Search The Blues Historian Website With Google

Google
 

Send Me Your Blues News

Contact me at
bluesman2001@hotmail.com


Link Exchange

If you have a website, and would like to exchange links just email me at the above address.

The Iowa Blues Showcase is on the AIR

Download the latest podcast on ITUNES

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blind Tom Wiggins

Just received this from email. Just thought you might find this interesting.


THE BALLAD OF BLIND TOM
Slave Pianist, America's Lost Musical Genius
(Overlook Press, 2009)

Cover of Ballad of Blind Tom

RJ SMITH, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
Tom's is a story with
bottomless complexity, touching on race and sanity and slavery and art. But ultimately his life makes us think about what it means to be human.


JON BLACK, LIVING BLUES MAGAZINE
An exciting narrative full of powerful visual imagery. An irresistible read.
PROF ALLAN SNYDER, CENTER FOR THE MIND
An incredibly rich insight into the period as well as the man.
TERRY SCHLICHMEYER, OUR WEEKLY

If you’re an avid reader of African American history or a student of early American entertainment, you’ll want this book.

CALIFORNIA BOOKWATCH
A compelling story suitable for any music history collection
ROY TRAKIN, SONICBOOMERS
Meticulously researched and footnoted...a remarkable tale.

JOHN DAVIS, PIANIST
Wonderful...Goes a long was towards putting Wiggins career in proper perspective.



Purchase The Ballad of Blind Tom at Amazon.com
.

DISCOVER A SLAVE PIANIST & AUTISTIC SAVANT

"I am astounded. I cannot account for it, no one can. No one understands it," a St Louis man uttered after watching Blind Tom perform in concert in 1866. Few other performers on the nineteenth century stage aroused as much curiosity as "Blind Tom" Wiggins. Born a slave in Georgia in 1848, by the time he died Hoboken in 1908, he was an international celebrity and his name was a byword for inexplicable genius.

Blind Tom possessed extraordinary musical gifts. He had an encyclopedic memory and could imitate, either vocally or musically, any sound he heard. These bewildering powers rocketed him to fame, though no one could agree whether he was a legitimate concert pianist or a glorified sideshow freak.

For the first time, author Deirdre O'Connell pieces together the two worlds of Blind Tom Wiggins: the brutally racist society in which he lived and the symphony inside his head.



WHAT CRITICS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BALLAD OF BLIND TOM

R.J. Smith, Los Angeles Times
The name Blind Tom means nothing today, but in Civil War-era America, he was one of the greatest music stars going. Sightless, African American, he was born into slavery and was probably autistic. He was afraid of strangers and clung to his guardians. He would slap those who laughed at him and shove women off the piano bench when their playing offended him.

Whooping and sputtering, he would twist his body into knots, standing on one foot and leaning forward, hopping around the room in fits of vigor broken up by somersaults and twirls. He ate with his hands, when he didn't put his face down into his food. And he was called a genius by those who heard him play the piano. Blind Tom had freakish listening skills and an amazing talent for reproducing what he heard. He could play back complicated music he'd listened to but once; he could translate the external phenomena that transfixed him -- rainstorms, trains, sewing machines -- into impressionistic musical fantasies...
Tom's is a story with bottomless complexity, touching on race and sanity and slavery and art. But ultimately, his life makes us think about what it means to be human.

Such material is catnip for a theory-driven writer. Thankfully, Deirdre O'Connell isn't one. In The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist she lays bare the ambiguities and leaves most of them at that. Few books ask as many questions, yet while too many questions can leave us begging for resolution, O'Connell mostly gets out of the way. She airs the unknowable stuff -- but then gets on to the next chapter of this all-but-forgotten mystery man's brilliant career.


Jon Black, Living Blues Magazine
The improbable rise to fame and fascinating but tragic personal life of this largely forgotten American musician is the subject of The Ballad Of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist. Ballad is the creation of Australian writer and filmmaker Deirdre O'Connell. Her previous works include a documentary film for the Jimi Hendrix estate. On The Ballad Of Blind Tom O'Connell's skill as a filmmaker has served her well - she has created an exciting narrative text full of powerful visual imagery.


Sonic Boomers' Roy Trakin reviews The Ballad of Blind Tom and selects it for his Half-Years Best
O'Connell's expert research traces the origins of the blind Civil War era slave, classical pianist prodigy and expert mimic who became one of the country's most celebrated entertainers, with a blend of savagery and unexpected brilliance that made him the forerunner of everyone from Ray Charles to Susan Boyle.

Fresh Air's Rock 'n' Roll Historian, Ed Ward

It's a credit she manages to sugar-coat the pill of the horrid story of Tom's exploitation and brutalization enough to keep the reader on the page.


Mary Fitzgerald, The Observer (UK)

The musical genius of Thomas Wiggins was feted by Mark Twain and Willa Cather during his lifetime, by Dizzy Gillespie after his death, and mimicked by countless impersonators. He was the first African-American ever to perform at the White House. Yet he has since faded into obscurity...

It's a story full of contradictions and confusion. According to 19th-century white planter ideology, Tom was "sub-human"; according to African-American folklore, he was a "spirit child" blessed with the gift of "second sight"; according to more recent interpretations, he was an autistic savant. The greatest strength of this book is that it sides with none of these views. Instead, O'Connell embraces all "the holes, contradictions, outright lies and distortions and the tiny nuggets of truth" and reimagines the cacophony Tom might have heard in the turbulent world that surrounded him.


Publisher's Weekly
O’Connell’s vivid, carefully researched narrative reflects the tenor of the times, the culture of the Old South, the chaos of emancipation and Blind Tom’s single-minded devotion to his performances.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deirdre O'Connell is an Australian writer and filmmaker, who has worked for the
Jimi Hendrix Estate with Alan Douglas and Peter Neal plus underground artist, Martin Sharp and author, Robert Lawlor. A number of her documentaries on environmental issues have been broadcast on the BBC. She continues to work in broadcasting and community cultural development.


To find out more about Blind Tom Wiggins,
visit www.blindtom.org

No comments: