Dealing With Hard Times The American Way: In Song–LISTEN–
The arc of American culture can be found in the nation’s music. Author Tom Piazza shares that story in his new collection of essays, called Devil Sent the Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America.
Piazza starts with a meditation on the blues.
“Within that musical form, you’ll find a series of strategies for dealing with, I guess you could say, hard times,” he tellsWeekend Edition guest host John Ydstie.
Often the lyrics focus on the hard times, Piazza says, but the music underneath the lyrics “is anything but downhearted.”
Early blues artist Charley Patton’s song “Devil Sent the Rain” is the inspiration for the book’s title. Piazza says Patton is regarded as one of the founders of Delta blues. One technique Patton uses, as heard in his song, “When Your Way Gets Dark,” is using different voices to make it sound as if there are multiple people performing at once.
“[That] kind of inner dialogue is actually an astonishingly sophisticated musical — and discursive, even — mind at work,” Piazza says. “Actually, it’s a very literary thing.”