Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey

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9780060525446: Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey

Rock & roll, jazz, R&B, hip-hop: Without question, today's most popular sounds owe an incalculable debt to that uniquely American musical creation -- The Blues. But the powerful influence of the blues, with its dramatic, artful storytelling about the elemental experience of being alive, is found in the works of some of our most important literary voices as well.

This volume -- a companion to the groundbreaking seven-part documentary series Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues -- represents a literary sampler every bit as vibrant and original and diverse as the films and music that inspired it. Included in this stunning collection are newly commissioned essays by David Halberstam, Hilton Als, Suzan-Lori Parks, Elmore Leonard, Luc Sante, John Edgar Wideman, and others; timeless archival pieces by the likes of Stanley Booth, Paul Oliver, and Mack McCormick; evocative color illustrations and rare vintage photography; illuminating and in-depth conversations and portraits of musicians, ranging from Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith to John Lee Hooker and Eric Clapton; lyrics of legendary blues compositions; personal essays by the series directors Martin Scorsese, Charles Burnett, Richard Pearce, Wim Wenders, Marc Levin, Mike Figgis, and Clint Eastwood; and excerpts from such literary masters as James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty and Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and William Faulkner.

The result is a unique and timeless celebration of the blues, from writers and artists as esteemed and revered as the music that moved them. In these pages one not only reads about the blues, one hears them, feels them, lives them. Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues is more than a timeless collection of great writing to be savored and shared: it is an unforgettable initiation into the very essence of American music and culture.

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Review:

Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey is an idiosyncratic, well-produced, and relatively cheap introduction to a quintessentially American musical invention. With much of the material consisting of excerpts from other sources, and the lack of an index, the tome seems more like a fluffed-up set of liner notes for the accompanying DVD set and CD series than a book--and that's probably the best way to approach it. The book is loosely constructed around the seven films, and there are great writers involved, including Stanley Booth, Hilton Als, Robert Palmer, Richard Hell, Luc Sante, and Robert Gordon. These selections are for the most part inspired, though one wonders why there's not even one page from Alan Greenberg’s brilliant Love in Vain screenplay, or anything from LeRoi Jones' classic Blues People. Unlike similar collections, the book gives real props to gospel-blues pioneer Bind Willie Johnson and rightfully places fife and drum patriarch Othar Turner at the top of the blues pantheon. But very little print is given to political, racial, gender and social issues surrounding the music. Not that one wishes it were some heavy academic tome. But, like the celebrated PBS series itself, an aura of missed opportunity hangs over the entire endeavor. Overall, this book makes a fine gift for casual fans of the music and is recommended for those who really enjoyed the series. --Mike McGonigal

About the Author:

MARTIN SCORSESE received the Golden Globe Award for Best Director for his newest feature GANGS OF NEW YORK. PETER GURALNICK is the author of numerous seminal works of music and popular culture, including SEARCHING FOR ROBERT JOHNSON and a two-volume biography of Elvis Presley. He lives in West Newbury, Massachusetts. ROBERT SANTELLI is the Executive Director of the Experience Music Project and author/editor of THE BIG BOOK OF THE BLUES and AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC; he lives in Seattle. CHRIS FARLEY is the music editor at Time Magazine. HOLLY GEORGE-WARREN is the former editorial director of Rolling Stone Press and the author/editor of numerous books, including AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC and COWBOY! How Hollywood Invented the American West. She lives in Phoenicia, New York.

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