Blues People: Negro Music in White America (Paperback)

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Blues People: Negro Music in White America By Leroi Jones Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

In high school I was obsessed with the Beat Poets and recognized this author’s name at a library book sale for likely less than 25 cents. This author is an absolute lotus flower - I had no idea that such an ebullient poet could create a ground-breaking work of historical musicology/sociology. The connections, the structure, of how American musical forms evolved from the physical circumstances and coalescing backgrounds of people moving through time and space was astonishing. I found myself making connections in things I had never imagined.

This work and his subsequent title Black Music (cataloguing the early 60s jazz era) is cited in every book worth its salt written afterward about American popular music. And don’t get me started about how LeRoi Jones became Amiri Baraka, coined the term “Black Power,” revolutionized Black theater, and indelibly impacted spoken word and its intersections with experimental jazz.

This was out of print for a long time - I couldn’t lend out my copy and reasonably expect it to be returned. Now you can buy a copy, read it, lend it out never to be seen again, buy another copy, repeat.

— From Susan's Picks


"A must for all who would more knowledgeably appreciate and better comprehend America's most popular music." — Langston Hughes

"The path the slave took to 'citizenship' is what I want to look at. And I make my analogy through the slave citizen's music—through the music that is most closely associated with him: blues and a later, but parallel development, jazz... [If] the Negro represents, or is symbolic of, something in and about the nature of American culture, this certainly should be revealed by his characteristic music."

So says Amiri Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones) in the Introduction to Blues People, his classic work on the place of jazz and blues in American social, musical, economic, and cultural history. From the music of African slaves in the United States through the music scene of the 1960's, Baraka traces the influence of what he calls "negro music" on white America—not only in the context of music and pop culture but also in terms of the values and perspectives passed on through the music. In tracing the music, he brilliantly illuminates the influence of African Americans on American culture and history.

About the Author

Amiri Baraka, born Leroi Jones in 1934, is a poet, playwright, novelist, critic, and politcal activist. Best known for his highly acclaimed, award-winning play "Dutchman," as well as "The Slave, The Toliet," and numerous poetry collections. He lives in Newark, New Jersey.

Praise For…

"A must for all who would more knowledgeably appreciate and better comprehend America's most popular music, Negro in origin—blues based—but belonging to everybody" — Langston Hughes

"Blues People is American musical history; it is also American cultural, economic, and even emotional history. It traces not only the development of the Negro music which affected white America, but also the Negro values which affected white America." — Library Journal

"Blues People is not only a fresh, incisively instructive reinterpretation of Negro music in America, but it is also crucially relevant."   — Nat Henthoff

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780688184742
ISBN-10: 068818474X
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: January 20th, 1999
Pages: 256
Language: English