“I'm Tore Down”

Adah Cussow

in Seems Like Murder Here

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226310978
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226311005 | DOI:
“I'm Tore Down”

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This chapter examines the lynching's inflicted terror in both the blues lyric and blues autobiographical tradition. It also addresses the linkage between southern lynching and blues song. Any given blues song is not necessarily always a direct report of the bluesman's lived experience. Blues lyricism finds salvation in mourned unwantedness. Joking was a significant way in which blues musicians extracted pleasure-in-repetition from the “sentence of death” under which lynching had placed them. The era of spectacle lynching was more than twenty-five years old in 1916; Sammy Price's generation, the second to come of age within its confines, found a kind of salvation in blues music. If anything, the terrors lynching engendered in Price and his contemporaries were exceeded by the terrors wrought on the previous generation, a blues-originating cohort that included Henry “Ragtime” Thomas at one end and Charley Patton at the other.

Keywords: lynching; blues lyric; blues autobiographical tradition; blues song; blues lyricism; joking; blues music; Sammy Price; Henry Ragtime Thomas; Charley Patton

Chapter.  21753 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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