Sunday Reading RoomDem ol' kosmic blues again
BOOK REVIEW BY CHARLES TAYLOR
March 6, 2005
A BAD WOMAN FEELING GOOD: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them, by Buzzy Jackson. Norton, 319 pp., $25.95.
In "A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them," Buzzy Jackson fails to give any sense of what the singers she is writing about - Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Etta James and Aretha Franklin among them - mean to her. Jackson's less-than-generic theme is that the blues allowed women a way of escaping stultifying racial and gender roles. To this end, Jackson mixes biographical sketches of the artists with the sort of by-the-numbers social history that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of A&E's "Biography":
This boilerplate blandness would be forgivable if Jackson had dug into the music of the women for whom she obviously cares, had found a way to make it live on the page. Part of the problem with "A Bad Woman Feeling Good" is that it began life as Jackson's master's thesis, and it still bears the strictures of academic writing.