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The Man who Recorded the World

by on 3 March, 2010

in Art and Culture, Literature

Writer, musicologist, archivist, singer, DJ, filmmaker, record, radio and TV producer, Alan Lomax was a man of many parts. Without him the history of popular music would have been very different.

Armed with a tape-recorder and his own near-flawless good taste, Lomax spent years travelling the US, particularly the south, recording its heritage of music and song for posterity, bringing to light the talents of performers ranging from Jelly Roll Morton to Leadbelly and Muddy Waters, and crucially influencing generations of musicians from Pete Seeger to the Stones, from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan.

Exiled from the US for seven years in the McCarthy era, his influence on British folk and rock was virtually as profound as on American music. The Stones owed both their existence and their name to Lomax’s discovery Muddy Waters, and without Leadbelly there would have been no skiffle and no Beatles as we know them. His influence continues: recordings made by Lomax are the core of the sound-tracks of “Oh, Brother, Where art Thou?” and “The Gangs of New York”, and even featured, remixed, on “Moby’s Play”. John Szwed’s biography is the first ever of this remarkable and contradictory man (whom he both knew and worked with for ten years); through it Szwed will tell the story of a musical and political era, as he did so successfully in his previous book on Miles Davis and Sun Ra.

Release Date: 05 August 2010

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