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Beyond the CrossroadsThe Devil and the Blues Tradition$
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Adam Gussow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469633664

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469633664.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 06 June 2020

The Devil’s Gonna Get You

The Devil’s Gonna Get You

Blues Romance and the Paradoxes of Black Freedom

(p.154) 4 The Devil’s Gonna Get You
Beyond the Crossroads

Adam Gussow

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores a major theme within the blues lyric tradition: the devil as a figure who haunts intimate relationships between African American men and women. In some cases, men imagine themselves as footloose, mistreating devils; in other cases, they complain about romantic rivals who act in that way; in still other cases, they rage as their women, in thrall to the devil, grow cold to the touch or transfer their feelings to some other man. Artists covered include Lonnie Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Skip James, and Sonny Boy Williamson, along with Bessie Smith, Koko Taylor, and other black women who call on the devil to punish their no-good man—or, alternately, reject him as a mistreating devil rather than the angel he appeared at first to be.

Keywords:   blues, lyric, devil, African American, masculinity, Lonnie Johnson, Skip James, Bessie Smith, black women

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