How Blue Can You Get? B.B. King, Planetary Humanism and the Blues behind Bars

Back, Les. 2015. How Blue Can You Get? B.B. King, Planetary Humanism and the Blues behind Bars. Theory, Culture and Society, 32(7-8), pp. 274-285. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article honours the memory of blues musician B.B. King, who died on 14 May 2015, through focusing on his performances in prisons. The article situates his concerts inside Cook County jail and Sing Sing within the wider political crisis during the 1970s surrounding issues of race and class in the American prison system. It suggests the historical resonance of these events can be interpreted through using Paul Gilroy’s notion of planetary humanism. The tone of B.B. King’s guitar carries both the historical trace of African American experience while at the same time voicing a humanistic sensibility beyond the brutalities of racism and incarceration.

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African American music, blues, Paul Gilroy, B.B. King, planetary humanism, prisons

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR)


1 September 2015Accepted
30 October 2015Published

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Date Deposited:

28 Jun 2018 15:14

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:46


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