I guess I write a lot about music on crookedsixpence, but hey, it’s important. Music is possibly the most popular storytelling medium and certainly the longest lasting. People have been telling stories through music since before the written word.
Since I’m on the subject of history now, it’s probably a good time to pay tribute to some of the musicians responsible for modern rock. Without blues artists such as these, our music would have completely different sound. Considering what’s on the radio these days, that’s not saying much, but think about your favorites. I don’t even want to think about my music library without Cave, Waits, PJ Harvey, Led Zeppelin, and so on, but that sound just wouldn’t be without these guys:
A former Baptist preacher and one of seventeen kids in Clarksdale, Mississippi, he probably had a lot to sing the blues about. Even more so after doing time in prison for killing a man in self defense back in ‘28. You’ve probably heard House’s music before. He’s been covered and sampled countless times since his heyday in the ’30s and blues revival of the ’60s.
One of the biggest names in delta blues. So influential was he that bands like Led Zeppelin owe credit to him for their entire schtick. He lived a short life, though - poisoned with strychnine at the age of 27, legend has it, for spending too much time with someone else’s woman.
“Love in Vain” (Internet Archive audio)
Mississippi John Hurt
He started out playing ragtime but eventually became one of the greatest blues performers of all time. A humble man to his death (he worked as a farmhand for most of his life), Hurt never ceased to be amazed by the crowds numbering in the thousands who’d turn out to see him play. The strange thing was, he made his original studio recordings in the late 20s. By the time he finally got the audience he deserved, those recordings were already around 40 years old.
Blind Willie Johnson
…is just awesome. Even some of the old blues greats owe him thanks. Blind Willie wrote such classics as “John the Revelator,” “In My Time of Dying (Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed),” and “Dark Was the Night — Cold Was the Ground.” Despite his impact on the music world, he was dirt poor his entire life and died of pneumonia in his once fire-ravaged home.
To our younger ears, these guys may take some getting used to. Even if it ain’t your cup of tea, listening to it all just once is enough to give you new perspective on what you listen to every day.
P.S. - I just bought the new NIN disc. Somebody tell me to stop playing WITH the disc and actually play it or something.