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Mahalia Jackson, Lead Belly, Paul Robeson, and Jazz: Our Newest Acquisitions

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The NLS Music Section recently acquired audio materials produced by Smithsonian Folkways.

I would like to introduce and expand upon four new audio titles that are now available to our patrons. We are excited about these titles because we have added a new braille element to some of our audio. Read more about our new Smithsonian Folkways acquisitions — and our process of adding braille — at this previous blog post. All accompanying liner notes with these titles are narrated on the recording — done by our in house recording studio — and, are available digitally on the cartridge itself or downloaded from BARD. Patrons may use personal braille aware devices to access the liner notes on their own, or we are always happy to send an embossed copy along with the recording as well. 

Portrait of Mahalia Jackson, with left hand resting on face.
Photo of Lead Belly, seated with an accordion, 1942. Image is a contact sheet with four different poses.
Photo of Lead Belly, seated with an accordion, 1942. Image is a contact sheet with four different poses.

I Sing Because I’m Happy – Mahalia Jackson. This gospel title contains songs performed by Mahalia Jackson, with interview material conducted by Jules Schwerin. It was originally produced in 1992 by Oxford University Press to accompany Schwerin’s book, Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel. Book number, DBM 03638.

Bourgeois Blues – Lead Belly. One of my personal favorites (also seen spelled “Leadbelly”), commonly associated with playing the 12-string guitar, is showcased and discussed in this book with liner notes by another notable figure, Woody Guthrie. Book number, DBM 03641.

A History of Jazz: the New York Scene – edited by Samuel B. Charters. The title of this recording says it all; it is about Jazz, exciting! It is both a narrative and a musical experience.  It begins with early acoustic recordings from 1914 and 1917. In 1920 American Popular Blues singer Mamie Smith — who sang with vernacular traditions from America’s past — paved the way for what the industry termed “race records.” You will hear Smith sing, Crazy Blues,” the iconic song that made the industry take notice when it sold thousands of copies. Artist and Repertoire men were in business. The commercialization of music was taking shape. I find A History of Jazz’s publication date, 1961, compelling and historically significant. Through a reading of the liner notes, listeners experience the view of jazz at that time, as well as hear the music first hand. There is an abundance of information to learn here. Book number, DBM 03615.

Photo of Paul Robeson, at the Watergate for Russian war anniversary benefit
Photo of Paul Robeson, at the Watergate in Washington, DC, June 1942.

The Collector’s Paul Robeson. Using language straight from the publisher, “The distinction of Paul Robeson as a singer does not lie in the physical range of his voice, but in the range of feeling which moves the singer in his choice of songs…When asked to discuss himself, Robeson has frequently said that he feels that the songs he sings are more expressive of his exact feelings than anything he can articulate about himself in words. Robeson has sung to the world not for the sake of individual fame, but to communicate to the world through song.” Book number, DBM 03613.

I hope that you will check out these new selections, and enjoy them!


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