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History of Words

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

Debra Devi | Posted 05.16.2012 | Home
Debra Devi

This was the religion of many slaves brought from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. Vodun was brutally repressed by slave-owners, yet its powerful beats, ethics and aesthetics endured. We owe our concepts of cool, soul and rock and roll to it.

Bessie Smith: Music's Original, Bitchinest Bad Girl

Debra Devi | Posted 04.25.2012 | Arts
Debra Devi

What hugely popular female singer beat a rival unconscious, slept with her musical director, seduced her female backup dancers, frequented live sex shows and mortified New York society by telling a wealthy fan to "get the f*ck away from me"? 1920s blues singer Bessie Smith.

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

Debra Devi | Posted 06.03.2012 | Home
Debra Devi

"Wolf had seven wives. One was named Helen. She shot him with a double barrel shotgun with buckshot. Out the second floor window. This woman, oh man, he wrote that song about her!"

Dirty Words and Gender Switching in the Blues

Debra Devi | Posted 05.22.2012 | Arts
Debra Devi

Africans may have arrived here with nothing, but they enriched and vitalized American language and culture beyond measure. Africans in the Americas became masters of metaphor and euphemism.