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Charley Patton: The Conscience of the Delta

Charley Patton: The Conscience of the Delta

(p.23) Charley Patton: The Conscience of the Delta
Charley Patton
David Evans
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter highlights certain aspects of Charley Patton's life and personality to provide a better understanding of the social context of his life and music. It is based largely on the internal evidence in Patton's songs that contain biographical details and allusions and on interviews with his relatives and associates, particularly his sister Viola Cannon, his niece Bessie Turner, his nephew Tom Cannon, two of his children, and Tom Rushing, a figure in one of his songs. Patton was the first recorded black folk artist to sing about local public events and about white people whom he knew. Indeed, his very existence was a bold challenge to the status quo in the Delta that was designed to keep him oppressed, to keep him from being a “great man.” Charley Patton knew his own greatness and was proud of it.

Keywords:   Charley Patton, Viola Cannon, Bessie Turner, Tom Cannon, Tom Rushing, black folk artist, Mississippi Delta, blues

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