Deeper Blues

Deeper Blues

The Life, Songs, and Salvation of Cornbread Harris

Andrea Swensson

The emotional, epic story of James “Cornbread” Harris—a self-proclaimed “blessed dude” and one of Minneapolis’s most influential musicians

200 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Hardcover
  • 9781517915025
  • Published: August 12, 2024
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  • eBook
  • 9781452971704
  • Published: August 12, 2024
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Details

Deeper Blues

The Life, Songs, and Salvation of Cornbread Harris

Andrea Swensson

ISBN: 9781517915025

Publication date: August 12th, 2024

200 Pages

50 black & white illustrations

9 x 6

"Andrea Swensson’s book on Minneapolis music icon Cornbread Harris is fascinating. He was a peer of my mother and father in the Minneapolis music scene, so this biography holds a special place in my heart. The music business isn’t for the faint of heart . . . but when it’s your calling like it is for Cornbread, you ‘get’ to spend your life healing people through your gift, no matter the personal cost. I’m honored to have recorded with him and to call his son, Jimmy Jam, my friend. A must read!" —St. Paul Peterson

 

"In a crazy world without a road map, we’re all doing the best we can to reach a destination of peace that feels like home. Planting seeds that grow into a destiny greater than we could ever imagine for ourselves—just as Cornbread did for Jimmy Jam. What a beautiful thing to read this story of a father and son reuniting after years of separation to share their love of music again. Deeper Blues is a reminder that love and music are divine uniting forces that continue to heal us." —Terry Lewis

 


The emotional, epic story of James “Cornbread” Harris—a self-proclaimed “blessed dude” and one of Minneapolis’s most influential musicians

From the heart of the Minnesota blues comes the story of James “Cornbread” Harris Jr., the songwriter, pianist, and consummate bluesman whose seventy years making music helped to shape the Minneapolis Sound. “I am a blessed dude,” Cornbread tells Andrea Swensson, taking us along on his musical journey from a first “gig” entertaining his fellow soldiers during World War II to his subsequent years playing music for audiences across Minnesota. Following Cornbread’s extraordinary life story, Deeper Blues is a unique history of Minnesota music that evolves into a heartfelt tale of reconciliation and forgiveness, all to the tune of the legendary musician’s signature sound.

Cornbread’s career started in the 1950s, when he played with the Augie Garcia Quintet and cowrote their hit “Hi Ho Silver.” A tireless entertainer, he has been performing live ever since, influencing an entire generation of musicians credited with putting Minneapolis on the map in the 1980s—including his long-estranged son, Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III. Going beyond the music, Deeper Blues turns toward family, atonement, and peace when Cornbread reunites with Jimmy Jam after a five-decade separation and they perform together on stage.

Through conversations with Cornbread, Jimmy Jam, and many others, Swensson reveals a story of perseverance and unfailing grace, a firsthand account of making music in the face of racism and segregation, and a hard-won acceptance of the personal sacrifices that are often required when dedicating one’s life to making music. As the man himself says, “All of my hardships ended up to be blessings.”

A rich mix of present-day anecdotes and historical vignettes, animated by voices from Cornbread’s life and the Twin Cities music scene, underscored by the bluesman’s original lyrics of heartache and hope, and featuring never-before-seen photographs of Cornbread and Jimmy Jam, Deeper Blues tells a singular story—one imprinted on the history, heart, and soul of the Minneapolis Sound.

Andrea Swensson is an author, podcast host, and music journalist in Minneapolis. She hosts the Official Prince Podcast and has written for numerous publications, including NPR Music, Pitchfork, the Star Tribune, City Pages, and Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current, where she previously hosted “The Local Show.” Her first book, Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound, also from the University of Minnesota Press, won a 2018 Minnesota Book Award.

James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III, the son of Minnesota blues legend James “Cornbread” Harris, is a Grammy-winning songwriter and producer from Minneapolis. He and Terry Lewis, known as Jam and Lewis, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022; the duo have written forty-one Top 10 hits in the United States and have more Billboard No. 1 hits than any other songwriting/production team. The musical icons they have worked with include Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and Usher.