web site hit counter The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist

Availability: Ready to download

Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family's young daughters, and by the time he was four Tom was playi Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family's young daughters, and by the time he was four Tom was playing tunes on the piano. Eventually freed from slavery, Wiggins, or "Blind Tom" as he was called, toured the country and the world playing for celebrities like Mark Twain and the Queen of England and dazzling audiences everywhere. One part genius and one part novelty act, Blind Tom embodied contradictions-a star and a freak, freed from slavery but still the property of his white guardian. His life offers a window into the culture of celebrity and racism at the turn of the twentieth century. In this rollicking and heartrending book, O'Connell takes us through the life (and three separate deaths) of Blind Tom Wiggins, restoring to the modern reader this unusual yet quintessentially American life.


Compare

Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family's young daughters, and by the time he was four Tom was playi Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family's young daughters, and by the time he was four Tom was playing tunes on the piano. Eventually freed from slavery, Wiggins, or "Blind Tom" as he was called, toured the country and the world playing for celebrities like Mark Twain and the Queen of England and dazzling audiences everywhere. One part genius and one part novelty act, Blind Tom embodied contradictions-a star and a freak, freed from slavery but still the property of his white guardian. His life offers a window into the culture of celebrity and racism at the turn of the twentieth century. In this rollicking and heartrending book, O'Connell takes us through the life (and three separate deaths) of Blind Tom Wiggins, restoring to the modern reader this unusual yet quintessentially American life.

30 review for The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dee Dee G

    The life of Tom was a LOT. He was a slave taken away from his mom and who was blind and from what the author wrote had Autism. Slave children who were born disabled were usually killed because they couldn’t make money for the slave owners. He wasn’t treated right on life or death. He made his masters a lot of money because they used him. This a very interesting story but it definitely made me mad while reading the whole book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Houle

    I am rarely very intrigued by biographies because most of them are written about famous people I feel we already know much more about than anyone ever has to. I generally hold to the idea that it's far more valuable to spend my time getting to know and understand people I meet in real life, than trying to know and understand (especially through someone else's eyes) the life of someone I have never and will never meet. I suppose I (sub)consciously become more interested, however, in the lives of I am rarely very intrigued by biographies because most of them are written about famous people I feel we already know much more about than anyone ever has to. I generally hold to the idea that it's far more valuable to spend my time getting to know and understand people I meet in real life, than trying to know and understand (especially through someone else's eyes) the life of someone I have never and will never meet. I suppose I (sub)consciously become more interested, however, in the lives of lesser known people, especially those long dead who I can never meet or look up on Youtube, who have done extraordinary things and have had significant impacts on others and society- an impact that is generally overlooked. Well Blind Tom is one such person. An autistic, blind slave born in Georgia at a time when no one understood brain disorders, no one regarded anyone with disabilities as having unique situations or any value to society, and certainly nobody in the South would give a chance to someone who was black. Blind Tom was not murdered in infancy as most disabled slaves were, and in fact managed to be bought along with his mother and siblings by a slaveowner who was compassionate enough to let him live on the plantation, interact with those around him, and of course, learn piano. Compassion in this case was (in the long-term it seems) more a result of profit motives rather than humanitarianism, and learning piano was not something Blind Tom did in a traditional manor. He had charcateristics typical of autism and among them were a fantastic memory. Even more remarkable (and why anyone knows his name today) was his ability to translate (some say mimic) his experiences and memories (from weather, to people's singing voices to the noises other people and animals made) both vocally and even more impressively with a piano. This is the author's first book and that to me makes the story even more interesting in that someone regarded his as THE story for which she should write her first book. What really sold me, though, was that in the interview they played clips of people playing his pieces and they were incredible. I know there's a lot to be said for subtlety and I'm sure I must be an idiot in poetry and in classical music because I simply don't appreciate everything that's hidden and encoded in most widely heralded art of sophistication, but his music paints one god damm vivid picture, let me tell ya. And the person behind the piano was incredible too. With such an unlikely survival and such a paradoxical, exhausting and difficult life (relentlessly touring to raise money kept by slaveowners to directly fund the South in the Civil War)- a life which he himself never much thought of as particularly troublesome or tiring... well I am fascinated. This is the second book in 2 days that NPR piqued my interest with and I am considering pushing hard for us to use it next in our book club. It would be rad to listen to the album of his music while we discuss his life.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    This is a great Georgia story from Columbus, Georgia and 19th century America in all its contradictory attitudes toward race and culture. When I read good examples of Georgia history and biography, I remember a more talented old soul, the late John Seawright of Athens, Georgia. John, a historian, poet, barkeep, anthropologist and author of a column called "Ghost Fry" in the Athens free weekly Flagpole Magazine (www.flagpole.com), told me a little about Blind Tom, and that a friend or acquaintanc This is a great Georgia story from Columbus, Georgia and 19th century America in all its contradictory attitudes toward race and culture. When I read good examples of Georgia history and biography, I remember a more talented old soul, the late John Seawright of Athens, Georgia. John, a historian, poet, barkeep, anthropologist and author of a column called "Ghost Fry" in the Athens free weekly Flagpole Magazine (www.flagpole.com), told me a little about Blind Tom, and that a friend or acquaintance of his was writing and researching Blind Tom for an article in the Oxford American. I don't know if that came to pass, but this here biography is terrific, if problematic. We have no recordings of Tom's performances, only bad transcriptions in musical notation, so we have to read about him. Here is the most you will read in one place, and well you should. I'll reserve any minor caveats or quibbles due to the importance of the subject. Read this book. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jim Jones

    I became fascinated by Blind Tom when I visited Willa Cather's hometown of Red Cloud and discovered he'd not only performed at the opera house there in the late 1800's, but that she'd written about him. This is a fascinating look at his life--at one point he was probably the most famous black person in America. His life was sad and complex--his relationship with white people and the Southern Cause are especially difficult to read about. Many people were out to exploit him and we not only see tha I became fascinated by Blind Tom when I visited Willa Cather's hometown of Red Cloud and discovered he'd not only performed at the opera house there in the late 1800's, but that she'd written about him. This is a fascinating look at his life--at one point he was probably the most famous black person in America. His life was sad and complex--his relationship with white people and the Southern Cause are especially difficult to read about. Many people were out to exploit him and we not only see that, but we also see Tom as a flawed man. Of course people at the time had no way of treating his autism and he was considered more of a circus sideshow act than musical genius. This is really an great read for people who want to know more about 19th century show business, the complexity of black/white relationships at the time, and 19th century attitudes towards mental health.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Weierick

    This was a truly fascinating, and obviously well researched, book on a Columbus legend, Blind Tom. An impressive and enjoyable read on a interesting, though somewhat tragic life. A man enslaved twice, once in the south and then in the north. I did note a few, what I believe, are errors in the book though. A few times in book it mentions down the Chattahoochee towards Louisiana, which isn’t geographically correct. Additionally it mentioned Fort Sumter being taken by North Carolina militia, but th This was a truly fascinating, and obviously well researched, book on a Columbus legend, Blind Tom. An impressive and enjoyable read on a interesting, though somewhat tragic life. A man enslaved twice, once in the south and then in the north. I did note a few, what I believe, are errors in the book though. A few times in book it mentions down the Chattahoochee towards Louisiana, which isn’t geographically correct. Additionally it mentioned Fort Sumter being taken by North Carolina militia, but this would’ve been South Carolina.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary A

    As a private piano instructor I’m always on the watch for “interesting composer” stories. Wow, did this one take me over the top. I cannot wait to do an overview of Blind Tom at our next piano camp. I think the tie-in to racial issues will provide an amazing study.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Thomas Wiggins was born blind, autistic and a slave. Purchased, out of pity, by 'General' James Bethune, 'Blind Tom' demonstrated a savant's talent for mimicking sounds. In a second act of relative kindness, Bethune let Tom play with the family's piano. He soon demonstrated an ability to play complicated compositions after a single hearing, note for note. This 'photographic memory' and gift of mime also allowed Tom to repeat speeches and conversations. And he could compose songs based on the sou Thomas Wiggins was born blind, autistic and a slave. Purchased, out of pity, by 'General' James Bethune, 'Blind Tom' demonstrated a savant's talent for mimicking sounds. In a second act of relative kindness, Bethune let Tom play with the family's piano. He soon demonstrated an ability to play complicated compositions after a single hearing, note for note. This 'photographic memory' and gift of mime also allowed Tom to repeat speeches and conversations. And he could compose songs based on the sounds of nature or of battle. As I said, Bethune's kindness was relative and most certainly self-interested. He nurtured Tom, but for the seeming purpose of making him a marketable commodity. 'Blind Tom' became in time an international celebrity, raking in top dollar that he, of course, never saw. Slavery ended with the Civil War, but not for Tom. Bethune had him declared non compos mentis, making him 'The Last American Slave'. Other owners and guardians would come along, spawning lawsuits over 'Blind Tom' but, regardless, Tom continued to be used until a stroke, while playing, rendered him useless. Reading this book, I felt Tom being used all over again. Deirdre O'Connell writes in an introductory chapter called 'Fragments" that she had been researching Tom's life for many years and was carrying around these 'fragments' of his life story. She said she was never able to connect them into a common theme of explanation. The pieces of this crazy misshapen jigsaw refused to lock neatly into places -- some pieces stood in stark contradiction to each other while others monotonously repeated themselves. O'Connell failed to heed that warning message and instead of writing some magazine article or monograph, chose instead to write this book which was fragmented, contradictory and monotonously repetitive. And speculative. She framed virtually every sentence with weasel words such as 'may have' and 'could have' and 'possibly' and 'perhaps'. Really, why bother? When she was sure, she was often mistaken, such as when she wrote that secessionist passion cooled when Tennessee's James Buchanan was elected president. But Buchanan was from Pennsylvania. She finds herself amusing: The word 'lawyer' became Tom's bugaloo. He never understood what a lawyer was but he associated it with trouble, which some might call a mark of intelligence rather than imbecility. I think she meant 'bugaboo' but when you're being smarmy does accuracy really matter? From the research to the writing to the editing, this book was, in a word, sloppy. Look at these sentences: Tom replied, "Plenty of black men but no Blackmen," suggested the doctor. and... he recognized the fingerprints of The Great Houdini (whom he had also in honored in his name). sic. Christopher Hitchings said, 'Since the Church of England began expelling priests for pederasty, we have no good proofreaders left."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul Lovell

    Ok so I'm reviewing a book I saw develop from a few photocopies of old newspaper clippings. I imagine I am biased but somebody needed to document Tom's awesome life and make sense of all the echoes he left behind and my good friend Deirdre did just that. Black American History overlooked this Hero. A blind, autistic slave child who through his musical genius developed diva-like tendencies and travelled the world to play in front of the queen of England. WOW. Nice one Tom. Ok so I'm reviewing a book I saw develop from a few photocopies of old newspaper clippings. I imagine I am biased but somebody needed to document Tom's awesome life and make sense of all the echoes he left behind and my good friend Deirdre did just that. Black American History overlooked this Hero. A blind, autistic slave child who through his musical genius developed diva-like tendencies and travelled the world to play in front of the queen of England. WOW. Nice one Tom.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Borshuk

    The topic is fascinating here: America's first African American musical celebrity, an autistic slave pianist who was exploited mercilessly by whites in decades of exhibition. O'Connell's research is shoddy at times, though. Specifically, she is a bit lazy in setting up various contexts, using, at best, one secondary source for each discussion behind her primary research. The topic is fascinating here: America's first African American musical celebrity, an autistic slave pianist who was exploited mercilessly by whites in decades of exhibition. O'Connell's research is shoddy at times, though. Specifically, she is a bit lazy in setting up various contexts, using, at best, one secondary source for each discussion behind her primary research.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jassy

    I love music biographies, so this was right up my alley. Wish there were more people like Blind Tom.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Overlook

    As I had never before heard anything about Blind Tom, I am eagerly anticipating reading his remarkable story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Whitman

    Great read this. Would make a brilliant film, if the story isn't too politically and historically challenging for the contemporary USA. Great read this. Would make a brilliant film, if the story isn't too politically and historically challenging for the contemporary USA.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Ryan

    If your interested in music, Americana and beautiful minds, then this is a fantastic read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Reynolds

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Endert

  16. 4 out of 5

    Royalkeister

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dana

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andy Alexis

  19. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kavan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rick Hammond

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Book

  23. 4 out of 5

    Perry

  24. 4 out of 5

    Blakely Berger

  25. 5 out of 5

    Denny Frye

  26. 4 out of 5

    Morris Johnson Sr.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dolores Wisdom

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lytze

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joel Crow

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.