“Shoot Myself a Cop”

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:
“Shoot Myself a Cop”

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This chapter considers retributive violence as imaged in Mamie Smith's recording of Perry Bradford's “Crazy Blues” (1920). It also reports a new theory of what is called “abandonment blues.” Breathless advertising in black periodicals played a role in Smith's success. Mamie's precursors in southern song and myth were the badmen. Robert Charles was linked in folk memory, white and black, with drug-inspired, gun-enabled cop-killing, and that the pertinent couplet Bradford inserted into “Crazy Blues” directly engaged this folk memory. The word “crazy” seemed to play a role in the public discussion surrounding Charles' one-man rebellion. “Crazy Blues” is a song of cultural haunting and cultural mourning that ends with fantasized vengeance. Thus, it is projected an image of badwoman vengeance that offered those who consumed it a way of sustaining themselves in the face of harsh realities.

Keywords: Mamie Smith; Crazy Blues; Perry Bradford; abandonment blues; Robert Charles; cultural haunting; cultural mourning; badwoman vengeance; retributive violence

Chapter.  15366 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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