Cover image for "Looking up at down" : the emergence of blues culture
"Looking up at down" : the emergence of blues culture
Barlow, William, Bishop of Lincoln, -1613.
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
xii, 404 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes indexes.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library ML3521 .B36 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Frank E. Merriweather Library ML3521 .B36 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



Takes a cultural and historic look at the evolution of the blues from post-Reconstruction to the 1920s.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Musical favorites such as "Midnight Special" and "Frankie & Johnny" take on new dimensions in this impressive cultural history of the emergence and evolution of the blues from post-Reconstruction to the 1920s. While agreeing with other historians that blues musicians were musical innovators, Barlow asserts that they were also cultural rebels, the creators of a musical genre that resisted white cultural domination both in form and content. Like the blues themselves, Barlow's text is most vibrant and provocative when he uses the lyrics to illustrate the powerful impact the music had on the musicians and their audiences. To be indexed. --Micaela Sullivan-Fowler

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this encyclopedic work of interest to specialists rather than general readers, Barlow, who teaches radio, television and film at Howard University, traces the blues as music and culture from its origins on cotton plantations in the 1890s through migration to urban ghettos in the 1920s, to its commercialization in today's recording studios. Basing much of his study on interviews with blues musicians and scholars, Barlow analyzes the music and examines in depth the lives of the men and women who wrote and performed it. He devotes sections to the major blues personalities and includes numerous examples of lyrics, demonstrating that the blues, a powerful emotional outlet for an oppressed people, also tells the story of African-American resistance to white domination. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Many books have been written about the blues, but few with the depth and comprehensiveness of this one. Barlow (radio, television, and film, Howard Univ.) divides his subject into rural and urban blues. Whether exploring the Chicago Blues, the Memphis Blues, or the St. Louis Blues, he makes good use of rare recordings, oral histories, and interviews to trace the genre's powerful emergence. The book offers a fresh view of the way the blues helped Afro-Americans survive in a hostile social environment. This cultural and musical history is an important balance to the more biographical approach of books like Barry Lee Pearson's Sounds So Good to Me: The Bluesman's Story (Univ. of Pennsylvania Pr., 1984).-- Daniel J. Lombardo, Jones Lib., Inc., Amherst, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Barlow traces the development of blues from the 1890s, when the term "blues" began to have a standard meaning, through the 1940s, by which time a new phase in blues history had been entered in urban centers across the US. In Part 1 Barlow explores the folk roots of the blues, then describes the regional styles of rural blues that arose in the Mississippi Delta, in East Texas, and in the Piedmont. Part 2 deals with the change in blues as the music and its practitioners moved to cities in the South, Southwest, Midwest, and, the most important center of urban blues, Chicago. The conclusion is an excellent overview of blues activity since the mid-1940s, and it perhaps lays the groundwork for a future volume. Barlow presents the lives and contributions of a large number of blues artists, both well known and obscure. He also describes a large body of the music. His primary concern, though, is with the importance of blues in a broader cultural context and, especially, with how its content and practice reflected the attitudes of African Americans in a society dominated by whites. Blues lyrics are extensively quoted. The volume is prolifically documented from an extremely wide variety of sources. Highly recommended for all collections of cultural history, undergraduate and up. -K. R. Dietrich, Ripon College

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