A Bad Woman Feeling Good


Winner of the American Library Association Social Responsibility Roundtable Award and Finalist for the ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

"A stunning achievement....lucid and compelling, much like the eloquent voices Buzzy Jackson manages to capture." 

Leon F. Litwack, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery

Buzzy Jackson combines biography, an appreciation of music, and a sweeping view of American history to illuminate the pivotal role of blues women in a powerful musical tradition. A strong lineage of women singers—originating with Ma Rainey and her protégée Bessie Smith—shaped the blues, launching it as a powerful, expressive vehicle of emotional liberation. Along with their successors Billie Holiday, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin, they injected a dose of reality into the often trivial world of popular song, bringing their message of higher expectations and broader horizons to their audiences. These women passed their image, their rhythms, and their toughness on to the next generation of blues women, which has its contemporary incarnation in singers like Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams (with whom the author has done an in-depth interview).

Musician Thomas Dorsey said, "The blues is a good woman feeling bad." But these women show by their style that he had it backward: The blues is a bad woman feeling good.

Praise for A Bad Woman Feeling Good:

"Jackson shows a wide, easy familiarity with the history of the blues and, indeed, with the history of American popular culture. Clearly, she has listened to lots of sides, read lots of magazines and books, thought long and hard about the genesis of the blues and of its many later manifestations...she clearly sees a dark blue thread connecting the music with the lives of the women who sang it. A well-researched analysis of the women who created an enduring cultural phenomenon."  - Kirkus Reviews

"By celebrating the genre's 'bad women' as forces for positive social change, Jackson gives blues fans a refreshing new perspective." - Publishers Weekly