Sunday, April 10, 2011

Really the Blues


Man, I was gone with it ―inspiration’s mammy was with me. And to top it all, I walked down Madison Street one day and what I heard made me think my ears were lying. Bessie Smith was shouting the Downhearted Blues from a record in a music shop. I flew in and bought up every record they had by the mother of the blues ― Cemetery Blues, Bleedin’ Hearted, and Midnight Blues ― then I ran home and listened to them for hours on the victrola. I was put in a trance by Bessie’s mournful stories and the patterns of true harmony in the piano background, full of little runs that crawled up and down my spine like mice. Every note that woman wailed vibrated on the tight strings of my nervous system; every word she sang answered a question I was asking. You couldn't drag me away from that victrola, not even to eat.

from Milton ‘Mezz’ Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe, Really the Blues (1946), as quoted in William Carlos Williams’s Paterson (V.2)

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