Monday, November 16, 2009

The Father of the Blues - W.C. Handy

Born this date in 1873, today is the 136th anniversary of the birth of W.C. Handy.

Handy is called "The Father of the Blues". As a kid I thought that this meant that he invented the blues.

What he really did was...used his musical training to harness the folk music and arrange and chart it. He also wrote original songs in the form and introduced the wider world to this truly American original art form.

He was also as true as anyone could be to the roots of it all. While signing his name to his compositions, he was the first to site his influences.

Blues was the first music I was ever passionate about. Who knows at what age I first learned the rhythms and cadences of it or when I first responded to the tonal qualities of a 12 barre progression in blues time, but I was hooked and glommed on to as much as I could early and often. When I was in my mid-teens and in the middle of Montana I had to really work at finding it. It was the age of "Disco" and "Urban Cowboy Corporate Country" on the airwaves. But find it I did. I grabbed every record I could find and read the liner notes to find the next artist who played and wrote this magic music.

Somewhere I found W.C. Handy and what he did for the music.

Blues is a music that speaks to our genetic memory ALL folk music does.

And like all folk music, it deserves to be preserved. Handy was the first step in doing that.

Here's a few examples of different people all performing the same W.C. Handy song.

All Part of how he helped preach the gospel of the blues. A true blues missionary.

Bessie Smith:

Louis Armstrong:

Sydney Bechet:

Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington:

A couple of relative unknowns, at least I've never heard of them till searching for this blog..

Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley:

Someone else surely would have brought this music to the world. But W.C. did it with dignity and honor shown to the folks who created it.

Thanks W.C.!

No comments:

Search This Blog