slave-Pianist/dp/1590201434/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234914499&sr=8-1

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Great Music Writing Found Here

23 Oct

I recently received a copy of this book and ripped through it in just a couple of days. What an amazing, diverse collection of writers and subjects. If you love American music, you will find plenty to savor here. And even if you consider yourself a music scholar, you will surely be inspired to learn more about one of the artists or subjects featured in these pages. Marc Smirnoff, the editor of the wonderful Oxford American magazine, did a terrific job in assembling these articles — all of which have previously appeared in the pages of the OA.

Blind Tom Wiggins’ story is amazing

Most all of the stories are worthwhile with my favorites being the vignettes on the forgotten Blind Tom Wiggins, Minstral Show icon Emmett Miller, Chris Bell of Big Star, folk legend Fred Neil (composer of “Everybody’s Talkin”), Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” hanging out in the 70s with Jerry Lee Lewis, and Schoolhouse Rock composer and Arkansas native Bob Dorough.

Bob Dorough composed & performed the above kiddie classic

Buy this book now and then subscribe to the Oxford American — you’ll love it!

Here is the product description found on Amazon.com …

Not only have a breathtaking array of musical giants come from the South—think Elvis Presley, Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Rodgers, to name just obvious examples—but so have a breathtaking array of American music genres. From blues to rock & roll to jazz to country to bluegrass—and areas in between—it all started in the American South. Since its debut in 1996, The Oxford American’s more-or-less annual Southern Music Issue has become legendary for its passionate and wide-ranging approach to music and for working with some of America’s greatest writers. These writers—from Peter Guralnick to Nick Tosches to Susan Straight to William Gay—probe the lives and legacies of Southern musicians you may or may not yet be familiar with, but whom you’ll love being introduced, or reintroduced, to. In one creative, fresh way or another, these writers also uncover the essence of music—and why music has such power over us. To celebrate ten years of Southern music issues, most of which are sold-out or very hard to find, the fifty-five essays collected in this dynamic, wide-ranging, and vast anthology appeal to both music fans and fans of great writing.