16 September 2008

More on the Blues

As a follow up to my last post I found, as you may have, that BTW has posted a brief interview with Stephen Nichols on his new book, Getting the Blues. Nichols gets to the heart of it when he states, You don’t have to listen long to hear the notes of suffering, but you do have to listen closely to hear the tune of salvation. Some of these bluesmen were preachers. I actually dedicate the book to Charley Patton. He went back and forth from pulpit to jook joint, the old blues bars dotting the Mississippi Delta. He spent the last few weeks of his life in a virtual non-stop preaching marathon, presumably making up for what he perceived to be lost time. Patton sang a blues called “You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You Die.” The somebody he was talking about was Christ. As he puts it in another song, “Jesus is a dying bed maker.” During that preaching marathon of his, in the days before he died, he often sang a simple little chorus in the midst of preaching:

Jesus is my God,

I know his name.
His name is all my trust.
He would not put my soul to shame,
Or let my hopes be lost.

Some of these blues singers also spoke of Jesus in life and not just at death. Before he was Thomas A. Dorsey, the king of gospel, he cut blues records as Barrelhouse Tom. I argue that without his roots in the blues, without his blues sense of things, we would never have “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”--perhaps the chief of Dorsey’s many fine gifts to the church.

Read the entire interview here.

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