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Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis

Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis

Although the Reverend Gary Davis was one of the greatest blues and ragtime guitarists of the twentieth century, he has not yet received the widespread recognition that contemporaries such as Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson have been able to attain. This is not to say tha... read full description below.

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Quick Reference

ISBN 9780226380988
Published 15 March 2016 by The University of Chicago Pres
Format Trade Paperback/Paperback
Alternate Format(s) View All (1 other possible title(s) available)
Author(s) By Zack, Ian
Availability Internationally sourced (OOS locally); ships 6-12 working days

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Full details for this title

ISBN-13 9780226380988
ISBN-10 022638098X
Stock Available
Status Internationally sourced (OOS locally); ships 6-12 working days
Publisher The University of Chicago Pres
Imprint University of Chicago Press
Publication Date 15 March 2016
International Publication Date 17 May 2016
Publication Country United States United States
Format Trade Paperback/Paperback
Author(s) By Zack, Ian
Category Composers & Musicians
Blues music
Biography & Autobiography: Film, Television, Music, Theatre
Number of Pages 341
Dimensions Width: 152mm
Height: 229mm
Spine: 25mm
Weight 590g
Interest Age General Audience
Reading Age General Audience
Library of Congress Guitarists - United States, Blues musicians - United States, Musicians, Black - United States, Davis, Gary
NBS Text Biography: The Arts
ONIX Text General/trade
Dewey Code 787.87163092
Catalogue Code Not specified

Description of this Book

Who was the greatest of all American guitarists? You probably didn t name Gary Davis, but many of his musical contemporaries considered him without peer. Bob Dylan called Davis one of the wizards of modern music. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead who took lessons with Davis claimed his musical ability transcended any common notion of a bluesman. And the folklorist Alan Lomax called him one of the really great geniuses of American instrumental music. But you won t find Davis alongside blues legends Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite almost universal renown among his contemporaries, Davis lives today not so much in his own work but through covers of his songs by Dylan, Jackson Browne, and many others, as well as in the untold number of students whose lives he influenced. The first biography of Davis, Say No to the Devil restores the Rev s remarkable story. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with many of Davis s former students, Ian Zack takes readers through Davis s difficult beginning as the blind son of sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South to his decision to become an ordained Baptist minister and his move to New York in the early 1940s, where he scraped out a living singing and preaching on street corners and in storefront churches in Harlem. There, he gained entry into a circle of musicians that included, among many others, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and Dave Van Ronk. But in spite of his tremendous musical achievements, Davis never gained broad recognition from an American public that wasn t sure what to make of his trademark blend of gospel, ragtime, street preaching, and the blues. His personal life was also fraught, troubled by struggles with alcohol, women, and deteriorating health. Zack chronicles this remarkable figure in American music, helping us to understand how he taught and influenced a generation of musicians.

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Awards, Reviews & Star Ratings

NZ Review Davis was a complex and difficult man, and it is to Zack s great credit that this comes through, along with the obvious admiration so many young musicians had for the Rev. Say No to the Devil provides plenty of material to interest fans and newcomers alike. --Elijah Wald

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Author's Bio

Ian Zack is a New York-based journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, and Acoustic Guitar. He worked as a concert booker for one of the oldest folk venues in New York, the Good Coffeehouse, where he got to know some of Davis's students.

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