Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday

Angela Y. Davis


Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday

  • Title: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday
  • Author: Angela Y. Davis
  • ISBN: 9780679771265
  • Page: 389
  • Format: Paperback



From one of this country s most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie HoFrom one of this country s most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday as powerful articulations of an alternative consciousness profoundly at odds with mainstream American culture.The works of Rainey, Smith, and Holiday have been largely misunderstood by critics Overlooked, Davis shows, has been the way their candor and bravado laid the groundwork for an aesthetic that allowed for the celebration of social, moral, and sexual values outside the constraints imposed by middle class respectability Through meticulous transcriptions of all the extant lyrics of Rainey and Smith published here in their entirety for the first time Davis demonstrates how the roots of the blues extend beyond a musical tradition to serve as a conciousness raising vehicle for American social memory A stunning, indispensable contribution to American history, as boldly insightful as the women Davis praises, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is a triumph.


Recent Comments "Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday"

This was a very informative book about the much-overlooked impact of blues music on American culture and feminism. It’s definitely not a light read; Davis thoroughly researched her material and it’s hard to read this book in large chunks as the tone of the book is quite academic. The book looks into the musical careers of Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday; three African-American singers whose music “…gave musical expression to the new social and sexual realities [...]

I thought I was only halfway through the book, but then it was over. The second half of the book are the lyrics to the songs recorded by the three singers (Rainey, Smith, and Holiday) and then Notes. That was a startling ending is all I am sayin.If you do a quick search for "blues music", as I just did, you will find the page filled with at least 11 pictures of male blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Eric Clapton. Some other people, too, but only three of the images fe [...]

WARNING: Will turn you into a rabid blues addict.

I devoured this like candy. Davis delineates a complex analysis of the work of the early blueswomen in relationship to gender and class issues in the African-American community in the decades following slavery. She grounds Ma Rainey's and Bessie Smith's songs and performances in historical context, considering their roots in the musical and socioeconomic history of slavery, as well as looking at ways in which they foreshadowed the political developments of the '60s and '70s.I could have done wit [...]

I read this book back in 2010--and it blew my mind. As a white person, I had grown up thinking of Angela Davis as a Communist and a member of the Black Panther party, both which are true. Both of which are still in the #verybad column by white people. She was acquitted in federal court, but the court of public memory is long. Suffice it to say, I didn't have the full picture of her background. I would label this book my first REAL experience with intersectional feminism. I bought this book in Ci [...]

This was a very interesting read. This book focused on the lyrics to 3 blues legends. The review of the songs makes you want to listen to their music as you read. The only thing that was missing was that Davis did not give any information on the personal lives of these artists. I recommend this book to anyone that is a fan of the blues. The author's writing is only 197 pages. The rest of the book are lyrics to songs

This review is a short version made to fit GoodReads' character limits. I strongly suggest that the reader read the FULL review under my profile's writing: /story/show/2I've 'known' of Davis for decades as a black radical who was persecuted by then-Governor-Reagan &, like any black radical, the FBI. I've always been impressed by her as someone who managed to not get killed, someone who stuck out this racist insanity & who also managed to be a university professor. I expected this to be a [...]

Une analyse fascinante des paroles des chanteuses de blues des années '20-'40 Gertrude « Ma » Rainey, Bessie Smith et Billie Holiday. La recherche est d'autant plus incroyable qu'à l'époque de l'écriture de l'essai, l'auteure était encore en train d'analyser les paroles à l'aide de 33 tours, les cassettes venaient de sortir (et il n'y avait clairement pas Internet pour aider). Il s'agit d'analyse littéraire assez classique avec une accent mis sur la réception dans les communautés noir [...]

This was in the top 2 of books I read in 2017 and I only read it on accident. Someone I know please read it so we can discuss. There's something (a lot) here for you if you care about racism, sexism, sociology, history and/or blues/jazz.

I don’t know much about Angela Davis. I was first aware of her through John Lennon’s song and, of course, a Communist feminist who went to prison for gun running for Black nationalists is always going to be conservative America’s worst nightmare (unless she converts to Islam) she’s alright with me. And she seems to have had a respectable career in academia since and here is a solid academic book about Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, placing their music largely into the contex [...]

I think that there are a number of takeaways from this book, and just thinking about how they relate to cultural studies of today, I think they are as pertinent as ever. The challenge to patriarchy by simply affirming sexual agency? Still today. THe revolutionary act of simply picking up and moving somewhere? Still there. The fight of middle- and upper class blacks to disengage from the history and circumstance of their working class brothers and sisters? OH SO REAL.The points Ms. Davis makes ar [...]

So I must give respect where respect is due - Angela Davis is a very smart woman. However, this book was not good. Maybe its because I am skeptical and a singer but her analysis of the voice and her seeming to "know" what these ladies were trying to portray is a bit of a stretch. It is mostly personal opinion for the most part and I found myself pushing through it to say that I had read it but not good - in my opinion.

The blues musician and scholar Adam Gussow put me on to this book, as an important treatment on the history of the blues music tradition. Here it is the women who come to the fore, with lots of grit, humour, earthiness and as Davis so persuasively argues, a good deal of social and political import as well. The chapter on Billie Holiday's version of "Strange Fruit" along makes it worth the read.

Insightful, Flawless & A Powerful Read! I Loved It!

Read it for school. It was cool. Brought a different perspective to the lives of women we deem as fallen angels of some sort. They lived life their own way.

Interesting and varied look at these legends of Blues Music. Enjoyed it.

