Wake Up Dead Man
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Wake Up Dead Man

Hard Labor and Southern Blues

Edited by Bruce Jackson

Title Details

Pages: 352

Illustrations: 24 b&w photos, 65 songs

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 12/15/1999

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2158-5

List Price: $34.95

Wake Up Dead Man

Hard Labor and Southern Blues

Edited by Bruce Jackson

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Making it in Hell, says Bruce Jackson, is the spirit behind the sixty-five work songs gathered in this eloquent dispatch from a brutal era of prison life in the Deep South. Through engagingly documented song arrangements and profiles of their singers, Jackson shows how such pieces as "Hammer Ring," "Ration Blues," "Yellow Gal," and "Jody's Got My Wife and Gone" are like no other folk music forms: they are distinctly African in heritage, diminished in power and meaning outside their prison context, and used exclusively by black convicts.

The songs helped workers through the rigors of cane cutting, logging, and cotton picking. Perhaps most important, they helped resolve the men's hopes and longings and allowed them a subtle outlet for grievances they could never voice when face-to-face with their jailers.

A monument to a musical tradition that will soon disappear . . . Many of the early blues singers . . . served as callers on work gangs, and their music was certainly influenced by this experience.

—William R. Ferris Jr., Journal of American Folklore

Beautiful and affecting . . . Perhaps the songs are valuable not only because of their artistic worth but because they remind us of something most important in society that no one can quantify—how much everybody owes to things people give each other for nothing, such as songs.

New Yorker

It is difficult to imagine that anyone concerned about the human spirit in extremis could be unmoved by [this volume].

Times Literary Supplement

A magnificent musical tradition . . . [Wake Up Dead Man] contributes to our knowledge of a little-known part of American life.

Library Journal

There is great beauty in the simple, honest outpouring of human spirit in the texts and melodies of these songs. . . . Jackson has done great service.

—Willard Rhodes, Ethnomusicology

A thorough, socially responsible, sensitive, and scholarly presentation.

—Bess Lomax Hawes, American Anthropologist

About the Author/Editor

BRUCE JACKSON is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture at the State University of New York at Buffalo and former president of the American Folklore Society.