Noel Mclaughlin and Joanna BraniffDec 14, 2020
How Belfast Got the Blues
A Cultural History of Popular Music in The 1960s
There is no shortage of books about the British Invasion or the history of R&B and the Blues in the United Kingdom. Belfast might seem like something of a peripheral backwater to that story, only meriting a passing reference as Van Morrison’s hometown. Yet, in How Belfast Got the Blues: A Cultural History of Popular Music in the 1960s (Intellect Books, 2020) authors Joanna Braniff and Noel McLaughlin center Belfast, the complex political situation of Northern Ireland just before the Troubles, and the Blues as a politicized art form that played its part in the complicated dance among the Catholics, the Protestants, the generation just coming of age in the 1960s, and the Irish political leadership. They argue that popular music in Northern Ireland was central to the politics of the time. They demolish some cherished myths about the Blues in Belfast, bring some important figures back into the narrative—most importantly Ottilie Patterson, Ireland’s first Blues singer—and find unexpected meaning in the film, Charlie is My Darling, directed by Peter Whitehead, that even die-hard Rolling Stones fans probably don’t know about.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.