Blind Tom Wiggins
In three days over at the Museum on 13th Street.
On Saturday, December 1, at 4 p.m., the Hoboken Historical Museum welcomes scholar and musician John Davis back to Hoboken for a talk and to play recordings of the music of the late-1800s pianist and music savant “Blind Tom” Wiggins, who was born a slave but became one of the most famous musical performers of his age, performing at the White House and earning praise from no less than Mark Twain, who wrote:
“He lorded it over the emotions of his audience like an autocrat. He swept them like a storm, with his battle-pieces; he lulled them to rest again with melodies as tender as those we hear in dreams.”
Wiggins retired to Hoboken at the end of his career, living in an apartment in the Yellow Flats at 12th and Washington Sts.
His life story is a poignant one of a talent both celebrated and exploited — he earned a fortune for the man who was his “Colonel Parker,” General Bethune. Scholars now believe he had a form of autism, and his case is mentioned in Oliver Sacks’ new book, Musicophilia.
John Davis, who has released a CD based on Wiggins’ music, will explain how his musical abilities astounded audiences of his time. Admission is $5, free for Museum members.