Eddie James “Son” House (1902-1988) grew up around the Mississippi Delta, one of the homes of blues music. By his own account, as a “churchified” young man, he held the blues and other secular music in low regard. At the age of 25, he experienced a blues-related conversion and began a musical career.
His career was characteristic of bluesman of the time, which is to say not very lucrative. He served time in jail. He made a few recordings during the Depression. He was also recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941 and 1942. But much of his time can’t even be reconstructed with the historical record. The 1960s resurgence of interest in the blues, in particular the interest of white teenagers in Europe, made a lasting difference for the last quarter of his life and career.
Here he is singing his legendary “Death Letter Blues” in 1967, as part of the touring ensemble billed as “The American Folk Blues Festival.” This performance is preserved from its original broadcast on German television.
For those times…
“Hurt” by Johnny Cash (2002)
A masterful cover of a Nine Inch Nails hit from 1994, recorded by the “man in black” while on the edge of the end.
“Everybody’s Hurts” by R.E.M. (1992)
From their successful 1992 album Automatic For the People, this song has had a better run in the time since its first release.
“Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith (1969)
From the one and only album ever released by this legendary group made up of Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Rick Grech, and Ginger Baker.
“Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon (2003)
The final song from the final album of a well-loved singer/songwriter, Zevon knew he was dying of cancer as he worked.
“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison (1970)
Van’s masterpiece from the Moondance album.
There are oldies and there are Chicano oldies.
The music that resonated with the brown baby boomers of East L.A. is largely African American rhythm and blues music. It’s heavy on harmonies, on some interesting guitar work, and on a lot of soul. It’s the kind of music that was popularized in dance halls, and it sounds like slow dancing. End of the night slow dancing. Had too much to drink slow dancing.
There are many kinds of oldies, and many kinds of sounds that could legitimately count as “Chicano oldies.” My bias here are the slow songs, the ones I most associate with my youth and with East L.A.
5. “I Do Love You” (Billy Stewart)
This 1965 recording was Stewart’s first big hit. The harmonies and piano and guitar interplay make it one of my favorites. It’s certainly a classic from a man whose career was cut short at the age of 33.
4. “La La (Means I Love You)” (The Delfonics)
This 1968 song was the biggest hit for this Philadelphia-based quartet turned trio.
3. “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” (Barbara Lynn)
A guitar-playing, rhythm and blues-singing trailblazer, Lynn wrote and recorded this chart-topper in 1962.
2. “Daddy’s Home” (Shep and the Limelites)
Their first and last big hit, from 1961. Makes me think of the end of the night.
1. “Angel Baby” (Rosie and the Originals)
The 15-year old Rosie Hamlin (who was half Mexican) wrote this song as a poem to her then boyfriend. She recorded it with her friends in a San Diego studio, just for themselves. It ended up securing them a recording contract in 1960. It also ended up being their only hit. Such a vocal and guitar masterpiece.
What can the history of Latin@s in San Francisco teach us about the current crisis in the Mission? What can it teach us about the future of the city? The nation?
Come find out this Saturday, September 20th @ 2:00PM, at the Mission Branch Library, as I speak about the long history of Latin American-descent populations in San Francisco. Drawing from my book, Latinos at the Golden Gate, I hope to share my thoughts on the ways an understanding of this rich history is a necessary part of any inclusive future.
The event is the kick-off event of the ¡Viva! Celebracion of Hispanic Heritage Month, sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library. Musical group Los Leones will also be performing. And Modern Times bookstore will be there selling copies of the book!
I hope you can join me this Saturday! I feel honored to have been invited and am really looking forward to another opportunity to share my work with the community that is the focus of so much of it.
For more information on the event, visit the library’s website.
Huddie William Ledbetter (January 1888 or 1889-December 1949), better known as Lead Belly, was born and raised in Louisiana. He played the guitar at a young age, and attempted to make a living by playing it during his adult years, years spent mostly in Texas.
His career as a musician was regularly interrupted. Lead Belly was in and out of Southern jails, prisons, and labor camps for much of his adult life. He was convicted of attempted homicide in 1930 and sentenced to the infamous Angola Prison Farm in Loyisiana.
That’s where he was in 1933 when pioneering musicologist, archivist, and folklorist John Lomax, accompanied by his son Alan, visited “the Farm” to record African American musicians for posterity.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Here he is performing “House of the Rising Sun.”
The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock band in the history of music. That’s it. Why? Here’s just five little reasons why…
Note: A lot of these clips won’t play on mobile devices. Sorry.
5. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)
It was their first #1 in the US and a standard at nearly every concert they’ve played since then. They’ve made it something of a show starter, at times.
4. “Paint It, Black” (1966)
From their album Aftermath, this song never fails to amaze.
3. “Sympathy For The Devil” (1968)
A song about the devil, part of their album Beggar’s Banquet (one of their best).
2. “Sister Morphine” (1971)
Written by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Marianne Faithful, it was released by Faithfull a couple of years before it was part of the Stones’ legendary album Sticky Fingers (my favorite, if we’re picking).
1. “Gimme Shelter” (1969)
In 1969 the Beatles were breaking up. The spent part of their spring and summer recording their final album, Abbey Road. At about the same time, The Rolling Stones are in the studio making Let It Bleed. What a year for masterpieces. “Gimme Shelter” is the first track from that album.
Any list of songs by the Rolling Stones is selective. There’s no way to pick 5 songs, even 10, that represent the breadth of their work or that accurately portray their influence in popular music. So go listen to more!