Online access to this book is only available to eligible users.
Download Full Text (5.9 MB)
Louisville native John Jacob Niles (1892–1980) is considered to be one of America's most influential musicians. As a composer and balladeer, Niles drew inspiration from the deep well of traditional Appalachian and African American folk songs. At the age of 16 Niles wrote one of his most enduring tunes, “Go 'Way from My Window,” basing it on a song fragment from a black farm worker. This iconic song has been performed by folk artists ever since and may even have inspired the opening line of Bob Dylan's “It Ain't Me Babe.” This book offers a rich portrait of the musician's character and career. Using Niles's own accounts from his journals, notebooks, and unpublished autobiography, the book tracks his rise from farm boy to songwriter and folk collector extraordinaire. Niles was especially interested in documenting the voices of his fellow World War I soldiers, the people of Appalachia, and the spirituals of African Americans. In the 1920s he collaborated with noted photographer Doris Ulmann during trips to Appalachia, where he transcribed, adapted, and arranged traditional songs and ballads such as “Pretty Polly” and “Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair.”
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
978-0-8131-2598-5 (pdf version)
978-0-8131-3981-4 (epub version)
John Jacob Niles, Composer, Balladeer, Folk songs, African American, Music, Musician
Appalachian Studies | Cultural History | Music | United States History
Pen, Ron, "I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles" (2010). United States History. 165.
Consortium members may access while on their campus.