Woman with Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues
Universally recognized as one of the greatest blues artists, Memphis Minnie (1897–1973) wrote and recorded hundreds of songs, among them the famous "Bumble Bee Blues," "I'm Talking About You," and "What's the Matter with the Mill?" Blues people as diverse as Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, Big Mama Thornton, and Chuck Berry have acknowledged her as a major influence. At a time when most female vocalists sang Tin Pan Alley material, Minnie write her own lyrics and accompanied her singing with magnificent guitar-playing. Thanks to her merciless imagination and dark humor, her songs rank among the most vigorous and challenging popular poetry in any language. Although organized feminism was at it’s lowest ebb, Memphis Minnie, a black working-class woman, called no man master, defied gender stereotypes, and exemplified a radically adventurous life-style that makes most careers of the '20s and '30s seem dull by comparison. Woman with Guitar is the first full-length study of the life and work of this extraordinary free spirit, focusing on the lively interplay between Minnie's evolving artistry and the African American community in which she lived and worked. Drawing on folklore, psychoanalysis, critical theory, women's studies, and surrealism, the Garons’ inspired explorations of Minnie's songs illuminate the poetics of popular culture as well as the largely hidden history of working-class women's self emancipation.
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