08 October 2005

Black blues / White blues

The notion that blues music was rescued from the USA by white UK musicians in the post-war era was given an extra boost on UK TV last night by the screening of a film made by Mike Figgis. This traced the popular rise of blues within the jazz fringe in the UK in the 1950s and early 1960s. (Mike Figgis has made some wonderful films - Liebestraum, Leaving Las Vegas, One Night Stand.) The argument is still contentious - though it was presented quite sincerely in an interview with no less than B.B.King. It's is also being promoted by Martin Scorses's latest film, and Elijah Wald's critical study of Robert Johnson, Escaping the Delta which I reviewed only last week. In fact it even crops up again in the case of black singer Jimmy Scott, who struggled for four decades before a breakthrough into a largely white audience brought him the recognition he deserved. I am still a bit sceptical on the issue, and await further evidence and witness.

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