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Seems Like Murder HereSouthern Violence and the Blues Tradition$
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Adam Gussow

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226310978

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226311005.001.0001

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“I'm Tore Down”

“I'm Tore Down”

Lynching and the Birth of a Blues Tradition

(p.17) Chapter One “I'm Tore Down”
Seems Like Murder Here

Adah Cussow

University of Chicago Press

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

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