The Art of the Blues

A Visual Treasury of Black Music's Golden Age

Bill Dahl

The Art of the Blues

Bill Dahl

224 pages | 350 color plates | 9 1/2 x 11 | © 2016
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226396699 Published November 2016
This stunning book charts the rich history of the blues, through the dazzling array of posters, album covers, and advertisements that have shaped its identity over the past hundred years. The blues have been one of the most ubiquitous but diverse elements of American popular music at large, and the visual art associated with this unique sound has been just as varied and dynamic. There is no better guide to this fascinating graphical world than Bill Dahl—a longtime music journalist and historian who has written liner notes for countless reissues of classic blues, soul, R&B, and rock albums. With his deep knowledge and incisive commentary—complementing more than three hundred and fifty lavishly reproduced images—the history of the blues comes musically and visually to life.
           
What will astonish readers who thumb through these pages is the amazing range of ways that the blues have been represented—whether via album covers, posters, flyers, 78 rpm labels, advertising, or other promotional materials. We see the blues as it was first visually captured in the highly colorful sheet music covers of the early twentieth century. We see striking and hard-to-find label designs from labels big (Columbia) and small (Rhumboogie). We see William Alexander’s humorous artwork on postwar Miltone Records; the cherished ephemera of concert and movie posters; and Chess Records’ iconic early albums designed by Don Bronstein, which would set a new standard for modern album cover design.
           
What these images collectively portray is the evolution of a distinctively American art form. And they do so in the richest way imaginable. The result is a sumptuous book, a visual treasury as alive in spirit as the music it so vibrantly captures.
Review Quotes
Bobby Reed | DownBeat
Art of the Blues provides a fascinating visual documentation of the music industry as well as insight into American culture. It’s difficult to quickly flip through this beautiful book because there are so many compelling images that deserve a closer look, whether it’s a publicity portrait of a young Etta James (taken by Hollywood photographer John E. Reed) or the 78 label of ‘Adam Bit the Apple,’ recorded by Big Joe Turner for Houston’s Freedom Recording Co., which used the Statue of Liberty as part of its graphics.”
 
Jive Talk
“The great detail and high quality of hundreds of reproductions are a delight for blues fans and record collectors alike.”
 
PopMatters
The Art of the Blues celebrates the visual swagger of the blues simply for the sheer joy of those visuals. Dahl’s exhaustive book, resplendent in a handsome crimson cover that’s littered with a collage of artwork from the world of blues, is a rich tapestry of how art was used to push the blues as an undisputed king of music in its 20th century heyday.”
 
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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