The women who broke the rules, creating their own legacy of how to live and sing the blues.
Originally conceived as a U.C.-Berkeley doctoral dissertation, this thoughtful, fluent book contends that female blues singers, through their creative innovations, artistic successes and unconventional lifestyles, have inspired American women to express their individuality for decades. Jackson shows how high-spirited blues exponents Ma Rainey (later deemed the "Godmother of the Blues") and Bessie Smith ("a legend in her own time") set the stage in the early 20th century by celebrating their unconventionality, bisexuality, and racial pride; they were also instrumental in opening up the recording industry to African-Americans. Then came Billie Holiday, who radiated a darker but equally rebellious persona; Etta James, who flaunted her sexuality and reveled in scandalous behavior; Aretha Franklin, who championed the rights of women and minorities; and Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, who carried the blues idiom into the world of rock 'n' roll. Other singers Jackson discusses (Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, Whitney Houston, Patti Smith, Lauryn Hill, Courtney Love) are not necessarily blues singers in the traditional sense, but they are, she says, the inheritors of the blues women's legacy of female empowerment. By celebrating the genre's "bad women" as forces for positive social change, Jackson gives blues fans a refreshing new perspective. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Gary Morris. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.