Categories
Music Suggestions

Singing the Perfectionist-Folkie Blues

I don’t know much about Alan Lomax, other than he was the son of John Lomax, another famous ethnomusicologist, and that he collected musical artifacts. This biography sounds interesting…

I don’t know much about Alan Lomax, other than he was the son of John Lomax, another famous ethnomusicologist, and that he collected musical artifacts, and hung out with Bob Dylan. This biography sounds interesting…

Years later, when they had gotten to know each other, Mr. Szwed accompanied Mr. Lomax to the Village Gate to hear Professor Longhair. The set began with “Jambalaya.” Lomax vanished. And then, as Mr. Szwed writes in his keenly appreciative, enormously detailed new Lomax biography, “I felt something brush by my leg, and when I looked down there was Alan crawling on the floor toward the bandstand so as to stay out of people’s vision.” Lomax reached the edge of the stage, knelt worshipfully until the set was over and then pronounced Longhair the greatest folk musician in the Western world.

Alan Lomax had astounding energy and enthusiasm. He was both an exhaustive and exhausting force in American music for almost 70 years. When he died in 2002, he left behind at least the following, which Mr. Szwed has dauntlessly tackled as source material: 5,000 hours of sound recordings; 400,000 feet of film; 2,450 videotapes; 2,000 books and journals; numerous prints, documents and databases; and more than 120 linear feet of paperwork. It’s not hard to see why detractors called Lomax “The People’s Republic of Me.”

On the evidence of “Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World” his enemies and admirers were equally well armed. Lomax may not have courted controversy, but his work and methods made argument inevitable.

(click here to continue reading John Szwed’s Biography of Alan Lomax – Review – NYTimes.com.)

 

1 reply on “Singing the Perfectionist-Folkie Blues”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.