In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Northampton, Mass., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.
Daniel de Visé ’89, King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King, the First Guitar Hero (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2021)
In what is the first comprehensive biography of the legendary blues musician B.B. King, Daniel de Visé takes readers on a fascinating journey through the life of King and the aspects of American culture that grounded his career and launched him into stardom. De Visé pulls off an impressive feat in which his Pulitzer Prize–winning journalism skills shine through. He describes specific scenes with meticulous detail and authority, in large part due to the numerous interviews he conducted with people who were—in all shapes and forms—part of King’s life at various points. De Visé traces King’s roots in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era, revealing how the trauma of his childhood contributed to his doggedness in his career, and follows him through the rest of his life.
Along with relaying the facts and nuances of King’s life, de Visé goes back in time, outlining the lives of King’s ancestors and giving a holistic picture of the world into which King was born. The result is a biography that has a deep interest in familial ties, the history of music as it relates to the African-American experience, and the implications of King’s life for the future of music. As all good biographies must do, de Visé’s book fundamentally brings King back to life, animating him in our collective memory.
Daniel de Visé is a writer and journalist. He has worked at several notable publications, including The Washington Post and The Miami Herald. In addition to King of the Blues, he is the author of I Forgot to Remember, Andy & Don, and The Comeback. He lives in Maryland.