• Title: Where Dead Voices Gather
  • Author: Nick Tosches
  • ISBN: 9780316895378
  • Page: 283
  • Format: Paperback
  • Where Dead Voices Gather A forgotten singer from the early days of jazz is at the center of this riveting book a narrative that is part mystery part biography part meditation on the meaning and power of music
    A forgotten singer from the early days of jazz is at the center of this riveting book a narrative that is part mystery, part biography, part meditation on the meaning and power of music.

    One Reply to “Where Dead Voices Gather”

    1. I finished Where Dead Voices Gather by Nick Tosches this afternoon. I had more issues with this text than any other by the deft stylist. I was reading deep into last night, when I took out Carter Family disc I bought myself recently and replaced it with an early Gilian Welch (my wife rose from her slumber and deadpanned, there she is again, my rival.) Tosches extends a nod, the gist of which is the cathartic of song has been with us eternally, like some airborne Dutchman, yet the idea of minstre [...]

    2. This book is ostensibly a biography of Emmett Miller, a blackface minstrel show performer whose "clarinet voice" inspired people like Jimmy Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Merle Haggard. Those bits are fine, especially if you're obsessive about the dates of shows and recording sessions, which are meticulously documented. Much more interesting to me were Tosche's detours into obscure byways of American music and pop culture, the Homeric tradition, and even ancient Jewish mysticism. It's like having a [...]

    3. Tosches is a singular writer -- feisty, cerebral, surprising, curmudgeonly -- and this is a singular book, about his attempts to unearth the lost history of Emmett Miller, one of the last of the blackface minstrels, and a pioneer of yodeling in American popular song to boot. The roots of that music during this time period -- roughly the second and third decade of the 20th century -- are especially tangled, with the spread of recording technology meaning everyone can influence everyone else. But [...]

    4. Not that I particularly care, but this is a 3.5-star book if there ever was one.I find Tosches really frustrating. Hellfire is just jaw-droppingly good on every level, and seems all the more impressive the more of Tosches' other work I read. Where Dead Voices Gather is, I think, mostly excellent, and a really timely read in these days where "cultural appropriation" is so frequently derided by people who simultaneously claim to prize and desire "diversity."This is, uh, not to suggest that blackfa [...]

    5. As the conversation around cultural appropriation and race in America continues, this book is becoming even more relevant. As expected, Tosches makes unexpected cultural connections and comes to sometimes shocking conclusions. Personally, I found that I had to put my politics and preconceived notions aside and take it all in before I could process the ideas and history presented (some of which I'm still not on board with, but feel a deeper understanding for having them presented so compellingly) [...]

    6. If you are looking for a pool of historical materials on jazz and blues, this book has a lot!This also introduces me to Emmet Miller, an unsung hero. A rockstar of his time.

    7. Nick runs down names and places, labels and producers, songs and dances, etc. to the point that sections of the book bring to mind the Iliad's catalog of the ships. These sections are valuable as reference though, and worth the slog for the insights (e.g. his criticism of the white demand for "authentic" blues/suffering; his digressions about modern forms of minstrelsy; the unfathomable depths of origins; his surfeit of creative and poetic juxtapositions; etc.) and the occasional maniacal bursts [...]

    8. I have never seen a man with such a strong capability to go off topic, or despise Elvis Presley so thoroughly. Nick Tosches is an intelligent man who can discuss some very interesting topics. Unfortunately his ability to remember where his argument is going is about as good as a senile old geezer. I really loved the book at first, but Tosches really slows down when he starts rambling in the middle. It's quite painful from then on. He clearly has his obsessions, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jam [...]

    9. added because of this quote, found on a blog:"And, of course, that is what all of this is - all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than [...]

    10. A great book for anyone interested in Western pop music. The book is loosely centered around Emmett Miller, a minstrel singer and comedian who represented the best of the minstrel shows, just as they were dying out. For many of us, Emmett was the guy who best did American standard songs in the minstrel style, a project that truly blended country, blues, vaudeville, Broadway and "folk" tunes into the style that is just now known as Americana, or whatever. A genius drunk, that we don't know much a [...]

