Leroy Satchel Paige was the most sensational pitcher ever to throw a baseball. During his years in the Negro Leagues he fine-tuned a pitch so scorching that catchers tried to soften the sting by cushioning their gloves with beefsteaks. His career stats 2,000 wins, 250 shutouts, three victories on the same day are so eye-popping they seem like misprints. But bigotry kept big league teams from signing him until he was forty-two, at which point he helped propel the Cleveland Indians to the World Series. Over a career that spanned four decades, Satchel pitched more baseballs, for more fans, in more ballparks, for more teams, than any player in history. […] Continue reading »
The widespread presence of jazz and blues in African American visual art has long been overlooked. The Hearing Eye makes the case for recognizing the music’s importance, both as formal template and as explicit subject matter. Moving on from the use of iconic musical figures and motifs in Harlem Renaissance art, this groundbreaking collection explores the more allusive — and elusive — references to jazz and blues in a wide range of mostly contemporary visual artists. […] Continue reading »
Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton — we are all familiar with the story of the Delta blues. Fierce, raw voices; tormented drifters; deals with the devil at the crossroads at midnight.
In an extraordinary reconstruction of the origins of the Delta blues, historian Marybeth Hamilton demonstrates that the story as we know it is largely a myth. The idea of something called Delta blues only emerged in the mid-twentieth century, the culmination of a longstanding white fascination with the exotic mysteries of black music.
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Upon being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, Curt Flood, an All-Star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, wanted nothing more than to stay with St. Louis. But his only options were to report to Philadelphia or retire. Instead, Flood sued Major League Baseball for his freedom, hoping to invalidate the reserve clause in his contract, which bound a player to his team for life. […] Continue reading »
Ralph Ellison is justly celebrated for his epochal novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953 and has become a classic of American literature. But Ellisons strange inability to finish a second novel, despite his dogged efforts and soaring prestige, made him a supremely enigmatic figure. In Ralph Ellison: A Biography, Arnold Rampersad skillfully tells the story of a writer whose thunderous novel and astute, courageous essays on race, literature, and culture assure him of a permanent place in our literary heritage. […] Continue reading »
Long recognized as America’s most brilliant jazz writer, the winner of many major awards — including the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award — and author of a highly popular biography of Bing Crosby, Gary Giddins has also produced a wide range of stimulating and original cultural criticism in other fields. With Natural Selection, he brings together the best of these previously uncollected essays, including a few written expressly for this volume. […] Continue reading »
Featuring the complete text of chapter 4 rom “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It”, a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff […] Continue reading »
Featuring the complete text of chapter 1 from “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It,” a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff […] Continue reading »
The 1951 regular season was as good as over. The Brooklyn Dodgers led the New York Giants by three runs with just three outs to go in their third and final playoff game. And not once in major league baseballs 278 preceding playoff and World Series games had a team overcome a three-run deficit in the ninth inning. But New York rallied, and at 3:58 p.m. on October 3, 1951, Bobby Thomson hit a home run off Ralph Branca. The Giants won the pennant. […] Continue reading »
John Hammond is one of the most charismatic figures in American music, a man who put on record much of the music we cherish today. A pioneering producer and talent spotter, Hammond discovered and championed some of the most gifted musicians of early jazz — Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman — and staged the legendary “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall in 1939, which established jazz as America’s indigenous music. Then as jazz gave way to pop and rock Hammond repeated the trick, discovering Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan in his life’s extraordinary second act. […] Continue reading »