Longing, Prison, Addiction, and the Enduring Present
This chapter examines the phenomenon of waiting and, in particular, the extreme experience of prison time doing hard labor in the Jim Crow South. The forms of waiting that are created musically echo the tension experienced both by loved ones waiting for someone’s return and by the prisoner enduring the unbearable cruelty of time at Parchman Farm or as a leased convict. The discussion culminates in an analysis of the “extreme present” of enduring physical and emotional pain echoed in blues that depict the experience of addiction and withdrawal, tying together the temporality of waiting with attempts to limit suffering by dwelling in the present. Key to the argument are analyses of Muddy Waters’s “Long Distance Call,” Bessie Smith’s “In the House Blues,” and Tommy Johnson’s “Canned Heat Blues.”
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