I wasdisappointed in this. I knew next to nothing about Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith, but I've been a Billie Holiday fan for a few years now, and was really interested to see how she might be figured in an 'academic' text. Davis' project, on a fundamental level, is fairly innovative and well-meaning; the book sets out to place these three women within a historical continuum of African-American music, from slave songs to blues and gospel to jazz and its followers. And I did like some of the historic [...]

A fascinating, if sometimes dense, exploration of three female Blues/Blues-influenced musicians and the social impact and relevance of their work. During the research process for this book, Dr. Davis discovered that the lyrics to most of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith's songs had never been transcribed. Davis transcribed the lyrics to all of their recorded works herself and includes the comprehensive collection of their lyrics in the back of the book for reference, so the book is really only half as [...]

Overall I really loved this book and was so glad I ended up borrowing it to read on a four-hour bus ride. Davis' prose is very dense and academic, at times almost too dense to wade through. I can see that being a turn-off for many readers, and it's unfortunate, because I think there's a lot of really fabulous and useful points in here. My only other criticism is that it seemed to me Davis was sometimes contorting to get the meaning out of a song that fit her argument. I generally gave her the be [...]

Who just won the P & W Jackson Award, a $50,000 prize given in honor of "an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition"? Mullen teaches at UCLA, and the best imaginable description of her work comes from a former long-term resident of Los Angeles, one of my surpassingly favorite writers, Kate Braverman. While utterly singular in their respective gifts, the two women resemble each other in their subversive--if not felonious, even treacherous--phrases and cadences and m [...]

Strong and stimulating in its scrupulous scholarship and passionate determination to show how three famous singers and their many unsung sisters influenced the development of feminism, civil rights, and music during their singing years and long afterward. In the black community and far beyond it. A long section of great value to future students presents the lyrics of all extant recordings of songs by the three featured singers. Which represents a formidable task in itself--listening and re-liste [...]

Another fantastic book by Angela elucidating fascinating, often hidden, aspects of black history and black women's history in particular. Though I think Angela's analysis of Billie Holiday is sometimes a bit tenuous (I feel she's afraid of recognising the humanity of Lady Day and her resultant flaws in a bid to rescue her from the problematic analysis of other writers) her analysis of "Strange Fruit" and the social consciousness of 1920s Blues women is brilliant. Blues music - whilst not explici [...]

Here's something I re-learned in this booka fact I should have known.a woman was the first recorded blues artist. Before Robert Johnson and before Blind Lemon Jefferson, before Albert King and Freddie King and BBB Kingere was Ma Rainey, mother of the blues. Here's what Professor Davis has to say, "The blues realm is all encompassing. In contrast to the condemnatory and censuring character of Christianity, it knows few taboos. As a cultural form that has long been a target for racist-inspired mar [...]

Some very interesting observations about the celebratory nature of the Blues -- sexual freedom, freedom to travel, freedom from slavery -- and an appreciation of the way in which Blues lyrics help to create a feeling of community among women enduring domestic violence and poverty. The earlier chapters, which analyze the oeuvres of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey are quite powerful and full of insight, though I found the later ones concerning Billie Holiday weaker and largely focused on the single son [...]

What a great premise - Angela Davis writing on the great blueswomen as precursors of black feminism. Just over half of this book is devoted to her studies of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. Arguably 200 pages is not enough, and while her analysis is sound, it feels a bit rushed. There could perhaps have been more background material on the blues era, and a more detailed explanation of Holiday's status as a transitional figure. Even Nina Simone could be included to make the circle fro [...]

2016 Reading Challenge - A book written by a celebrityWhile Angela Davis isn't your typical celebrity, she is a star of the academic world, and the subjects of her work in this book were celebrities, so I figured this book could fill the category.This book is a wonderful exploration of women Blues musicians and how the exemplified Black feminism of the day. Angela Davis sheds light on many aspects of the art form I was unfamiliar. I recommend the book for anyone who is a fan of one/some/all of t [...]

In this text, Davis exams the many facets in which Rainey, Smith, and Holiday are still relevant in any discourse involving Black American music, history, and feminism. These women and their artistry transformed the sociocultural way in which we examine and experience music, sexuality, love, and on a massive scale cross-cultural communication and issues of social justice. To get a crash course in post-slavery America at the turn of the century and many of the social justice issues that terrorize [...]

Conceptually this book shines, charging headfirst into confronting racial and sexual politics through the medium of black music placed in its social context. The ultimate execution is not so effective. The bulk of the book is actually a transcript of lyrics by the titular artists, which I found baffling and not at all helpful; if Davis had concentrated on analyzing the subtexts rather than the actual texts, this would have achieved a better purpose, more effectively. I can't help but feeling thi [...]

This important and intriguing book does a deep dive into the work of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith [with one chapter one Billie Holiday at the end that feels a bit tacked on]. By examining both the lyrics and the context and lives of these performers, Davis shows how these performers engaged with and addressed important issues in their community, both personal political. Five stars for the ideas, theories and arguments. Four stars for the fact that the arguments weren't *that* well-substantiated, a [...]

I originally read this book ten years ago in perhaps the most appropriate setting imaginable: on the job at a pseudo-old timey tourist trap of a coffee shop on Beale Street, Memphis TN. I'm happy to say that upon rereading, this book is as important to me now as it was then, as a Memphian, as a girl raised on the blues, and as a feminist. Recommended for anyone who doubts the contributions that black women have made to popular music, and especially to anyone who doesn't.


  • [PDF] ✓ Free Download ✓ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday : by Angela Y. Davis ✓
    389 Angela Y. Davis
  • thumbnail Title: [PDF] ✓ Free Download ✓ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday : by Angela Y. Davis ✓
    Posted by:Angela Y. Davis
    Published :2018-08-04T18:30:10+00:00