This essay draws on the author’s oral history work in the African American blues community in Austin, Texas, in order to examine how professional blues artists there understand and negotiate the concept of authenticity. More to the point, this essay explores the ways in which the narrators use the category of authenticity as a way to articulate their own identity. Through a close textual analysis of the interviews, it demonstrates how race, class, and lived experience are intimately tied to notions of authenticity in the blues and locates the ambiguity inherent in the narrators’ discourse at the center of a larger cultural struggle for empowerment and recognition in this historically marginalized community. Two songs by the musicians featured in this essay follow after the conclusion. Listening to these requires a means of accessing the audio files through hyperlinks. See “Instructions for Multimedia Reading of the OHR,” which follows the Editor’s Introduction at the front of the journal, for further explanation on how to access this article online.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 207-229
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2020
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