Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World

When The White Stripes were first blowing up and getting national attention, Jack White cited Alan Lomax's book The Land Where The Blues Began as being crucial to his musical development and suggested other young rock-and-roll musicians give it a read. The life and work of Texas born musicologist, author, photographer, producer, political activist Alan Lomax is an inspiration for many well-known folk and rock artists. From 1933 and on into the 1980s, first with his father John and later on his own, Alan Lomax recorded innumerable examples of "rural" or "folk" music performed for the most part by everyday people - laborers, fishermen, maids, and even prisoners - who were usually confused as to why anyone would care about their songs and culture in the first place. He was not alone in his work. John Wesley Work III and Zora Neale Hurston both guided and accompanied Lomax in his travels through the musical and spiritual culture of the Southern states and on into the Caribbean. On his own, Lomax put himself at great personal risk by disregarding the "color lines" drawn throughout the U.S. There's a chilling description in The Land Where The Blues Began of Lomax and his then wife Elizabeth being humiliated before a Mississippi sheriff who took issue with a "foreign agent" and "yankee" spending time with blues musician and former preacher Son House.

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Chris Becker
Contact: Chris Becker