Caught by the River

The Caught by the River Music Book Reader

7th September 2011

Reggae Bloodlines: in Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica. Steven Davis & Peter Simon. Heinemann, 1979.
Chosen by Emma Warren

I found my first copy of Reggae Bloodlines on the bottom shelf of the music section of Manchester Metropolitan University library. I sat on the floor and read it, captivated by the photographic portraits (Peter Tosh, resplend ent in a beret, sunglasses and a complicated pipe) and text that teleported me out of the nineties Manchester, and landed me directly in the middle of Kingston in 1977. That book went straight on my library card and I repeatedly renewed it until, 18 months later, I decided that I should give it back and let someone else find it.

I spent hours with that book. It wasn’t just Peter Simon’s photographs, although they were captivating. It wasn’t just the text, although Rolling Stone writer Steven Davis wrote lyrically and with great insight. It was the 360º perspective: you met the musicians but you also met mystics and Maroons – the descendants of slaves who fought the British Army and won – and there was also an amazing picture of deejay Big Youth captioned ‘Big Youth does a wheelie’. This was possibly my favourite image for reasons I can’t quite explain.

I like this book so much that I don’t currently own a copy: I must have bought three or four copies over the years and gave the last one I owned to a producer friend as a present when he left the country. Sometimes, books are meant to be given back.

Taken from the Caught by the River Music Book Reader, an ever growing guide to the most interesting books on the subject of music. Read it on-line or download it HERE.