by Michael Mahin; Illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books. 2017
A must-read for all ages
Note: While Cathy is on sabbatical, Louise is responsible for this blog. Happily, it’s not too much longer before Cathy returns…March, 2018.
Mahin has composed a spectacular picture book biography of one of the greatest blues musicians of all times: Muddy Waters.
“McKinley Morganfield was never good at doing what he was told.” He loved playing in the mud. After his mother died he went to live with his Grandma Della. She tried to keep him clean, but "finally just started calling him Muddy."
Muddy grew up in one of the poorest regions in the United States. Western Mississippi was heavily segregated, so when he was older Muddy joined the great migration, a time when many African Americans moved north to major cities to escape the violence and racism of the south. Muddy, with his guitar in hand, moved to Chicago.
Muddy’s courage, some would say stubbornness, never let him sway from playing the music that was inside him. Delta blues. This music was "deep-feeling, gutbucket, gut-aching music full of life and love and trouble and pride. It made people stand up and raise their hands and stomp their feet and laugh and cry and come alive.”
It took awhile to get a record of his music produced, but Leonard Chess of Chess Records gave Muddy a chance. And, once it happened, within twenty-four hours all three thousand copies were sold out! "Leonard printed more. A lot more"
Mahin’s narrative is coupled with Turk’s glorious illustrations, rendered in watercolor, oil pastel, china marker, printing ink, and newspaper collage, The colors are a mixture of bright and dark. They seem to vibrate across the pages. They are really beautiful. Breathtaking. (Click here to see some of the fabulous interior spreads)
This book is a perfect introduction to Muddy Waters. Despite all his accolades - six Grammy Awards, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, it was Muddy Waters The Beatles wanted to meet when they made their first visit to American in 1964. How cool is that?
Back matter includes an author's note, bibliography, and suggested compilations to hear Muddy's music. The books' only drawback is the exclusion of any dates to set Muddy's life into any historical context.
One of Muddy's first recordings was, "I Can't Be Satisfied." Go here to listen to this song. Muddy and another great blues musician, Johnny Winter, rock the stage.
To write this review, I borrowed a copy of the book from my local public library.