Compiled from performances from European tours organized for American blues musicians in the 1960s, the third volume of the American Folk Blues Festival series brings together footage from estimable artists such as vocalist Helen Humes, pianist Memphis Slim, guitarist T-Bone Walker, bassist Willie Dixon and longtime partners Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Part of the Coda Groundbreakers Theme.
When John Lee Hooker appeared in the 1980 movie “The Blues Brothers,” he looked like the 62-year-old man he was (assuming his disputed birthdate of 1917 is correct). He still made powerful music, but he did it hunched over in a chair with an old man’s jowls and voice — and he did it as part of a tongue-in-cheek comedy.
In countless ways, a band or vocal group is like a family. Sometimes these artistic fraternities involve actual family members, and then the process of making music becomes really personal. Such relationships can underpin levels of intimacy and communication that elevate the songs. They can also lead to the kind of squabbles that tear bands apart. Either way, family bands provide a fascinating window into the ups and downs of musical collaboration.
It’s fascinating to watch great artists evolve over long and prolific careers. But what of the artists who die young? When the greats don’t live long enough to see their 50th birthday, let alone their 40th or 30th, we all feel the loss. Whether it’s John Lennon, John Coltrane, Jeff Buckley or countless other talents who died prematurely, it’s not just their families and friends who mourn the loss, but the world.