Friday, November 26, 2010

Australian Broadcasting: “a riveting new biography, 'The Ballad of Blind Tom' by Deirdre O'Connell”

[The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius; Deirdre O’Connell; Overlook Press (2009)]

Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins is featured at, which presents a complete Works List compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory. The most recent biography of the enslaved pianist is The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius, written by Deirdre O’Connell and published by Overlook Press (2009). The author is a documentary filmmaker in Australia. Her 272-page biography has been very well received by critics. Deirdre O'Connell has promoted her book widely in newspapers and other publications, and on radio. Her effort is introducing Thomas Wiggins to a new international audience. On January 22, 2011 Australia's Radio National: Into the Music will air a program which will be streamed online, Blind Tom, slave pianist sensation. The program's website includes photos, videos and links to many articles on the book:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
“Thomas Wiggins was born sightless, the last child in a large slave family, and soon developed a fascination with sound, becoming a magnet for it. This first Afro-American superstar composed his first piece of music The Rainstorm at the age of 5 and was soon performing on the concert circuit throughout the Southern states for his owner General Bethune and the Bethune family. His most famed musical work was The Battle of Manassas, a virtuosic work for piano and vocal sound effects that recreated an early Confederate victory during the American Civil War. It remained the centrepiece of his repertoire throughout his long performing life. And, despite the war ending and slavery being abolished, Tom remained indentured to his master and thereafter was judged non compos mentis in a legal battle to gain custody of the lucrative performer. He never gained his true freedom or the financial fruits of his astonishing performance career.

“All but forgotten since his death in 1908, Blind Tom's reputation is being restored with the advent of recordings of his remarkable piano compositions on the CD John Davis Plays Blind Tom, and a riveting new biography, The Ballad of Blind Tom by Deirdre O'Connell in which he is acknowledged as America's lost musical genius and most likely an autistic savant. Appearing in the program are biographer Deirdre O'Connell, artist Martin Sharp, Professor Allan Snyder, Director of the Centre for the Mind at Sydney University, and concert pianist John Davis who performs The Rainstorm and The Battle of Manassas for the program." [At the New York Radio Festival, the ABC program was the 2010 Silver World Medal Winner for Best Music Special.]

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