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.
Son House (Mississippi and Louisiana, c. 1902-1988), performing his version of the classic “Downhearted Blues” (by Alberta Hunter and Lovie Austin), sometime in the 60s or 70s I would guess.
I don’t normally same much about these songs or the performers but I will say I’ve always thought of Sun House as a kind of deity. I don’t mean this in a metaphorical sense, or in a way to communicate his place in the blues. I mean that in my mind, there are blues greats who were human and, for some reason, people I don’t think of as human but as powerful forces acting on the rest. Don’t know why, though I suspect it says more about how I learned (or didn’t learn) about certain figures growing up.