We were sorry to learn of the death March 18 of blues scholar Samuel Charters. Charters was the author of A Language of Song: Journeys in the Musical World of the African Diaspora, which we published in 2009.
According to his obituary in the New York Times, Charters was both an author and a producer. His first book, The Country Blues, originally published in the 1950s, is still in print. He produced albums for Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Charlie Musselwhite, and Country Joe & the Fish. He also wrote several collections of poetry.
In A Language of Song, Charters took readers on a musical journey around the world, recounting experiences from a half-century spent following, documenting, recording, and writing about the Africa-influenced music of the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean. The book was widely praised. Writing in Downbeat, Frank-John Hadley said, “Samuel Charters deserves a respectful bow from anyone who values roots music.” In The Wire, Clive Bell called the book “an absorbing, accessible read, underpinned by solid scholarship and the author’s good-humoured and seemingly endless curiosity.” Academics praised Charters as well. In Popular Music, Conrado Falbo wrote, “Reading Charter’s book, even an experienced researcher may find precious tips on how to articulate sources and conduct fieldwork.”