Give My Poor Heart Ease

Give My Poor Heart Ease

Voices of the Mississippi Blues [With CD (Audio) and DVD]

By William Ferris

University of North Carolina Press, Hardcover, 9780807833254, 302pp.

Publication Date: November 2009

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, folklorist William Ferris toured his home state of Mississippi, documenting the voices of African Americans as they spoke about and performed the diverse musical traditions that form the authentic roots of the blues. Now, "Give My Poor Heart Ease" puts front and center a searing selection of the artistically and emotionally rich voices from this invaluable documentary record. Illustrated with Ferris's photographs of the musicians and their communities and including a CD of original music and a DVD of original film, the book features more than twenty interviews relating frank, dramatic, and engaging narratives about black life and blues music in the heart of the American South.
Here are the stories of artists who have long memories and speak eloquently about their lives, blues musicians who represent a wide range of musical traditions--from one-strand instruments, bottle-blowing, and banjo to spirituals, hymns, and prison work chants. Celebrities such as B. B. King and Willie Dixon, along with performers known best in their neighborhoods, express the full range of human and artistic experience--joyful and gritty, raw and painful.
In an autobiographical introduction, Ferris reflects on how he fell in love with the vibrant musical culture that was all around him but was considered off limits to a white Mississippian during a troubled era. This magnificent volume illuminates blues music, the broader African American experience, and indeed the history and culture of America itself.

About the Author
William Ferris is Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris coedited the "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture" and is the author of "Blues from the Delta". In 1991, "Rolling Stone" magazine named him among the top ten professors in the United States.

Saturday, Oct 31, 2009

Driving his Chevrolet Nova up and down Highway 61 in Mississippi, William Ferris stopped at churches and juke joints and penitentiaries to record the music he found. In his new book, Give My Poor Heart Ease, Ferris explores the legacy of the "The Blues Highway." More at

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