    11. Stayed away from this one for a bit because I was admittedly all, "Eh, minstrelsyally? Just not really my thing." But, in typical Tosches fashion, this book was informative as all get-out and full of his patented music-history-acrobatic-act where he'll take a popular song and trace its roots back to some bawdy, 17th century ditty. Structurally, it's all over the place—which the author addresses several times—so it's more "history if it were written as a Faulkner novel." Far out stuff any way [...]

    12. The tale of Georgia-native minstrel singer Emmett Miller done in that distinctly Tosches way. Fascinating story that gives a good history of mistrelsy, a bit of vaudeville and makes the argument why minstrelsy is no more to be abhorred than it's later cousins. In fact, it's when the black face came off that things truly became bad. Miller's distinctive voice influenced Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and many others. The musical style bridged gaps between country, blues, jazz etc. hinting at the [...]

    13. I've read plenty of minstrel history studies, some of which the author savages in the first few pages. What is this? A discography with narration of a crazy quilt of everything from blues, hokum, hillbilly music, and jazz. Congrats to the author who can listen to a lot of records and review old newspaper files. And the alleged subject Emmett Miller? An obscure legend to some - an opportunistic chameleon to others. As a blues fan who's read every book from Charters to Palmer and more, this book i [...]

    14. Blackface minstrelsy would seem to be a delicate topic all these years after its demise, but not for Nick Tosches. He bounces back and forth between the two cultures that built this entertainment form, for decades the most popular performance diversion in the U.S. Whites took from blacks, blacks took from whites, whites took it back again. And so on. A fascinating story that only occasionally gets uncomfortable.

    15. Ostensibly a biography of the long-lost and -forgotten black-face minstrel-turned-jazz singer Emmett Miller, it is a brilliant rumination on mortality and immortality, hidden cultural transmission and mythology. No other writer that I am aware of could so convincingly compare American folk music to Ovid, which Tosches does more than once.

    16. This was a fascinating read, taking a deep dive into the the roots and legacy of minstrel music. It's a thorny issue, since it gets into aspects of American history that people are often cagey about, and Tosches has a way of picking his battles that I don't always agree with, but it invites tons of discussion, and it's a topic well worth discussing.

    17. haven't quite finished this. heavy on historical/discographical info, moments of jaw-dropping lyricism interspersed among the lengthy informational chunks. a worthwhile read for anyone fascinated by the history of the recording industry/pre-war music/minstrelsy/vaudeville/the sea of influence/yadda yadda

    18. The musical history is fascinating, and the book goes so deep that feels like an alternate history laid over our own. But Tosches writes with a chip on his shoulder, daring you to care enough about his subject to be worthy of reading his book, and the self-congratulatory asides and rather bitter sprigs of autobiography spoil the flavor.

    19. Starts as a bunch of names and dates with vague descriptions of their contribution to musical history. Exploring a whole segment of music I wasn't aware of, 'black face'. Slowly becoming awesome and hick. But then reverts to names and dates. I don't get it; occasional savory details for sure, but I ain't gunna eat gravel for a chance to lick steak.

    20. A really well written (must check out more of Tosches work) about the life of Emmett Miller and more so the history of minstrel men and subsequently the history of American music. I always though Hank Williams wrote Lovesick Blues. Who knew Emmett was his "daddy".

    21. my 2nd read of this one (1st was in 2003), this time taking notes! the best music history book i've ever read. somehow connects rock & roll to homer most convincingly. it's important to hear some emmett miller first, though.

    22. The topic is at once appalling and enthralling and the writing is usually excellent but it sometimes falls into the territory of just listing researched facts for the purpose collecting them in one place. That is valid, but not always entertaining.

    23. I love Tosches' style. A great book that really delves deep into the history of music, minstrelsy in particular, and provides a lot of "oh, wow!" moments.

    24. This book would be much better with a cd of the music discussed. So hard to follow without an expert rating on minstrel music

    25. The best book on modern music I've ever read. (He's wrong about the paucity of black people in Britain pre. the 1950s).

    26. Solid, if meandering book.Fascinating to read at this point in my life & with what's going on in the States regarding race.Some more memorable scenes and stories and his writing is top notch.

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