BLIND TOM HAS INSPIRED ARTISTS, POETS AND SONGWRITERS

Dizzy Gillespie on Blind Tom

Dizzy Gillespie took time out from his tour of Georgia, to play When the Saints Go Marching in at Blind Tom's memorial marker in Colombus, Georgia in May 1979.

In his memoir, To Be Or Not To Bop, Gillespie wrote:

Blind Tom "traveled all over the world doing concerts and got write ups from all of the papers and played for kings and queens, and all of this, telling how great Blind Tom was, that there was nobody -- he had no peers. There seems to be a little conspiracy; they don't want blacks to have the credit".

 

A Ballad from Bernie Taupin and Elton John

After reading the The Ballad of Blind Tom by Deirdre O'Connell, Elton John's lyricist was inspired to pay tribute to Blind Tom in song.

In September 2013, Taupin told Rolling Stone Magazine:

"My material has always been story driven. I like to think that I'm a relatively cinematic writer. Obviously, I collect ideas as I travel down life's highway. For example, something like the "The Ballad of Blind Tom." I read the book The Ballad of Blind Tom, and being a voracious reader I get so many ideas from reading. When I read that book, I thought to myself, "If this isn't a song, nothing is." It appealed to my method of writing. I had to literally make the Readers Digest version of the book, condense it into a song. I think it worked. "

 

A Syncopated Sonnet from Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess imagines a poetic dialogue between "Mark Twain & Blind Tom" at the Bowery Poetry Club -- one of a series of sonnets that chart Blind Tom's life. In an interview about his Sonnet Crown for Blind Tom, Jess said:

"The poems about Blind Tom contain the essence of the blues - a story of lament, a story where music is a means (almost) of escape. At the same time, however, Tom is playing renditions of European classical and traditional American compositions that existed before the full realization of what we now know as 'blues.' He was also a composer in his own right, as is apparent with his composition "What the Wind, Rain and Thunder Said to Tom."   As such, he inhabited a musical space that lasted from before emancipation until just before the dawn of recorded blues."

Talking to a Ghost

"Blind Tom" from Grant Lee Phillips' 2009 album Little Moon:

Tom's at the piano talkin' to a ghost
Playin' with his eyes shut tight
Here's a little song I learnt it from the wind
I heard it on the wind last night