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article imageOp-Ed: Last of the Great Delta Bluesmen

By Alexander Baron     Aug 30, 2011 in Entertainment
One of the pathetic excuses today’s self-styled black leaders use for under-achievement, criminality, even rioting, is a lack of role models. Perhaps black youth should model themselves on this old geezer instead of on gangstas.
Life today sure is hard on the street, with designer jeans, Nike trainers, and Blackberry phones to record flash mobs, not to mention the price of weed. Sure, life is hard now, but how much harder was it to be born black – or white for that matter – in the Mississippi Delta before America entered the Great War?
David “Honeyboy” Edwards was born at Shaw, Mississippi on June 28, 1915. At that time there were no mobile phones, only the better off families had telephones at all. There was no television, and until the 1930s, most rural families wouldn’t even have owned a radio. No microwave in the kitchen; fridge-freezer? Forget it. Hot running water? Fitted bathroom? And don’t even ask about the toilet. Plus if you were black, there were added niceties like travelling in the back of the bus, segregated restaurants...if you could afford to eat in restaurants. But just how much rioting and looting was there in Shaw, Mississippi in 1929 when a 14 year old David Edwards hit the road as an itinerant musician?
If the name is not familiar to you, the influence will be; the blues grew out of the suffering of slaves in the Deep South – suffering such as the hoodies on the streets of Tottenham could not conceive. The music of Honeyboy Edwards and his contemporaries Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker (who recorded with Santana), Howlin’ Wolf, slide guitarist Elmore James, Skip James (who wrote I’m So Glad, which was recorded three decades later by Deep Purple), and Muddy Waters, has influenced generations of guitarists and other musicians black and white from Chuck Berry and Bill Haley (the unlikely fathers of rock ‘n’ roll) to the Beatles, right on down to Gary Moore, who died earlier this year.
In 1942, the famous folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Honeyboy at Clarksdale, Mississippi for his massive Archive of Folksong Project which is held by the Library of Congress. Lomax recorded a total of fifteen sides of Honeyboy’s music. The man himself didn’t record again commercially until 1951, moving to Chicago in the early 1950s where he played small clubs and continued recording, though not all of his recordings were released. His hits include Long Tall Woman Blues and Gamblin' Man.
Unsurprisingly, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame; he also continued recording and indeed performing right up until this year, and won grammies in 2008 (Best Traditional Blues Album) and 2010 (Lifetime Achievement Award), though incredibly he is not the oldest ever grammy winner, that honour goes to another old blues man, Pinetop Perkins, who died earlier this year aged 97.
In 1997, Honeyboy published his autobiography, which perhaps most tellingly is entitled The World Don't Owe Me Nothin'.
David “Honeyboy” Edwards was described as “one of the last living links to Robert Johnson, and one of the last original acoustic Delta blues players...a living legend, and his story is truly part of history.”
Sadly, the first part of that sentence is no longer true; the second is and always will be.
As with the death of Harry Patch earlier this year - the last man to go “over the top” in World War One - the final link with a bygone era has been forever broken.
David “Honeyboy” Edwards: born June 28, 1915, died August 29, 2011.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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