Monday, May 11, 2009
Deirdre O'Connell's BALLAD OF BLIND TOM in Pop Matters
Deirdre O'Connell's biography of Blind Tom Wiggins is reviewed in Pop Matters: "This book tells the story of a figure who is all but forgotten today, but who achieved great success in his own lifetime. But Tom’s story is not simply one of talent and success; given his position as a slave, and conditions of autism and blindness, the question of exploitation must of course be explored. Responsibility for Tom was passed between the hands of many individuals, almost all of whom were hoping to profit from him. Enormous sums of money were made from his performances, and very little of this went to Tom himself. Less still was given to his family; his mother died in poverty at the age of a hundred and one. Even when Tom’s novelty began to wear off, and his actual musical ability began to be questioned, money continued to pour in, and his promoters’ urge to profit became uglier, with legal battles ensuing. . . Blind Tom is a biography of a little known personality, and delivers all that such a book should. O’Connell clearly demonstrates that Blind Tom is important not only as a musician, or as a freed slave, but as a key figure in a period of history, when questions of race and equality were being asked more openly, but were still far from resolution. His story is one of music and celebrity, but at its core it is one of humanity."