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Debra Devi
Debra Devi is a rock musician and the author of the award-winning blues glossary The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu , "one of the wittiest, bawdiest, most fascinating dictionaries ever" (Reuters).

Entries by Debra Devi

Can the Blues Rescue the Mississippi Delta? Part 3

(13) Comments | Posted March 26, 2013 | 4:27 PM

This is the third and final article in this series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

On my Mississippi Delta book tour for The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu I met people working together to develop a blues tourism...

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Can the Blues Rescue the Mississippi Delta? Part 2

(15) Comments | Posted March 19, 2013 | 9:05 AM

This is the second article of this series. Read Part 1 here.

By the mid-1920s, a million African Americans lived in Mississippi -- a half-million concentrated in the Delta. Through hard work and sacrifice, families freed themselves from sharecropping's imprisoning cycle of debt. The men took to the...

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Can the Blues Rescue the Mississippi Delta? Part 1

(14) Comments | Posted March 11, 2013 | 5:15 PM

This is the first article of a four-part series.

"How has the recession affected the Mississippi Delta?" I asked American Blues Scene magazine editor-in-chief Matt Marshall as we tooled down Highway 61 from Memphis airport toward Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center in Tunica MS....

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Why Is the Blues Called the 'Blues'?

(38) Comments | Posted January 4, 2013 | 2:30 PM

Why is blues music called "the blues"? The name of this great American music probably originated with the 17th-century English expression "the blue devils," for the intense visual hallucinations that can accompany severe alcohol withdrawal. Shortened over time to "the blues," it came to mean a state of agitation or...

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Robert Johnson and the Myth of the Illiterate Bluesman

(34) Comments | Posted June 28, 2012 | 11:12 AM

How often have you heard that old saw about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at midnight on a Delta crossroads? It all started because of Johnson's uncanny mastery of the guitar. A small-boned man with long, slightly webbed fingers, Johnson earned respect and kept fights at bay...

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Possessed: Voodoo's Origins and Influence from the Blues to Britney

(20) Comments | Posted May 16, 2012 | 4:46 PM

Blissed-out, ecstatic union with our divine selves -- we seek it at raves and rock concerts, and in the desert with the Burning Man. I try to get there when I'm jamming with my band -- but I didn't realize until I wrote The Language of the Blues:...

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Bessie Smith: Music's Original, Bitchinest Bad Girl

(83) Comments | Posted April 25, 2012 | 11:40 AM

What hugely popular female singer beat a rival unconscious, slept with her musical director, seduced her female backup dancers (driving one of them to attempt suicide), had drag queens following her on tour, frequented live sex shows and orgies, and mortified New York society by telling a wealthy fan to...

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The Real Story Behind Howlin' Wolf's 'Killing Floor'

(75) Comments | Posted April 3, 2012 | 1:05 PM

Howlin' Wolf lead guitarist Hubert Sumlin was the first blues legend I snagged an interview with for my book, The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu. Even though Sumlin (who passed away last December at age 80) was the soul of kindness, with courtly...

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Dirty Words and Gender Switching in the Blues

(62) Comments | Posted March 22, 2012 | 4:54 PM

White Chicago blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield got the shock of his young life when he was traveling to a gig with his hero Muddy Waters, and Waters started talking about how much he loved to suck cock. It took a while for Bloomfield to figure out that Waters was using...

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