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.
5 thoughts on “Monday Blues (9.29.14)”
My favorite non-Son House rendition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi8KdTk0u0g
This post reminds me of something bb king said about how playing gospel music led to his performing the blues. He noticed that when he played gospel tunes, people would respond by patting him on the head and saying, good boy. But when he played Blues, people left money. And that’s how he decided to play the Blues.
It’s interesting that, just as the white musicians of the 60s rediscovered the old blues players and emulated them, so people are still trying to get at what Son House was doing. Here, Jack White does what white rockers have been doing with the blues since forever: speed it up and play really loud:
I love how you can hear Son House in just about everything Jack White has ever done. Thanks for the links!
Yes! The present generation is removed enough from the blues that I’m not sure younger fans of bands like The White Stripes recognize that what you said is true. It’s as if White is what comes after Led Zeppelin, rather than from Son House.