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Death Letter Blues

Son House

 

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Eddie "Son" House

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Blues legend Son House is captured during an exemplary 1960's performance of "Death Letter Blues," a song he originally recorded in 1928.

After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, Eddie "Son" House turned to blues performance at the age of 25. He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. In a short career interrupted by a spell in Parchman Farm penitentiary, he developed to the point that Charley Patton, the foremost blues artist of the Mississippi Delta region, invited him to share engagements, and to accompany him to a 1930 recording session for Paramount Records.

Issued at the start of The Great Depression, the records did not sell and did not lead to national recognition. Locally, Son remained popular, and in the 1930s, together with Patton's associate, Willie Brown, he was the leading musician of Coahoma County. There he was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. In 1941 and 1942, House and the members of his band were recorded by Alan Lomax and John W. Work for Library of Congress and Fisk University. The following year, he left the Delta for Rochester, New York and gave up music.

In 1964, a group of young white record collectors discovered House, who they knew of from his records issued by Paramount and by the Library of Congress. With their encouragement, he relearned his style and repertoire and enjoyed a career as an entertainer to young white audiences in the coffee houses, folk festivals and concert tours of the American folk music revival billed as a "folk blues" singer. He recorded several albums, and some informally taped concerts have also been issued as albums. Son House passed away in 1988.



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