Kimberly Mack at UNLV

KIMBERLY MACK (The University of Toledo) – March 11, 2020
https://www.utoledo.edu/al/english/faculty/mack.html

Big Mama and Amy: Autobiographical Fictions and Addictions
[Big Mama Thornton and Amy Winehouse]
Ham Fine Arts, Room 147
7:00 p.m.

Join Dr. Kimberly Mack for a conversation about two transatlantic blueswomen who create works in the mold of the early-20th-century American blues queen. Focusing on mid-20th-century American blues legend Big Mama Thornton, and the late contemporary English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, this talk considers the ways in which blueswomen talk back to their limiting representations through autobiographical self-expression. In Thornton’s early years, she was dubbed the “New Bessie Smith,” serving as a bridge between the classic blueswomen and contemporary reimaginings of the classic blues queen. Through unconventional autobiographical performances on stage and in interviews, Thornton reclaimed ownership of her work as young white performers such as Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin garnered critical accolades and enjoyed tremendous commercial success covering her songs. The lyrics of Amy Winehouse, too, are part of a tradition of American classic blues expression. In songs such as “You Know I’m No Good” and “Wake Up Alone,” Winehouse’s vocals, lyrics, and performance style engage with music traditionally performed by blacks in the United States and create an alternative autobiography that contests her public persona largely derived from sexist and misogynistic mass-media representations of her life.

Big Mama Thornton (1926–1984)

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