Georgia Center for the Book

Deirdre O'Connell

Georgia Connections

Notes of Interest

Deirdre O'connell was born in 1963 in Sydney, Australia and has lived in Great Britain and the United States. she currently makes her home in New South Wales near Sydney. She spent a considerable amount of time in Georgia researching her first book, "The Ballad of Blind Tom: Slave Pianist, America's Lost Musical Genius," which was published in 2009. That book was selected for inclusion on the 2010 list of "25 Books All Georgians should Read" by the Georgia Center for the Book.

Born blind in slavery in 1849 near Columbus, Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. He was, by all accounts, part genius and part novelty act who performed in public and dazzled thousands in audiences around the world. One of his admirers was Mark Twain. Publishers Weekly, in a favorable review of the "engaging" book that Tom "amazed onlookers with his ability to emulate music, dialogue and sounds in nature; from age five, Tom was entranced by storms, which he could perfectly mimic, and later was able to play two tunes at a time with his back to the keyboard. classified as an idiot, yet possessed of remarkable skills, Tom's 40-year career enriched his owners and managers." O'Connell's book bring to life Tom and his times, the culture of the Old South and Tom's single-minded devotion to his performances. It is an amazing story told here fully for the first time.

O'Connell is a filmmaker and writer who has made environmental programs for the BBC and the United Nations as well as documentaries for the Jimi Hendrix Estate. In "the Ballad of blind Tom," she explains her research into the subject, finding materials in several libraries in Georgia that had been out of public sight for many years

Further Reading

  • Blind Tom Page
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