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Boom's Blues - Music, Journalism, and Friendship in Wartime

Boom's Blues

Music, Journalism, and Friendship in Wartime

By Wim Verbei
Translated by Scott Rollins
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781496805119, 352 pages, 97 b&w illustrations; 4 tables, May 2017

A recovery of the first book-length study of the blues and the story behind the extraordinary Dutchman who wrote it under Nazi occupation


Boom's Blues stands as both a remarkable biography of J. Frank G. Boom (1920–1953) and a recovery of his incredible contribution to blues scholarship originally titled The Blues: Satirical Songs of the North American Negro. Wim Verbei tells how and when the Netherlands was introduced to African American blues music and describes the equally dramatic and peculiar friendship that existed between Boom and jazz critic and musicologist Will Gilbert, who worked for the Kultuurkamer during World War II and had been charged with the task of formulating the Nazi's Jazzverbod, the decree prohibiting the public performance of jazz. Boom's Blues ends with the annotated and complete text of Boom's The Blues, providing the international world at last with an English version of the first book-length study of the blues.

At the end of the 1960s, a series of thirteen blues paperbacks edited by Paul Oliver for the London publisher November Books began appearing. One manuscript landed on his desk that had been written in 1943 by a then twenty-three-year-old Amsterdammer, Frank (Frans) Boom. Its publication, to which Oliver gave the title Laughing to Keep from Crying, was announced on the back jacket of the last three Blues Paperbacks in 1971 and 1972. Yet it never was published and the manuscript once more disappeared. In October 1996, Dutch blues expert and publicist Verbei went in search of the presumably lost manuscript and the story behind its author. It only took him a couple of months to track down the manuscript, but it took another ten years to glean the full story behind the extraordinary Frans Boom, who passed away in 1953 in Indonesia.


"To my knowledge, a Dutch feature film with jazz or blues as its main theme has never been made. But in this case, one conclusion comes irresistibly to mind: Boom's Blues offers the perfect vehicle for a gorgeous movie. Summarized in eight words: Round Midnight meets High Fidelity meets Schindler's List. "

- Bert Vuijsje, Jazzism

"Sometimes the seemingly impossible happens. Thanks to Wim Verbei's perseverance, the first book-length analysis of the blues—written in the German-occupied Netherlands during World War II—is both available at last and contextualized by an account of the contemporary Dutch reception of jazz and blues. "

- Guido van Rijn, author of Kennedy's Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on JFK and Roosevelt's Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on FDR, both published by University Press of Mississippi