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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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“Shoot Myself a Cop”

“Shoot Myself a Cop”

Mamie Smith's “Crazy Blues” as Social Text

Chapter:
(p.159) Chapter Four “Shoot Myself a Cop”
Source:
Seems Like Murder Here
Author(s):

Adah Cussow

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226311005.003.0005

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

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