I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy by Bob Riesman - review by William Palmer

William Palmer

When the Levee Breaks

I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy


University of Chicago Press 308pp £18 order from our bookshop

Blues music emerged at the start of the twentieth century from the most disadvantaged people in the poorest part of the United States, the Deep South. The lives of the uneducated men and women from the black working class who were its singers went largely unrecorded. Only a few achieved fame and much of the writing about them is riddled with speculation and romantic invention. I Feel So Good is the first full biography of one of these major figures.

Big Bill Broonzy was born in 1903 into a large and extremely poor family of share croppers in Arkansas. Bob Riesman points out how music surrounded Broonzy in his childhood – as home-made entertainment, in church, and in the songs and ‘hollers’ that accompanied back-breaking work. The very

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