“Disaster, Race, & Diaspora” (with Richard Mizelle, Jr.)

Last night turned into this morning turned into this afternoon turned into this evening. I am late in posting this week’s podcast, with Richard Mizelle, Jr. This is the second podcast on the great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which was a focal point of my teaching and reading interest last winter. That was married with a deep dive into the blues. All of which drew me to Mizelle’s book, Backwater Blues: The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination. Mizelle, an historian at the University of Houston, is the author of one of the very coolest lines in academic history. In his introduction he writes: “Contrary to what your parents told you as a kid, there was such a thing as the boogie man. His name was John Lee Hooker.”

This podcast picks up on a number of themes explored in the previous podcast with Susan Scott Parrish. But the discussion turns to questions of public health, diaspora, and, of course, the blues.

Next week: 7 November: “Labour, Environment, & Neoliberalism” (with Erik Loomis)

Previous:

5 September: “Dysfunctional Relationships: Love Songs for Pesticides” (with Michelle Mart)

12 September: “Catastrophic Environmentalism: Histories of the Cold War” (with Jacob Hamblin)

19 September: “Disaster Narratives: Predictions, Preparedness, & Lessons” (with Scott Knowles)

26 September: “Catastrophe in the Age of Revolutions” (with Cindy Ermus)

3 October: “Histories of the Future & the Anthropocene” (with Libby Robin)

10 October: “Günther Anders and the Catastrophic Imagination” (with Jason Dawsey)

17 October: “Convergence: Capitalism, Climate, Catastrophe” (with Andreas Malm)

24 October: “Catastrophic Meanings: Consuming the Great Flood of 1927” (with Susan Scott Parrish)

Catastrophic Meanings: Consuming the Great Flood of 1927 (with Susan Scott Parrish)

This is the first of two “Bedtime Stories” podcasts that use the 1927 Mississippi Flood as their departure point. As I was starting to work on this podcast, I was also preparing to teach my catastrophic history course for the first time. I was also racing through multiple histories of the blues at the same time. Around that time, one of these interests stumbled upon Susan Scott Parrish’s imminently forthcoming book, The Flood Year 1927: A Cultural History. I ordered it immediately. And started reading as soon as it arrived. The reading was a happy balance of work and pleasure: I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but justified it as “work.” I summoned up the courage to e-mail Parrish and ask if she might be willing to submit to an interview on the book.

Susan Scott Parrish is a Professor in the Department of English and the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan. The Flood Year 1927 is a marvellous combination of literary analysis and environmental history.

Next week: 31 October: “Disaster, Race, & Diaspora” (Richard Mizelle, Jr.)

Previous:

5 September: “Dysfunctional Relationships: Love Songs for Pesticides” (with Michelle Mart)

12 September: “Catastrophic Environmentalism: Histories of the Cold War” (with Jacob Hamblin)

19 September: “Disaster Narratives: Predictions, Preparedness, & Lessons” (with Scott Knowles)

26 September: “Catastrophe in the Age of Revolutions” (with Cindy Ermus)

3 October: “Histories of the Future & the Anthropocene” (with Libby Robin)

10 October: “Günther Anders and the Catastrophic Imagination” (with Jason Dawsey)

17 October: “Convergence: Capitalism, Climate, Catastrophe” (with Andreas Malm)

Sitting on Top of the World

sitting_on_top_of_the_world_single_cover

More play with Timeline JS. Maybe it’s the historian in me, but I delight in the subtle evolution of chess theory and song lyrics. Chess: another time. But as a longtime Bob Dylan fan, I’ve long been interested in his capacity to change his own songs, but to draw heavily from a vast array of older musical influences. He is “a thief of thought, not I pray, a stealer of souls,” as he remarked in the liner notes to The Times They Are A-Changin’. If you look carefully through his songbook, however, there is a wealth of footnotes evident in his lyrics. If you play enough old blues or folk or country ballads, you will find no end of material that inspired a song here, a verse there, or even a line.

But this isn’t really about Bob Dylan. Instead, the link below plays a history of the old Mississippi Sheiks’ classic standard, “Sitting on Top of the World.” It’s been covered and revisioned many times over. Listen to the variations, but also pause and consider the lyrical changes, too.

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=19Yk544hn1Mu3ZdfoCCGmso4XW0a30PuZa-U_h-LQiMo&font=Bitter-Raleway&lang=en&initial_zoom=2&height=650