I have just finished this book about the blues musician Skip James:
Not afraid to look at the darker side of James’ character: that of gambler, bootlegger, pimp and (alleged) murderer, it sheds some light (at least the amount that James allowed himself to divulge to the author) on the life of this blues player, and on blues music in general.
Some readers have commented on the book’s descent into bitterness about James’ (and some of the other old bluesmen’s) declining powers over time, a decline which is understandable given the circumstances of their lives and breaks from performing and practising music which lasted for decades.
I do like Skip James the artist, though I’m not sure if I would have liked Skip James the man.
Towards the end of the book, there is a passage that made me laugh, about the time when James finished recording Lorenzo Blues in honour of his wife, Lorenzo. The producer Maynard Solomon beamed: “Mrs James, you’ve just been immortalized.”
The passage read:
Lorenzo Blues, his most recent composition, was probably the poorest piece of doggerel James ever invented, and Lorenzo herself was far from flattered by her husband’s mock description of her: “She stumbles when she talks, she wobbles when she walks . . . She’s shaped like a Coca Cola bottle . . . “
How is that for a romantic ode?
In your face, Lord Byron.