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The Flood Year 1927A Cultural History$
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Susan Scott Parrish

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691168838

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691168838.001.0001

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Bessie’s Eclogue

Bessie’s Eclogue

(p.125) Four Bessie’s Eclogue
The Flood Year 1927

Susan Scott Parrish

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on Bessie Smith and the song she wrote that was soon to become the anthem of the Great Mississippi Flood. According to music historian David Evans, “Back-Water Blues” ultimately “took on a life of its own, becoming the flood blues, an all-purpose generic blues on the flood theme.” Covered by multiple artists throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and after, it became over time “one of the best known of all blues songs.” Given its release early on in the 1927 super-flood cycle and its nationwide distribution while the disaster was still unfolding, this song was a key vehicle for communicating ideas and attitudes about the flood while it was occurring to a large multiracial, multiregional public.

Keywords:   Bessie Smith, songwriting, anthem, Back-Water Blues, Great Mississippi Flood, river flood

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