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January 25, 2009

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David Ryan

Apparently, there's a new book about Blind Tom called "The Ballad of Blind Tom". The LA Times gave it a very good review. The reviewer - RJ Smith - this about Blind Tom:

"The name Blind Tom means nothing today, but in Civil War-era America, he was one of the greatest music stars going. Sightless, African American, he was born into slavery and was probably autistic. He was afraid of strangers and clung to his guardians. He would slap those who laughed at him and shove women off the piano bench when their playing offended him.

Whooping and sputtering, he would twist his body into knots, standing on one foot and leaning forward, hopping around the room in fits of vigor broken up by somersaults and twirls. He ate with his hands, when he didn't put his face down into his food.

And he was called a genius by those who heard him play the piano. Blind Tom had freakish listening skills and an amazing talent for reproducing what he heard. He could play back complicated music he'd listened to but once; he could translate the external phenomena that transfixed him -- rainstorms, trains, sewing machines -- into impressionistic musical fantasies."

To read the full posting go to: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-blind-tom1-2009feb01,0,6820428.story

Romeo  Vitelli

I hadn't seen the book or the article so thanks for pointing it out. Autistic savants seem less mysterious now than they must have been in Tom's day but none of the currently living examples have ever matched his fame.

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